Emerging Leaders Blog Offers a Fresh Perspective in Association Work


Katelyn is a writer, copyeditor, and association professional who currently serves MSAE as its Communications Liaison. Her experience and background working in association management offer a unique perspective to MSAE membership.

Though my peers indisputably have their own respective career nuances, I contest that no path quite rivals the ambiguity of associations. Nor does any other require as much conversational improv when attempting to explain “what do you do for work?”

Ask an emerging professional in the business of associations to describe their work experience or any advice they have been given and you will likely hear some variation of what it means to “drink from a fire hose.” If you consider the terms membership value, bylaws, legislature, IRS tax designation, committees, board governance, public policy, non-dues revenue, etc. it is easy to understand the experience as a rapid inundation of information. If I don’t elaborate enough, my work is confused as falling under one of the branches of government. If I elaborate too much, I am misunderstood as a code programmer on the dark web (association acronyms and abbreviations including but not limited to CRM, AMS, LMS, CAE, CMP, really throw people).

With so much to comprehend and define, it can be difficult to see past the trees and into the forest. Some unique opportunities that association work presents get lost in translation. Specifically, the ability to influence and improve not only your respective industry but society itself. If that sounds farfetched or slightly contrived – stay with me. As discussed in one of MSAE’s most recent Shared Interest Group forums: trade associations are, by definition, a group of experts who gather to promote common interests. These common interests directly affect the way our institutions, businesses, healthcare systems, etc. are designed and operated. By participating in professional organizations related to our fields, we have the very real (albeit slightly unapparent) opportunity to drive meaningful change that aligns with our vision for the future.

My hope is to utilize this feature blog to make that influence feel accessible and as an opportunity to demystify association work for emerging leaders and professionals as I help myself and others learn to navigate the nuance. Topics, stories, and ideas regarding travel, exhibits, acronyms, as well as my own experiences (and yours!), will be covered as I delve into what associations can, do, and will mean to us now and in the future. More than a place to network and pursue accreditations, I believe that this sector holds something we are all seeking: the opportunity to build meaningful relationships and to create a sense of purpose in our careers and belonging to our communities. Thanks for following along!