March 11, 2014
Like many people in the association management industry, Kellen Company employees have enthusiastically answered the question, “And what do you do?” only to receive a blank stare and a polite “Huh?!” Although association management employs tens of thousands of people, most of the world doesn’t know about the thriving industry. Many of us didn’t even know about it when we started our careers. In this ongoing series, we’ll share how our employees discovered this career path and why they’ve stuck around.
How do you explain your job at cocktail parties?
I do my Kellen elevator speech, and ask the listener if they have any associations or professional societies in which they are active. Once I draw that parallel to their own world, they usually nod knowingly. But it’s not a big conversation starter!
What did your 12 year old self think you were going to be when you grew up? Are you doing anything related to that dream job now?
I honestly don’t remember what I wanted to be when I grew up. I do recall that as a teenager, I read the book Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, and it pretty much put me on the path to an environmental science degree, which I obtained from Allegheny College in the late 1970’s. For a few years after graduation, I did environmental science work, and then moved on to energy conservation policy. So, no, my current job is nothing that I envisioned as a kid.
How did you end up in the industry?
After many years in consulting to Federal agencies as a government contractor, I decided to change careers. In Washington, the 3 biggest industries are government, tourism and trade associations. Of the three, I figured that association management offered aspects that were most similar what I liked best about consulting—developing long-term relationships with clients, and helping them meet their goals. So, I took a pay cut and apprenticed myself to two small AMCs to learn the ropes for a few years. Then I contacted Kellen and asked for a job.
What’s your favorite part about working in association management?
Every day is different, so I am never bored!
What do you think the association management industry will look like in ten years?
I think AMCs will still be here, but we’ll be operating more efficiently to meet our clients’ demands that we do so, and to keep our niche in the market.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
A very accomplished business person and former boss once said to me, “Stick to your knitting,” which means keep a focus on what’s important in your work, and don’t be distracted by irrelevant, transient things.
About Carol Freysinger
I am a Vice President in Kellen Company’s Washington, DC office, but about half of my project team members are in our Atlanta and New York City offices. I manage two food associations (Pasta and Juice), and the National Candle Association. They are “happy” products—something nearly everyone likes. But all three have issues to be addressed, like international trade, nutrition and environmental regulation, that keep us quite busy.
About the only thing I wish I had in the office that I don’t right now, is a dog at my feet. I am an animal lover, though right now all I have is a fat guinea pig named Panini (and he is at home). My husband and I have two daughters that we are hugely proud of, aged 20 and 24. Now that the kids are grown, I am searching for a new hobby or sport to take up, in addition to our family’s ongoing travel addiction. Any ideas?