By: Lindsey Rowan
There I was, twenty-four years old, just a year and a half into my career, attending my first FSAE (Florida Society of Association Executives) Annual Conference. During the very first breakout session, the speaker asked for a show of hands of the CEOs in the room. When nearly half of the room raised their hand, I felt intimidated. Are people wondering what I’m doing here? Am I even qualified to be here? It wasn’t but 15 minutes into the session that I was able to answer those questions for myself. NO, people are not wondering what I’m doing here and YES I am absolutely qualified to be here! It was at that moment which I realized more than ever, that continuing education is everything if you want to go above and beyond “just floating by,” especially as a young professional. Here’s why:
Success is associated with who you know. Networking is the key to expanding knowledge, marketing yourself, marketing the company you work for, building connections, and overall generating opportunities for more success. If you’re attending an in-person seminar, set aside your introverted personality, practice your elevator speech, bring tons of business cards, and be prepared to take notes and follow up. I recently took an online ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) seminar and the biggest takeaways came from the networking aspect. In my case, I was able to converse with other association executives from all over the country and share successes, failures, and ideas on how to improve. Chances are, you can answer someone’s question and they can answer yours so the more people you come in contact with, the better.
You are only confined by the walls you build yourself.
If you feel like you’re going through the motions of your everyday tasks, you’ve likely “hit a wall” and are no longer challenging yourself. Well guess what? The only thing holding you from breaking through that wall is YOU. Participating in continuing education naturally breaks that wall through knowledge expansion and by the inevitable discussion generated among you and your peers. The success and failure stories of real life examples being bounced off of one another leads you wondering how you can apply the takeaways to benefit your program and antsy to get back into the office to experiment.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
I belonged in that session because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. It’s up to you as a professional to take the initiative and explore the options within your profession in order to be successful without creating walls for yourself. For example, meeting planning might sound stressful until you are in a room surrounded by Certified Meeting Planners (CMPs) who are incredibly passionate about their jobs and explain how they pulled off that unforgettable event. As a young professional, the options are endless. It’s crucial to go above and beyond in learning your opportunities. How else will you know?
Simply put, no age is too young to get started on exploring your options and participating in continuing education within your career. That’s the only way you’ll end up being the CEO in that room raising their hand. Continuing education helps you gain knowledge and confidence, break personal walls, identify and strengthen your weaknesses, meet people in your career, and so much more. It’s nothing like college. You’re doing it for yourself. The best part is that it leads you on the path to success and breaks you away from the millennial stereotype.