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Association Management: Training for Life

By Steena Hymes, Program Services Coordinator

I was recently asked about my career and the skills required to succeed. As I thought about what association management is, I realized that the skills I’ve learned have not only helped me to succeed in this role, but they often spill over into everyday situations in my life.


Association management builds communication skills. I’ve worked with seven different clients and I can assure you that each of these clients are remarkably different from one another. Each group personifies a distinct character.

Association Management teaches you how to adjust to personalities in order to reach common goals. Communication is the crux of success. Take any group and evaluate their successes or failures. The cause behind those successes or failures is directly related to how they communicated with one another. In life, we are put in situations where we have to put aside character differences and work alongside each other to achieve our goals. Association Management is training ground for healthy and functional communication.


Association management requires organization. Who doesn’t need to be better organized? Life is filled with priorities, distractions and responsibilities – each demanding equal attention. This is essentially the life of an association management professional. I leave work at the end of the day feeling relieved over an inbox with zero unread messages, only to return the next morning with 30-40 unread emails – all from people who expect an immediate response. It’s easy to start the day thrown into chaos. You quickly learn to prioritize your needs with the needs of those demanding your attention. You learn how to organize your day in the most productive way. When phones are ringing and emails are coming and you are working against a deadline for a major project – organization is your only hope to make it out with your sanity intact.

Isn’t life that way?  We have our career, our relationships, our health, our finances, and our passions all crowding into our lives fighting for our undivided attention. To be organized, one or more of these things will need to take a back seat in order to focus on the most important – and that’s ok. We have to organize our thoughts and our tasks to determine which is the most important and begin there.

Handling pressure

Association management teaches you how to handle pressure. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been planning a meeting, how much attention you pay to the details or how many times you’ve double-checked everything – you learn to expect the unexpected. A client’s annual conference can be the most stressful – yet rewarding part of your job. You work all year on this one event and there are no do-overs. You arrive on site and the venue didn’t set up the correct number of tables for sponsors, the AV team set up the wrong equipment and a speaker cancels last minute. And all of these things will most likely happen at the same exact time. You have to be able to handle pressure. Problem-solving in high pressure situations isn’t just an association management skill – it’s a life skill.



Steena graduated from Malone University where she studied Journalism and English. She enjoys used book stores, Sunday naps, and making goofy Snapchats with her nieces and nephews.