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Your First "Real Job": ISAE Members Share Lessons Learned

Posted by Laura Wilson on Jun 12, 2014 1:15:00 PM

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A person’s career is a roadmap history of his or her professional persona, starting with the first time a pre-adult earns money for work performed – babysitting, mowing lawns, washing cars — to a young adult’s first “real job.” What distinguishes the first real job from tasks done for pay is the sense of starting professional life.


When starting down a career path, the accompanying emotions may range from excitement and pride to trepidation about performance. Through it all, we learn how to hone the skills needed to continue and grow in our professions. We learn both the qualities needed for that specific career, plus how to navigate the general realities of working life – organization, punctuality, responsibility, and cooperation.

Recently two members of the Experienced Professionals shared interest group of the Indiana Society of Association Executives reminisced about their first “real jobs.”

Dave Stevens, Managing Partner, Stevens & Stevens LLC

“I was an assistant brand manager at Procter & Gamble on its largest brand. I loved that I was surrounded by the best and brightest in marketing, and that everything we did was truly meaningful. A good idea might be worth $50 million in increased sales. Of course, a bad idea could lose $10 million overnight.

“There was little to dislike, other than the hours. One of my colleagues once quipped that he fantasized about getting home before 7 o’clock at night. We thought that was hilarious, because it was never going to happen.

“I learned so much that I've applied to association marketing for years and years - the principles were timeless. The greatest lesson was probably in branding itself or, as many people refer to it, the value proposition: Don't try to be all things to all people. Instead, stake your claim to an expertise, focus your message on the correct target audience, and magical things will happen. It's much harder than it sounds, but it works mightily.”

Cassandra Seaman, Senior Sales Manager, Conrad Indianapolis

“I worked in front office hotel operations, beginning in 1991 until approximately 1994. I enjoyed guest interaction. I developed relationships with many of our frequent guests and had the opportunity to learn from experienced hotel managers.

“At that time, unfortunately, Indianapolis did not have the shopping, restaurants and entertainment it has now. It was difficult handling upset guests who were not happy with downtown activities, and especially those who were upset about something that occurred during their stay. The experience taught me how to remain calm and listen while someone yelled, ranted and raved until they got things off their chest. It also made an impact on me as a life lesson to never treat another human being in such a way that was demeaning and disrespectful to them.”

Personal Perspective

As for me, my first real job came in 1982, when I joined the staff of The Saturday Evening Post magazine as an editorial assistant. I felt fortunate to have landed a position with a national publication in my hometown of Indianapolis, and awed by the magazine’s long history. Its classic short stories and iconic cover art by Norman Rockwell were truly part of Americana.

I learned, too, that handling words is like sculpting with clay – words need to be worked, massaged, and built up in some areas while whittled away in others. I learned that, when applied with care, words can connect the reader with the writer on a deep emotional level. Most of all, I learned that I wanted to work with words the rest of my life. Good fortune has given me the chance to do so, and it all started with that first real job.

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Topics: Association, Members, Success, Learning, Career

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