Archive for October, 2013

29
Oct
13

Straight from an intern’s mouth

Editor’s Note: This week’s guest post is from Samantha Moore, meetings and membership coordinator for the American Bakers Association in Washington, D.C.  Before working full time for the association, Moore was an intern. What can associations offer interns? She explains.

Samantha Moore

Samantha Moore, meetings and membership coordinator for the American Bakers Association.

ABA Logo“You should submit something,” said Karin Soyster Fitzgerald, my mentor and former boss, referring to an email from the American Society of Associations Executives encouraging members to comment on internship programs.  She isn’t even my supervisor anymore and I still take orders!

This subject is near and dear to my heart because without my internship, I would not be the meeting planner I am today. I hope that my story provides guidance for other young meeting professionals and persuades other meeting planners to implement stellar internship programs in their own associations.

I graduated from Penn State, majoring in hotel, restaurant and institutional management.  I wanted to be a wedding planner, but I fell in love with the meetings and convention industry after taking an introduction to meeting planning class that was based on a CMP prep textbook from PCMA.

But I had no idea how to break into that position right out of college. Many of my classmates went directly to hotels to be conference service managers but I knew that I wanted to be on the other side. So that’s where my internship at the American Bakers Association came in and where the magic started!

I interned with the ABA three separate times. I worked directly with both the meetings and membership departments. Some of my daily tasks included:

  • Membership record projects and outreach
  • RFP processes
  • Contract negotiation
  • Registration
  • Meeting materials (badges and other fun necessities)
  • Invoicing and monthly financial reconciliations.

Most of the time, someone reviewed my projects once I finished or they were already completed (contracts). But the experience of working on those projects is what an internship is really all about.

In my opinion, an internship is the most important item to have on a resume. Internships reflect drive, resourcefulness and professionalism. They teach valuable skills, such as collating/alphabetizing, Xerox machine mastering, document merging, coffee making and life skills. But more importantly, internships teach responsibility, professional workplace etiquettes, business ethics and last, but certainly not least, they provide a step toward the ultimate goal of a fulltime job that is successful and enjoyable.

As a 1½-year-old planner I have many responsibilities that are solely my own and I work directly with my supervisor on all other meeting logistics. I am responsible for our sponsorship program, registration process, evening events for ABA committee meetings and special events and many other day-to-day operations.

More recently, I coordinated the scheduling and supervision of more than 100 volunteers during ABA’s largest tradeshow, International Baking Industry Exposition, and was a key contact for the education program consisting of 75 sessions throughout four days. This was an amazing experience, not to mention all of the great baked goods! Because of my history with the association, they knew I could take on such responsibility, and for that I am extremely thankful.

Thanks to my internship, I’ve been able to apply almost two additional years of knowledge and experience to my current position. When I was asked to become a fulltime employee, ABA was undergoing a change in management. I was tasked with supporting the brief gap of management at the ripe age of 22.

The wealth of historical knowledge not only sustained me during that time but also enabled me to work alongside my new supervisor. This sense of empowerment and trust taught me critical thinking and showed that I could stand on my own.

To sum it all up:  Students/young professionals and associations need to get together! Associations benefit from creative and fresh perspectives from interns and interns grow into people who are well rounded and prepared for the road ahead.

What I adore about our industry is that it is versatile and flexible. What could be better than an internship in an association where the student is exposed to all daily functions of a modern company? And what can be better than quality and cheap (not free) labor?

Associations are flexible and vast enough to give interns a tailored and stable environment in which they can flourish and network for their future.  And interns: You never know when a small opportunity like a temporary internship can turn into a successful relationship and fulfill a young professional’s dream.

22
Oct
13

Big picture thinkers vs. detail doers

 

Allison McClintick

Allison McClintick, founder of FlightLead Consulting

I can’t imagine how scary it was for Allison McClintick, founder of FlightLead Consulting, to move across the country without a plan. A single mom at the time, she left her daughter with her father to start graduate school at the University of San Diego. No job. A few thousand dollars. And hope. That’s all she had.

But it was more than enough because McClintick saw the big picture.

And that’s what defines a leader, she said.

“The cool thing about leadership and management is that it doesn’t matter what the industry is; the concepts are the same,” McClintick said. “A leader helps to look at the bigger picture and to collect energy around where an organization is going. A manager, quite honestly, ‘manages’ all the details of where the organization is going. They are the day-to day-experts. But leaders are always looking at tomorrow.”

On Nov. 6, McClintick will give the keynote address at Destination Michigan’s Showcase of Ideas, which will be held at Eagle Eye Golf Club in Bath. A respected leadership expert, McClintick will help participants:  

  • Identify individual strengths and development areas for immediate application.
  • Describe the differences between a “leader” and a “manager” mindset.
  • Predict the ideal mindset based on a variety of different scenarios.
  • Illustrate how to smoothly adjust “styles” for better results when working with varying personalities.
  • Explain how to empower personal communication skills for enhanced group collaboration.

Read bullet No. 2 again. Think about your organization. What’s your role? Are you a leader or a manager? It’s not that easy, right?

Managers love details, organization, structure and a schedule, McClintick said. They’re sort-of the “type As” of the world. They like to know expectations upfront and dread distraction. As a “type A” person myself, I get this. And I’m guessing a lot of you do, too.

But instead of concentrating on details and execution, leaders see the big picture. And sometimes that means time management and organization fall by the wayside. Leaders tend to “wing it” (which can drive managers crazy) and they love networking. Oh. And comfort zones don’t apply often to leaders.  

And then some people are hybrids because, as McClintick says, leadership skills can be taught.

Obviously, it takes leaders and managers to make an organization work, but often communication styles clash. Leaders are great at managing diverse personalities. Managers? Maybe.

 And that’s where McClintick can help.

“First and foremost, leadership is an opportunity that applies to everyone on Earth,” she said. “It’s not reserved for specific people. Leadership is one of the most uniquely human, most powerful gifts given to us. It’s a choice we can all make and when we make it, truly amazing things can be achieved.”

There’s so much more I could write about this topic – I find it fascinating. And I will. But for now, McClintick writes a blog and hosts “Leadership Lowdown,” a radio segment on Michigan Business Network.  

Tune in and let me know what you think.

15
Oct
13

Internship Intel

I continue to be amazed at the response from readers on the topic of internships.

My colleague, Aaron Wolowiec, founder of Event Garde, posted on Collaborate, a private social network for members of the American Society of Association Executives, that I was looking for examples of successful internship programs. And examples I got. Lots of them.

Todd Von Deak

Todd Von Deak, president of TVD Associates

Associations aren’t usually top of mind for students looking for internships, said Todd Von Deak, president and founder of Philadelphia-based TVD Associates, but they should be.  Interns often think associations are run solely by volunteers and are therefore broke. But perhaps with better networking and marketing, associations could change that.

“Internship programs can help associations extend their staff in ways that otherwise wouldn’t be possible and the pipeline for identifying and vetting full-time hires can’t be underestimated,” he said. “We work in a profession that isn’t necessarily the first idea for a new graduate of where they want to work, but internship programs tell local communities that associations are a viable career option. We as an industry have to be doing more of that.”

Before founding his own association management firm, Von Deak’s association was named co-employer of the year at Drexel University. In 10 years, it employed about 125 interns.

He recently wrote about internships for the magazine of the Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives. In that article, Lisa DeLuca, associate director of career services at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, offered some insight.

For starters, DeLuca suggests associations:

•             Reach out to on-campus career center staff
•             Hire interns and co-ops.  Students on campus talk, and word of mouth matters.
•             Encourage alumni on staff to return to campus to share their knowledge

In that same article, Von Deak referenced a recent study by GradStaff, which suggested the cost to fill and train a new employee could run an organization more than $10,000.

Given that, it makes sense to create a pipeline of talent to the organizations: interns. Essentially, associations can engage a team of talent scouts who will steer some of the best students to consider the organization.

Von Deak’s interns earned a stipend, but weren’t paid otherwise. But he admitted that trend is changing.

“They would do a period of administrative tasks each day, but at the same time, they would write, develop promotions, lead work sessions and even pitch to our CEO,” he said. “I’ve always felt that an intern’s ideas are as good as anyone’s. The only thing the full timer has is perhaps a little more of an appreciation and understanding of how to make an idea work within the context of their company.”

PCI interns

Interns at PCI

And then there’s Frances Reimers, senior account executive at PCI, a marketing and creative production agency in Alexandria, Va.

PCI pays its interns $10 per hour. In the three years since the inception of its internship program, PCI has employed six interns, all of whom assisted with marketing, idea creation and pitching and research. Reimers looks for students who aren’t afraid to speak up and who have the confidence to hit the ground running.

To find interns, PCI advertises on local university websites and uses social media to engage. And from there, it’s about being prepared.

“Make sure you have a dedicated staff person with the right managerial skills to work with young adults,” Reimers said. “Have a formal plan in place to hire, train and manage interns. Just like any other employee, they need guidance, goals and direction to be provided by their employer. And provide interns an opportunity at the end of their time with you to voice their opinion about their experience – and listen to what they say. Finally, provide your interns a seat at the table – they have great ideas.”

What else?

“Feedback from our interns tells me they enjoy the professional, high-energy environment, the coaching and mentoring they receive from their manager and the opportunity to learn more about VisitPittburgh. For the students:  Don’t be afraid of non-paid internships, as many times the knowledge you gain far outweighs the short-term loss in wages.  Also, make sure you learn about the entire organization, not just the department in which you’re interning.  For employers:  Commitment from the president and senior management must be in place for the internship program to be successful.”
Jason Fulvi, executive vice president, VisitPITTSBURGH

“Being an intern at Hargrove helped me establish a terrific professional foundation. I learned a lot of organizational skills, how to use email and all the basic computer software. I learned the terminology of our business, how to manage a budget and how to interact with clients.  The internship was a great opportunity because I could demonstrate my value. I’m not the best in an interview or on a test, so this way I could prove to Hargrove that I would be successful.”
Renee Spragg, national account manager, Hargrove (a trade show, exhibit and event company in Lanham, Md.)

Renee Spragg

Renee Spragg, national account manager for Hargrove

Thanks to everyone who provided insight, advice and examples. I may write about this topic in the future, especially as we watch the repercussions of the Black Swan case unfold. So please keep the feedback coming.

08
Oct
13

Interns have rights too

Intern compensation info graphic

An info graphic by InternMatch, listing quick facts about intern compensation.

After posting on Sept. 24 about unpaid vs. paid internships, I heard from the founder of InternMatch, an online platform that matches interns with employers.

In September, InternMatch gained some attention by proposing the “Intern Bill of Rights,” which aims to set some common standards for intern employers. As a news junkie, I’d heard about this and thought that as potential employers of interns, you might like to learn more.

There are tons of intern matching services, so I’m not endorsing this one, necessarily. But I’m impressed with what I’ve learned. For starters, InternMatch conducted an Intern Match Report, which revealed the face of traditional internships may be changing.

“The goal of the Intern Bill of Rights is to improve internships for interns, employers and society as a whole,” said Nathan Parcells, co-founder and chief marketing officer of InternMatch. “It focuses on fair documentation and compensation, increasing the training and mentoring aspect of the internship, legal protections, nondiscriminatory hiring practices and potential for internship benefits. Some companies that have already signed the bill are Rosetta and Viacom.”

It has eight proposed requirements:

  • All interns should be provided an offer document, recognizing their role within a company.
  • All interns deserve fair compensation for their work, usually in the form of wages and sometimes in the form of dedicated training.
  • The word “intern” should only be applied to opportunities that involve substantial training, mentoring and getting to know a line of work.
  • The hiring of interns should be as transparent and non-discriminatory as the hiring of full-time employees.
  • All interns are entitled to the same legal protections as all other workers, and should not be subject to discrimination, harassment or arbitrary dismissal. Under these circumstances, interns should have the same standing in court and the same recourse to the law as all other workers.
  • While some benefits, such as vacation time, do not always make sense for interns, interns should be given reasonable benefits that are similar to employees. This includes sick days, over time and worker’s compensation.
  • No one should be forced to take an unpaid internship or be required to pay in order to work.
  • All interns should be treated with respect and dignity by coworkers and supervisors.

According to InternMatch, almost 48 percent of the internships in which the class of 2013 engaged were unpaid, as students seem to care more about building resumes than earning money.

But for employers, the question of whether to pay is becoming more complex as they navigate a confusing sea of legalese. So perhaps it’s best to think of paying as an ethical obligation, rather than a legal one.

Nathan Parcells

Nathan Parcells, founder of InternMatch.

With the cost of tuition rising every year, students are finding it difficult to make ends meet. InternMatch found that 61 percent of unpaid interns also work a paying job. Many of these same students are also taking more credits per semester to finish college in  four, or even six, years.

It’s a full and stressful load. And that’s why InternMatch, and those companies that have signed on to the Intern Bill of Rights, argue that interns should be paid.

“Unpaid internships hurt the economy,” Parcells said, “and the millions of unpaid internships in the U.S. every year are costing hundreds of thousands of jobs. The data-supported realization that unpaid internships have only a 1 percent impact on employment should sound an alarm for everyone defending the ‘pay your dues and you’ll be better off long-term’ argument.”

However, since nonprofits are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates for-profit companies pay their interns at least minimum wage, they are the most likely to hire unpaid interns. In that case, it’s best to consult with a lawyer, Parcells said.

But what does this all mean for associations?

“It’s safe to say that most internships at associations are likely very hands-on, meaning the intern is often working closely with several individuals,” Parcells said. “This means the intern has to have a strong skillset and experience level, but will also gain a lot of training and mentorship from the close interactions.”

Next week, I’ll be talking with Cheryl Ronk, president of Michigan Society of Association Executives, about MSAE’s intern program. Is there anything you’d like me to ask her?

Until then, check out InternMatch’s industry guides for quick tidbits.

01
Oct
13

Leveraging strategy to amplify education initiatives

Aerial of downtown Detroit Riverfront Photo Credit: Vito Palmissano

Aerial of downtown Detroit Riverfront
Photo Credit: Vito Palmissano

On Oct. 3, I’ll have the opportunity to speak at the seventh annual NACEDA (National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations) Summit. Hosted by the Greektown Casino-Hotel in Detroit, the theme is “What’s Working?” Considering the NACEDA Summit is taking a road trip for the first time in seven years, it’s only appropriate the group decided to convene in the Motor City.

Despite bad press, Detroit offers countless examples of what’s working. For starters, meetings are not only safe and thriving, a transformation is happening here more rapidly than at any other time in history. Likewise, Detroit is not the ‘black eye’ of America and Motown magic continues to attract business. Case in point, the “Super Bowl of Conferences” will be held here in 2015.

Generally, I think visitors are surprised by everything the city has to offer. And if you doubt me, just ask my friend Jeanette Pierce of D:hive. I recently had the good fortune to tour several Detroit sites with her as a committee chair for the aforementioned event. Not only is she the city’s most unabashed advocate, but she’s an absolute wealth of information about Detroit and its many points of interest.

So, as a self-proclaimed “meetings coach” and Michigan native, I’m pleased to have been invited by Brian McGrain of CEDAM (Community Economic Development Association of Michigan) to submit a presentation proposal for this year’s summit. My session will illuminate current best practices in training and conference session planning and has come to be titled, “Leveraging Strategy to Amplify Education Initiatives.”

Although I’m a firm supporter of developing sessions unique to conference objectives and attendee needs, I often raise this theme of “intentionality.” In an article I wrote in June 2002 for Associations Now, I encouraged readers to take a break from the daily firefighting we’ve come to expect and instead approach tasks with more reflection, strategy and collaboration.

In the spirit of this advice, take a moment to consider participation in your current suite of professional development programs. What’s inhibiting attendance? We’re likely all feeling the pressures of time, competition, money and technology. But when specifically asked during a recent NACEDA prep session, leaders added travel, opportunity costs, value proposition and marketing to their list of challenges.

I consider my own work with the Michigan Association of REALTORS earlier this year. During a similar powwow with the best and the brightest minds, local association leaders added certification, continuing education credits, programming for disparate experience levels, personal/professional motivation and regulations – all of which resonated with this group, as well.

So it’s clearly time to start thinking differently about education, including what it means to meet the unique needs of our professional development consumers (as dwindling attendance and revenue is likely not an alternative we’re willing to accept). While distance learning is one possible solution, it’s not the only solution. The Meetings Report reminds us to diversify revenue, reward difference, value context, maximize opportunities and prioritize learning.

To prioritize learning means to:

  1. Develop and apply an intentional education strategy;
  2. Experiment with more creative instructional strategies that align with adult learning theory; and
  3. Deliberately explore the intersection that exists between logistics and learning.

I think we can all agree that the days of talking head, instructor-led sessions are waning. To remain relevant, organizations must elevate the quality and sophistication of their programs, build the reputation of their signature events and improve their bottom lines. This session will answer the simple question: How can we do that?

In the meantime, I’m curious to know: What’s inhibiting attendance at your organization’s events? When it comes to training/conference session planning, what needs improvement? How much adult learning theory informs your meetings/events? Share your thoughts in the comments and I’ll hope to see you Thursday.




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, hot yoga, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,076 other followers

Featured in Alltop

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,076 other followers

%d bloggers like this: