Emerging Leaders Share Learnings & Career Advice

Five 2022 Emerging Leaders share takeaways and advice from their program. Sign up for the 2023 program starts soon!

By Association Forum

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Association Forum’s Emerging Leaders Program provides an unique opportunity for association professionals under the age of 35.  This program highlights influential and powerful techniques that teach young professionals how to take the next steps to success using conventional and non-conventional methods while creating an exclusive cohort where young professionals learn together over the course of six months.


The Emerging Leaders will get to know each other and be recognized for the upcoming program. During the program, Emerging Leaders will share ideas with each other, read  and present a to an executive panel. In addition, each Emerging Leader will have access to an association executive mentor.  

Twelve young professionals participated in the 2022 Emerging Leaders program. We caught up with a few of them to ask what they took away from the program. See their responses below.

Cassie Buchanan, MBA, SHRM-CP

What was your biggest takeaway from the Emerging Leaders program? 
Being able to network with other association professionals. Getting to meet and work with other professionals at my level has been rewarding. 

How do you plan to apply what you learned to your career?  
I learned more about my Clifton Strengths but in finding my strengths, I also found the areas I’m not as strong in. I plan to use this knowledge in my career by being more aware of who is in the room with me and bringing them in. For instance, if my lower strength is being futuristic, it’s partnering with people who have futuristic talents and challenging myself to do better in that area. It’s about knowing when to let others lead so I can learn to be a well-rounded leader.

What drew you to the association industry? 
I happened to find the association industry while looking for a job 3 years ago. What has kept me in the industry are all the kind people I have met, the professional development opportunities, and the positive impacts associations have on society. 

Who has inspired you in your career? 
I’ve had previous coworkers and managers inspire me to get into the HR field. They lead by such great examples that I wanted to do what they did. Who has been recently inspiring me on my current career path are my mentors Debbie Trueblood and Priya Garg, friends like Shawn Randle, along with other association professionals and leaders that are in my circle. 

Any advice for other young professionals? 
Get involved with Assoc. Forum and other associations as soon as you can. The more involved you are, the more professional developments opportunities. 

Kristin Crowe Spencer

What was your biggest takeaway from the Emerging Leaders program? 
During the Emerging Leaders Program, I learned a lot of about the Association World and the similar conflicts we all run into from time to time. My biggest take away from the program is that not everyone has the end goal of being the CEO/an Executive Level Staff of an association, and that is okay, because you can be an impactful leader in any role. Sometimes the most effective leaders are the ones who aren’t in those big roles. 

How do you plan to apply what you learned to your career? 
I plan to apply what I learned when it comes to problem solving in my career. Throughout the program we learned about effective ways to approach conflict and how to move forward. This program was instrumental in helping not only me, but my peers to realize that change almost always makes room for new opportunities. Change is a constant in the association world, there’s no doubt about that, and it is okay to have some initial negative feelings about it, so long as the feelings are had in a constructive manner. I plan to bring this mindset forward not only to myself but also to my colleagues in the future as change occurs and things inevitably shift. 

What drew you to the association industry? 
Feeling like I am helping or somehow making a difference has always been important to me when it comes to work, and the association industry provides ample opportunities to do those things. Like most college graduates, I felt pretty lost when I finished my degree, but I was directed to the Association Forum website (thanks, Teresa Peavy!) and applied for a few jobs. From there, I landed my first role in the association industry; it’s been almost five years and I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon. 

Who has inspired you in your career? 
Early in my association career, I worked for and with three stellar people, Kathy Daniels, Kristi Bruno, and Kathy Jewett. These three were not only impressive in the work that they did, but they also empowered the people on their teams and around them to strive for greatness and work outside of their comfort zones. They continually sought out ways to improve themselves and others and were always putting their best foot forward – which are admirable qualities in any leaders, I think. 

Any advice for other young professionals?  
Approach every situation with an open mindset and always be authentic. It’s okay to feel your feelings, but try to do it in a constructive manner that will allow you to be proactive and productive. 

Michelle Bradley

 
What was your biggest takeaway from the Emerging Leaders program? 
One of my biggest takeaways from the program is that just because you aren’t in an executive position doesn’t mean you’re not a leader. Someone is always watching you, whether you know it or not. Always put your best foot forward. 

How do you plan to apply what you learned to your career? 
I plan to apply this by remembering to always be confident in myself and the tasks I’m given. Confidence is key! 

What drew you to the association industry?
The things that drew to me the association industry were the open-door policy with the executive team, the opportunity to network with other association professionals outside of my organization, and the ability to always grow.   

Who has inspired you in your career? 
Two people that have inspired me are Jakeeva Lee and Michelle Mills Clement. Both of these ladies have pushed me outside of my comfort zone. They have encouraged me to always be a better version of myself and that no one can ever stop me but me.    

Any advice for other young professionals? 
My advice for young professionals is to always believe in yourself; always bet on yourself. No one is going to value you more than you. While you’re on the path to find the perfect career, make sure it brings you joy, peace, and happiness. If it doesn’t, that’s not the perfect career for you. 

Lauren Keith

What was your biggest takeaway from the Emerging Leaders program? 
Mentorship is a powerful tool to help navigate workplace questions and career pathways. Finding someone that embodies the type of leader you want to become and asking specific questions like “how did you get here, and how can I do it too” is a great way to learn and improve. 
 
How do you plan to apply what you learned to your career? 
It is incredibly important to continue learning and developing your professional resume. I took a hard look at what I’m doing now and what I want to do in the next step of my career, and I am currently working toward additional certifications that I believe will set me up for success. 

What drew you to the association industry? 
I honestly fell into the association industry out of happenstance. I knew I wanted to work in healthcare and I knew that I wanted an opportunity to make a difference with my work. When an opening at ASA, a large and influential medical society, popped up on my job feed, I jumped at it. Now I can’t imagine going back to a major corporation. 

Who has inspired you in your career? 
I admire a lot of people professionally, but one woman I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with over the last couple of years is Maureen Geoghegan, Chief Membership and Communications Officer at ASA. She’s honest, ambitious, and a strong role model for me at my organization. She’s easy to work with and quick to give constructive feedback to get a job done well. 

Any advice for other young professionals? 
Associations are small but mighty. There are so many opportunities to be involved and make an impact at the organizational level in associations that simply don’t exist in large corporate structures, so don’t squander that! Loving the work you do and knowing you can make a difference is an amazing feeling. 

 

What was your biggest takeaway from the Emerging Leaders program? 
Learn to work with people who I have never met in person. Through the program, we built a rapport with everyone each meeting and had to trust them enough to complete our final project. My biggest takeaway was working on a team with people I’ve never met before. 

How do you plan to apply what you learned to your career?
I will network more and meet new people. I will step out of my comfort zone. 

What drew you to the association industry?
It just fell into my lap. I knew nothing about association work. Never knew it existed. 

Who has inspired you in your career?
Many many people along the way. My grandmother, Pearl Washington (former boss), Ko Ko Polk (former boss), Ms. Byrd (teacher) 

Any advice for other young professionals?
Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon. Stand out and be bold! Be your authentic selves! 

Association Forum

The mission of Association Forum is to advance the professional practice of association management. Founded in 1916, Association Forum serves 4,000 association professionals whose efforts serve more than 27 million members and generate $10 billion in global annual expenditures. Visit www.associationforum.org for more information.

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