“You’re a What.” – Week #6: Association Professional

I'm back in my home state for a little bit, in the city of Austin, Texas! It feels so good to be here. Here's the weekly hour and mileage update: ~769 miles from Denver to Austin by bus.

~5806 miles traveled overall.

~83 hours spent traveling overall.

And here's the trusty weekly map update:

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Haha that map is looking a little messy! This week, I'm working with the Texas Society of Association Executives (TSAE) as an Association Professional! I know you probably don't understand that job title because I had issues of my own before actually working with the company. Let me try to help.

Every job is a part of an industry. Every industry has an association for it. Some examples:

Park Ranger --> National Recreation and Park Association

Teacher --> National Education Association

Facility Manager --> International Facility Management  Association

Some industries have state-based associations, country-based associations, international-based associations, or a combination. If you take time to do more research, you'll quickly find out that there is an association for nearly everything. Associations are a wonderful way to network with other professionals in your industry, to spread awareness about your industry, to be kept abreast of the latest developments in your industry, to improve your industry, etc.

Associations have so much power and potential for personal and communal growth. The funny thing is that if you're not in an association aka not an association professional, you may have HEARD of the word, but you most likely have no idea what associations do, much less how influential they are. TSAE is an important association, because it's the "association of associations" in Texas. In other words, it's "industry" is the association industry, so its main goal is to provide education, awareness, networking and many other things for associations. So, if there is an association for nearly everything, the "association of associations" handles anything that has to do with nearly everything. I hope you're less lost by now. In short, I'm working in the big leagues right now. TSAE ain't no joke. Go me.

When I decided to take on this job for a week, I had very limited reasoning in mind. I say this in retrospect. First, I remembered Sean's experience with this job over two years ago, which he described in his book. Then, I noticed TSAE was on the list of OWJ-Friendly Employers that Sean gave us as we were choosing jobs for the program. There was a note next to the TSAE employer listing that said "would be better than last time" - meaning that the proposed experience would be better than when Sean went to visit.

Of course I had to go after reading that.

It wasn't easy getting to Austin though. I had an altercation with a smug bus driver about my luggage, missed my transfer bus because the smug bus driver put us 45 minutes behind schedule, and had to sit through the hollers and whistles of not-my-type-men during a 90-minute layover in Dallas. The last part wasn't surprising. Not because I'm confident, but because I've had a Greyhound layover in Dallas before. And I've live there for 22 years.

I arrived in Austin 100 minutes late, and was met by Beth Brooks, President and CEO of TSAE. What a calming change. I came off the bus feeling beaten, emotionally and physically. When Beth opened her vehicle trunk for me to place my luggage in it, she pointed at a case of beverages:

"You like green, tea right?"

Tired, I laughed and smiled...but in talking with her on the way to her house, it was clear Beth had really done research on me. She referenced several of my blog posts, which prompted some good conversation. At one point, she indicated that she had an extensive background in swimming and offered to give me lessons. I immediately began to relax because it was nice to know that someone had invested time in me before even meeting me in person, the same way in which I would show interest in someone else. We both like to do our research!

Beth lives with her husband, David, and her 16-year-old son, Matthew. I feel special because she has let me into her home for an entire week. This is the first time that I’ve lived with a family unit and – have I mentioned how calming and relaxing my time in Austin has been? I think it’s because this week is the closest I’ve come to being with my own family again, being so close to Irving, having a family-related routine, and coming to a house of two parents and a younger child after a full day of work. It reminds me of my own family members. I miss them.


When we got to the Brooks' house, David was close to finishing dinner, which is around the same time every night. I've been recording the meals so I can reproduce them later! Good culinary ideas. After a good discussion about travel, food, and diplomacy, we (play the Wii, then) all slept.

The week began strongly. Beth had an important training session to give early Monday morning at 8am. She wanted me to attend, but she let me sleep in first. While I was beginning my sixth one-week job, Matthew was beginning his first day of driver's education! Cute, right? David had to drop him off around 9am, so I rode with them. Dressed in business professional attire, I sat in on the meeting, which lasted until close to noon.

During the meeting, Beth was being a huge help to the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians and Assistants (AAEVT). If I remember accurately, they were in the process of building up their association to full status, and were in need of some guidance. Beth knows her stuff. She has been in the association business for a long time, having been with the Texas Dental Association and Texas Pest Control Association before joining TSAE. The meeting was almost four hours long because it takes a lot of work to run a successful association. Many topics were discussed, such as how to prevent a board of directors from failing, how to dissolve situations of interest conflict, and how to choose and develop an effective organization spokesman. I took a copious amount of notes, and even took note of Beth's speaking technique. Can't go wrong with chunking!

After the meeting, I met Josh, Shirley, and Alaina, some of the TSAE staff. Josh is the Communications and Marketing Manager, which means that he oversees and controls all TSAE content, whether that be through the magazine, the website, emails, social media, PR, and any sort of technology. Shirley is the Business Development Manager, so she oversees membership and sponsorship, implementing tons of recruitment and retention methods. Alaina is the Membership Services Coordinator, so she - in her own words - "makes sure members needs are met." Whatever that requires, Alaina gets it done.

By about 2pm, I had received a rude awakening. I thought I knew about associations, but I had no idea. So much goes on in one day! Josh gave me my first task: writing press releases. TSAE has an annual conference, during which they give out awards. My job was to write the press releases for the award recipients! Josh has a strong background in journalism, so this sort of work is very simple to him. In giving me this task, he hoped to help me improve my writing skills, and understand the communications world more. He gave me a college journalism textbook to take some pointers from as well!

I worked on the press releases until about 4:30pm, and then Beth and I left the office. The family and I had dinner and discussion - this time, about sustainability. The night ended with the Wii and dessert.

My Tuesday started early with Beth - an eye-closing 7:25am. I dressed down-er this day, and went back to work on the press releases. I sat in on the weekly staff meeting around 10:30am. I have to admit that I was dozing off because I had no idea what everyone was talking about, but it was impressive to see how prepared everyone was to talk about their responsibilities. With a staff of seven, I suppose it's hard to get away with slacking off!

BETH BOUGHT US ALL TORCHY'S TACO'S FOR LUNCH. If you ever go to Austin, go to Torchy's. Wonderful tacos. Wonderful chips. Wonderful queso. Several of my friends (including me) have gone to Austin SOLELY for the food, and then driven back. Beautiful. THANK YOU, BETH!!!!

After lunch, I finished one of the three press releases. Josh and I went over his comments, and I went back to work. I finished all of them around 3:30pm, and spent the rest of the day organizing my excessive amount of one-week job notes. I then went home with Beth and ate dinner, played Wii, played guitar (Beth got out her classical!), and watched "America's Got Talent" with the family. I can't stand that program. Well, I suppose I can...because we watched it the next night too.

So What About You?

Do you have any questions about the association world ? Let me know, so I can get the answer for you! You never know, it could hold your dream job...

Until next time...


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