The Importance of Association for Association Executives

  NIck Hansen

  Hennepin County Bar 

Just about three years ago, I was working as a sports reporter for a small daily newspaper in rural Minnesota. I thought it was my dream job. I got to watch games for a living and write about them. I saw my name in print almost every day, and I liked how I got to refer to myself as a sports writer.

However, at some point in the middle of winter after covering what seemed like a dozen basketball games in one week, I asked myself, is this it? Am I just going to crank out game stories every night and then make sure the paper gets put to bed? Games started to blend together, and I didn’t have much of a life outside of my job. I didn’t have anyone to talk about my situation with. At times, I felt really isolated even though I kept telling myself that I had the best job in the world.

Fast forward three years to my current job as a communications specialist with the Hennepin County Bar Association. It doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily as “sports reporter”, but I’m much happier and fulfilled where I am now, and a large part has to do with the NABE COMM section.

Joining NABE has benefited me in numerous ways:

-I know that a few hundred of my colleagues are just an email away. I’ve used the listserv a few dozen times, and it’s been a lifesaver. While I’m happy to go to my boss or other colleagues when I need advice, sometimes you really just need an outside perspective. It’s also helpful to have a career support system of people who are not your direct co-workers.

-I can keep up with the state of the bar association community. You probably know that newspapers aren’t exactly a huge growth industry at the moment. Reading the latest media news, I kept wondering when my newspaper would make cuts and move away from being a daily paper. (Luckily, it hasn’t yet.) While bar associations have different issues, it’s comforting to know the trends and innovations that are happening in our field that position us to remain robust and relevant for the future.

-I’m able to pursue things I’m passionate about. While I could occasionally pitch a story I wanted to do for the newspaper, I was hamstrung by being the only full-time sports reporter on staff. NABE has afforded me other opportunities to pursue meaningful projects. Recently, I was able to lead a panel on communicating about addiction and mental health issues at NABE Comm workshop. It was one of the most fulfilling moments of my career as a bar association communicator.

-I’ve made some friends. There’s a trope among adulting-age millennials that none of us know how to make new friends as grown-ups. And, I’ll admit it, I have a hard time getting out of my comfort zone. Luckily, NABE forces you to get to know people. I was a scared newbie at NABE Comm 16, but it felt like I was surrounded by old friends at NABE Comm 17.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you probably get the value of an association. However, if you're an executive director or a manager who oversees staff members, take a look around on your staff and see who’s not involved with NABE. Do they need someone to bounce ideas off of? Do they need help that only someone in their same job could provide? Are they itching to take part in a meaningful project?

Just remember that the cost of a membership may save you the cost of a job search.