Our jobs are getting harder for a number of reasons but unlike so many things in the past, these changes are not handled in an afternoon and then checked off of a to-do list. They will alter the way in which we work.

“Expert” is no longer a destination

In the past one would attain expert level and coast. Once you were established and well-known, people tended to believe you. An expert could sit in an ivory tower and proclaim things to be true and that used to be good enough for 99.2% of the people (okay, I fabricated that statistic but back in the day that would’ve been alright).

Now an expert is not just one at the top of his or her field but someone who must continually work at being a thought leader. An expert must be in a constant state of learning today; learning technology, social media, and other non-industry related subjects like ways in which to reach a greater number of people.

As association leaders we were once assumed to be the experts in the industry. This assumption is no longer automatic. Staying on top of the changes in our industry and the changes around us are equally important. Those who let the latter slip will not be as effective or well-received.

The line between personal and professional isn’t blurred. It’s disappearing. 

When Gen Y entered the workforce we welcomed a group of people that cared very little if their hiring manager saw pictures of what they did on Saturday night. They don’t compartmentalize their lives the way the generations before them did. They “friend” people they meet waiting in line for coffee.

This difference in the way they conduct their lives isn’t just about relinquishing privacy, it changes the way they (and we) work as well. While they may be big advocates of time off, they are always on. On social media, on camera, on their phones, wanting to go out on their own. (Great piece here about Gen Y snubbing corporate America for Entrepreneurship. Along those lines, I mentioned the rise in solopreneurs here.)  

What these changes mean:

These changes have happened quietly, no line in the sand that caused us to do things differently overnight. Some of us have felt the change and reacted, while others are treating it with all the indifference of a snowstorm in Boston. But these two trends are indicative of greater changes coming:

Experts, of which you are as an association professional, will need to embrace learning in a way they haven’t in the past. Not just being open to continuing education but actively pursuing it on their own time. Much of it will be self taught through Internet resources, not necessarily online classes but webinars, ebooks, online events, blog posts, etc.

Traditional work hours will begin to fade as Gen Y takes over the decision making. There will be more flexibility but also more expectation to be reachable on what is known now as “your” time. Many association professionals have told me they don’t check email at night and don’t welcome being reached by phone. When Gen Y leads, people who feel this way are going to have a hard time communicating with this mobile group. The line between personal and professional time and lives will not blur, it will vanish completely.

Is your association ready?