Today is the Certified Association Executive exam, a prestigious professional distinction in the association industry. As I ponder the delightful benefits that come from years of experience, months of studying and a nerve-wracking test, I am thinking of those who may not be eligible for a CAE certification because they are volunteer leaders and therefore not employed by an association. Never fear! There are ways for volunteer association leaders to extend their resumes without getting their CAE.
1) Don’t treat your resume as a story
This is not a “rookie mistake.” There are people nearing retirement age who treat their resume as if a hiring manager wants to sit down and learn about the applicant’s career path. Volunteer association leaders almost always have a story, too. This isn’t to say that it’s not a great and valuable story that’s dotted with valuable lessons learned and skills developed, but chances are whoever is going to look at your resume isn’t going to read it like a novel or even a list. He or she will scan it really quickly, looking for key organizations or skills, and then move on. In fact, your resume may not even be seen by human eyes until further in the process. Many companies are using digital versions of resumes and running them through keyword scanning software.
Instead, why don’t you prioritize your resume in order of what would be most important to whomever you’re sending it to? Put those important skills at the top. There will be time for a life story during the interview.
2) Make a list of your projects and keep it updated
If you’re an association leader you’re the master of a ton of projects. If you’re an association leader with a full time job, those projects probably get mixed on a to-do list with work and family tasks as well. Start a list somewhere of important association projects you’ve completed or worked on. It seems silly because at the time, they’re one of the most important things on your mind, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll forget that important project when the next big thing comes along.
When you get some time to update your resume, consult that list. It’ll help you remember all the work you did and all the lessons you learned from that experience.
3) Ask your peers about your recent work
From an inside perspective, it’s often tough to tell how your association work has impacted your members. Without fishing for compliments, casually ask members with whom you are close what they remember most about the recent years, events, or seasons. Their answers may surprise you! That’s also valuable feedback for your leadership skills moving forward.
4) Focus on skills you’ve built, not necessarily tasks
As an association leader you likely have a lot of little tasks like sending out emails, coordinating venues, generating reports and invoices, etc. Those are your regular responsibilities, but are those your skills? Look at it this way: it’s pretty easy to teach someone to format a newsletter or set up a committee group in your AMS. But it’s a lot harder to show someone how to engage members and keep them interested so those committees produce amazing events. It’s your membership engagement skills that are really valuable here, not your technical know-how. Keep that in mind!
5) Don’t discount social media
If someone really wants to know about you they’ll Google. Depending on your privacy settings, a potential employer may run across your social media profiles. While it’s not your official resume, these profiles, what you say, and how you interact often are a factor when considering if you’ll be contacted for a position. Keep your LinkedIn profile updated. Keep your personal stuff away from search engines with your privacy settings. Be aware of how others can see your reputation online!
Want to bump up those member engagement skills for your resume? Download our free guide!