So there I was, looking out into a sea of faces.
Council members, city managers and directors from all over California had gathered at the 2016 League of California Cities Annual Conference, and an unexpected number of them had decided to attend my session on emerging leaders.
As a representative of the Municipal Management Association of Northern California (MMANC), I had volunteered to present findings from our member surveys and attempt to persuade policymakers that things need to change. I had the attention of 50-60 local government leaders and an amazing opportunity; to relay an important message and showcase my presentation skills and expertise.
It was an experience that I won’t soon forget, and it all started with joining a professional association.
Professional associations are one of the best untapped resources for career development. Many of them are made up entirely of volunteers working in local government who share a passion for moving the field forward. Whether you are still in school, just starting out, or a seasoned professional looking for a way to reinvigorate your career associations offer a ton of ways to grow your career.
Build a Better Resume
For students or recent grads with limited experience, membership in an association could be a great resume builder. It shows dedication to the profession and attending association conferences and events also gets you in front of prospective employers in a more relaxed atmosphere. Bonus: many associations have discounted membership and event registration fees for students.
For those who have been working in local government for years, professional associations can help expand specific expertise. Many associations have publications (MMANC has MunicipalMagazine.com) where you can share your experience by having an article published.
Develop Leadership Skills
Volunteering to be on the Board of MMANC for the past several years has provided me with invaluable experience as a leader that are highly valued by employers. I have been able to develop these skills outside of my regular job duties:
- Project management by joining a committee and working behind the scenes of an event
- Management skills by heading up a special project
- Communication skills by presenting a workshop or speaking at an event
So where else would I have been given the opportunity to speak in front of a room full of future bosses, hiring managers, and colleagues? e presentation was standing room only with a number of questions from the audience.
It’s powerful to take part in association meetings full of those who share the same interests and passion for the profession. Association membership gives you access to an established support system of people who are motivated to get things done. No one understands the challenges, frustrations and satisfaction of working for municipal government better than your peers!
The support and camaraderie that I have found at MMANC has helped me immensely in my career. So often I get to connect with my peers, share ideas, ask for advice, and learn what organizations are doing to tackle common challenges. It also helps me gain a broader perspective because I can work alongside people from other departments including police, public works, libraries and finance, for example.
Stay on the Cutting Edge
Association membership keeps me connected and provides access to resources and information, which is important for career growth. I am always learning about breaking news, best practices, new ideas, and I hear from key achievers in the field. Keeping up to date by attending courses, workshops, reading publications, and viewing webinars on hot topics will ensure I stay on top of my game.
Shape Your Personal Brand
Credibility is a key part of membership as well.
Employers know that ICMA members agree to abide by the ICMA Code of Ethics. And contributing to the profession raises visibility and name recognition among leaders in the field. By sharing knowledge ICMA members also raise their own visibility in the profession.
They say “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” However, I would argue it’s “who knows you.” Even if you only take part in meetings or behind-the-scenes work, you never know – you could be working alongside your future boss, hiring manager or colleague!
Associations offer so many opportunities. That being said, you only get out of it what you put in. If you don’t attend the meetings or get involved, you miss out on the real benefits. If you decide to take the plunge and join an association, be sure to jump in with both feet!
Miranda Lutzow, MPA, is management analyst at in Oakdale, Calif., and a member of the city manager’s senior management team where she is responsible for recruitment and selection, professional development programs, employee health and welfare, and handling personnel matters. Miranda previously served as assistant city clerk at in Merced.
Lutzow earned her honors Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree with a double major in Political Science and Criminal Justice & Public Policy from University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada and a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from California State University, Stanislaus.
Lutzow has spent her career active in several professional organizations including the Municipal Management Association of Northern California (MMANC) where she has served as Secretary, Membership Director, and 2016 Program Director; and ICMA where she serves on the Advisory Board on Graduate Education and the Digital Strategies Advisory Board.