Archive for the 'Young Professionals' Category

01
Jun
14

Bonus content: Event Garde e-news – June edition

If you’re not yet signed up for our quick, fun, easy-to-read tips, news and association industry information, click here to join our mailing list.

 

Ashley Jones

Ashley Jones, Event Garde intern

Q & A with Ashley Jones, Event Garde intern

Q: When you’re not working for Event Garde, what keeps you busy?
A: When I’m not working for Event Garde, I am either watching Netflix or spending time with my family in Lansing. Watching Netflix usually wins out.

Q: If you were a superhero, what would your power be?
A: I think if I were a superhero my power would be to be able to stop time. I think being able to stop time and take a quick nap and be able to wake up right where I left off would be the best power in the entire world.

Q: If you had to pick a movie that best captures your life thus far, which would it be, and why?
A: If I had to pick one movie it would probably be, “That Awkward Moment” with Zac Efron in it. My entire life always seems to be one big awkward moment with men and just interactions in general.

Q: What one thing could you absolutely not live without?
A: I think one thing I could absolutely not live without would be pizza and diet coke. I know that’s two things but they go together like peanut butter and jelly so you can’t just have one!

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.

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.

24
Sep
13

To pay or not to pay?

Intern name tag

Photo courtesy of myjoboption.com.

Not that long ago, interns were known as the coffee getters, copy makers and phone answerers. In other words, the grunt workers. Or office gophers, perhaps.

Thankfully, those days are gone (for the most part).

Now, interns are treated as valuable members of the team, often attending meetings, working on projects and managing social media accounts. They bring a fresh perspective to the workplace and employers welcome their enthusiasm.

But the question of whether to pay interns continues to perplex employers. It’s not a question of free labor, but rather regulation. Are you required to pay your interns? And, if not, should you anyway?

These days, it seems that to find a job after college, students must engage in at least one internship during their academic careers. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that most employers expect it.

And it seems that paying interns is the way to go.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the results of its College 2013 Student Survey showed that 63.1 percent of paid interns received at least one job offer, whereas only 37 percent of unpaid interns did.  That’s not much better than the survey’s results for those with no internship—35.2 percent received at least one job offer.

But it’s complicated for nonprofits, which are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which mandates for-profit companies pay their interns at least minimum wage.

Since the ruling in the Black Swan case, there’s been a lot of buzz about what constitutes work and what doesn’t. In June, a federal judge ruled that unpaid interns at Fox Searchlight Pictures violated the FLSA by not paying interns during the production of the 2010 movie “Black Swan.” The judge ruled the interns performed the same work duties for which others were paid, and that the internships didn’t provide an educational environment, but instead benefitted the studio.

While the film industry is notorious for not paying interns, the decision could turn other industries on their heads.  Now, employers are asking: Will unpaid internships soon be history?

Black Swan movie

An artistic rendering of the movie, “Black Swan.” Photo courtesy of wallpapersus.com.

There’s a fine line when it comes to unpaid vs. paid internships, so in 2010 the U.S. Department of Labor released a fact sheet to determine under which circumstances a company could use unpaid interns. According to the department, there are six criteria that must be met to justify unpaid interns:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;

2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

It’s not easy to navigate the mumbo jumbo of labor laws.  But if you’re thinking of starting an internship program, and if you’re debating about whether to pay your interns, Prima Civitas, a nonprofit economic and community development collaborative, offers a good resource. Prima Civitas’ Employer Internship Toolkit outlines what a successful internship program might look like and what an intern might do.

Next week, I’ll talk with Cheryl Ronk, president of Michigan Society of Association Executives, about the association’s successful internship program. I’ll also be doing some research to find other examples of successful programs, so I look forward to reporting back to you in a couple weeks.

But in the meantime, tell me: Does your association or organization use interns? If so, how? And do you pay them?

10
Sep
13

Mission possible: Finding and keeping volunteers

It’s the first board meeting of the year and the room is packed with enthusiastic volunteer board members. And later that month, committee members flock to your building to discuss the assignments for the year.

But slowly, throughout the year, people stop coming. Projects hit roadblocks. And by the end of the year, you find it harder and harder to recruit – and keep – volunteers.

Sound familiar?

It may be that your volunteers are bored, says Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

Elizabeth Engel

Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC

Unfortunately, many organizations are stuck when it comes to volunteers, she said. Like zombies, committee members engage in busy work instead of generating new ideas to further the mission of the organization.

Part of the problem is traditional committee structure doesn’t allow for quick decision making, Engel said, and that doesn’t work when GenXers and millennials are accustomed to 24-7 information and networking. We get impatient.

Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, these generations – which in 2011 surpassed Baby Boomers for volunteerism – value virtual networks and don’t often communicate face to face. But because of traditional volunteer models, defined by committees, boards of directors, meetings and high levels of commitment, these young professionals may be hesitant to jump in.

So that’s why associations must embrace mission-driving volunteering, Engel said. She and Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC, recently co-authored a whitepaper, “The Mission Driven Volunteer.”

“Volunteers’ work has to have meaning and impact, where they can clearly see it advancing the mission of the association,” Engel said. “That’s the cake. Recognition, rewards, honors and all that jazz are nice, but they’re the icing. Get the cake right first.”

For example, there should be volunteer opportunities other than joining committees or boards of directors.

“The most innovative volunteer opportunities I’ve seen recently are related to tasks like crowdsourcing,” Hoffman said. “The most innovative association staff positions are volunteer services director, director of member engagement and volunteer coordinator – all of which allow someone to focus on this area.”

When volunteers feel empowered to contribute to the good of the organization, using their own skills and passions, they’re more willing to give their time, the authors wrote.

According to Engel and Hoffman, here are some hallmarks of a mission-driven volunteer program:

  • Projects are evaluated based on how they contribute to the organization’s mission.
  • Structure is built around project-oriented teams rather than the budget cycle.
  • Volunteers are selected based on competencies and skills rather than for position title, tenure or political reasons.
  • The litmus test for maintaining standing committees is breadth of oversight (i.e. fiscal oversight, leadership development/nominations) or legal requirements (i.e. state or federal laws requiring an executive committee).
  • It embraces and enables micro-volunteering.
  • It democratizes volunteering, allowing more people to participate and for those volunteers to create their own opportunities.

    Peggy Hoffman

    Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC

To sum it up, while younger generations are willing and enthusiastic volunteers, they seek different kinds of volunteer experiences, ones that are less about structure, position and prestige, they wrote. They want experiences that are focused instead on independence, meaning, impact and “getting it done,” none of which are easily accommodated by the traditional committee model.

“People like variety, so the question to ask [if you’re struggling to keep volunteers] is whether people were driven out of your organization because of a lack of variety,” Hoffman said. “And a good percentage of volunteers stop because life changes their availability – a new job, a new responsibility at work, a new baby. So the question to me is, how do we address this by crafting volunteer programs that recognize this?”

One solution: micro-volunteering. Think about it as bites of volunteer work: short-term projects, flexibility, ad-hoc committees and taskforces. Micro-volunteers contribute 49 or fewer hours per year and contribute most frequently in ways related to content (research, conducting literature reviews, analyzing data, preparing background information for regulators and press, reviewing proposals) or teaching and mentoring, Engel said. In the whitepaper, Engel and Hoffman present some questions upon which associations can reflect:

  • Which of your standing committees have gone “zombie?”
  • What does your demographic breakdown of volunteers look like? Are you seeing a surge in GenX and millennial volunteers? What are you doing to discover and accommodate their preferences in volunteering?
  • Among your current volunteer opportunities and groups, which support primarily infrastructure? Which support primarily mission? How could you go about getting more into the mission support category?
  • What types of decisions in your association would benefit from a deliberative decision-making process? Which would benefit from a more rapid decide-experiment-learn-iterate process? How do you see your committees and taskforces contributing to this?
  • What current volunteer projects could be turned over to mission-focused taskforces?
  • What current volunteer projects should be dropped to allow you to refocus volunteer and staff resources on mission-driven projects?
  • Ad-hoc volunteers give the least amount of time but as a group represent the largest number of volunteers. Can you identify yours? What do you know about them? How different – or similar – are they to your volunteer leaders?
  • Have you audited your volunteer opportunities to assure a variety of options that target low, medium and high commitment, as well as differing levels of task complexity and expertise required?
  • What do your volunteers say is working and not working for them?
  • How visible is volunteering in your association?
  • What is one action you could take today to start your association on the path to mission-driven volunteering?
"The Mission Driven Volunteer," by Elizabeth Engel and Peggy Hoffman

“The Mission Driven Volunteer,” by Elizabeth Engel and Peggy Hoffman

You can download “The Mission Drive Volunteer” from Engel’s website. Of special interest: It includes three case studies of associations that recently changed their volunteer programs and are now flourishing.  So read it and let us know. Do you need to make some changes?

Editor’s note: You can follow Hoffman and Engel on Twitter at @peggyhoffman and @ewengel. For more information on this topic, please read Aaron Wolowiec’s column in the fall issue of Michigan Meetings.

25
Mar
13

Overcoming your fear of “messing up”

It’s been several months now, but I was invited by Bryan L. Crenshaw, southeast zone adviser of the Michigan District of Key Club International, to present two breakout sessions on public speaking and confidence building at the organization’s 2012 Fall Rally in Wayland. As a former club president and district board member, I was eager to give back to this next generation of leaders and (fingers crossed) association professionals.

If you’re not familiar, Key Club International is the oldest and largest service program for high school students. It’s a completely student-led organization that teaches leadership through service to others. Members of the Kiwanis International family include Kiwanis (adults), Circle K (college students) and Key Club. Ultimately, Key Club members build themselves as they build their schools and communities.

Although I regularly speak to the association community, this younger audience was a new challenge for me. The process began, as it usually does, with an engaging content outline comprising key talking points. It included a brief welcome, a small group discussion, a self-reflection activity and a progressive story-telling activity in which participants practiced their public speaking prowess.

Of the various activities and discussions, I found the self-reflection to be the most enlightening. The students were given an index card and were asked to write down their confidential responses to the following scenario: “You’ve been asked to deliver a speech at your senior graduation. What’s going to keep you up at night in the days leading up to this public speaking engagement?”

Near the end of each session we spent approximately 10 minutes pulling these index cards at random and addressing the various questions and concerns that arose from the students. Since then, I’ve had an opportunity to more closely review and aggregate these responses. Of the nearly 200 answers, the one garnering the top spot – appearing 28 different times – was a fear of messing up.

Following are the six other top vote getters:

  • Writing and editing my speech – 16 responses
  • Forgetting what to say – 15 responses
  • Stuttering, slurring or mumbling – 14 responses
  • Content not good – 13 responses
  • Nerves – 12 responses
  • Saying the wrong thing – 11 responses

In the middle of the pack, between two and eight people said each of the following:

  • Won’t relate to everyone
  • Embarrassed
  • Trip/fall
  • Humiliated
  • Mispronounce a word
  • Appearance/attire
  • Topic
  • Not loud enough
  • Audience too large
  • Not breathing
  • Freezing up
  • Panicking
  • Throwing up
  • Fainting
  • Audio/visual equipment not working
  • Making a joke, but no one laughs

Finally, each of the following concerns garnered one mention each:

  • Changing people’s perspectives
  • Speaking with my hands
  • Going off topic
  • Not having eye contact
  • Face breaking out
  • Not getting a standing ovation
  • Won’t practice/be ready
  • Speaking in front of peers
  • Not delivering speech well
  • Hecklers
  • Physically shaking
  • Voice shaking
  • Talking too fast
  • Talking too quietly
  • Being booed
  • Ruining friendships
  • Going over/under time

So, my question to you is this: When it comes to your work (e.g., launching a new member product or service), do you have many of these same fears and concerns? How do you overcome them? In what ways do you and your organization create a culture that’s okay with “messing up”? What advice would you offer the next generation of leaders, college students and, ultimately, association professionals as they pursue their goals, dreams and interests?




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.

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