Is an AMC Job Right For You? Six Questions to Help You Decide

Woman working on laptop in an association management office

How do you know if you’re a good fit for an AMC position? Certain key differences from working at a standalone association may be crucial to your decision. Take this advice from a new AMC executive to measure your fit with an AMC.

Not every association professional is cut out to work at an association management company (AMC). But for those who are able to successfully make the leap, an AMC career can be incredibly rewarding.

That’s been the case for Jim Thompson, IOM, CAE, who transitioned in 2014 from an executive director role at a standalone society to a position as vice president for association management at Capitol Hill Management Services (CHMS) in Raleigh, North Carolina. While he enjoyed association work before he made the move, he finds the AMC climate is challenging him to rise to new levels of production and achievement.

One of the things that has always intrigued me about working in the association profession is the fact that every day seems like a new day. There is always something to work on, and very rarely is there boredom or not enough to do,” says Thompson. “Now enter the world of the AMC, and I don’t think I have had many hours that have been the same. While that is great and very exciting, you really have to work hard to focus your attention on getting specific tasks done for a particular client.”

If you’re someone who likes to come to work, punch the clock, and methodically cross off your ‘to-do list’ without interruption, then working for an AMC is probably not a good match. — Jim Thompson, IOM, CAE, vice president for association management, Capitol Hill Management Services

Thompson has found that his specific personality traits are a good match for working in a fast-paced AMC environment. By answering the following questions, you, too, can find out if your personality makes you a good candidate for an AMC position:

Am I a Multitasker?

At an AMC, you are responsible for accomplishing a wide variety of tasks for multiple clients, while staying on budget for your for-profit employer. When Thompson first arrived at CHMS, he worried it might be overwhelming to try to give 100 percent to more than one association client. But because he is an effective multitasker, he realized it is possible to achieve that goal by prioritizing and delegating to other CHMS staff—and by relying on association volunteers to do their part.

Am I a Good Communicator?

Working at an AMC requires you to keep several parties in the loop at all times. “With a standalone, you work for one group: the board,” says Thompson. “At an AMC, you’re still accountable to the board, but you’re also accountable to the president of the AMC. It’s an interesting dynamic, and you need to make sure AMC staff understands what’s going on with the associations.” If you keep open lines of communication, there won’t be any surprises when it comes time for an association to renew its contract.

Do I Know When to Say “No”?

At an AMC, it’s important to stay within the parameters of the contract and to avoid mission creep. “You have to be very careful that you don’t go outside the scope of service,” says Thompson. Focus is imperative to ensure the clients are happy and the AMC is successful.

Can I Avoid Playing Favorites?

Thompson recalls that at a standalone association, “I never had to worry about what I told a member if I was working on something else”—because that “something else” was always a different task for that association. But at an AMC, “You never really want to let a client know that you can’t work on their important issue because you have another client you are working on right now.” Learning how to tactfully respond to requests you cannot immediately fulfill is an important skill for AMC staff.

Do I Have an Entrepreneurial Spirit?

While most associations are concerned with their budgets and hope to make a profit to invest back into the organization, AMCs take company profits very seriously. For Thompson, recognizing the bottom line and pushing for profits is a good fit since he has always been interested in business development and took pride in generating nondues revenues for his standalone association. “With an AMC, I combine my entrepreneurial skills with the association world that I love,” he says.

Am I an Adrenaline Junkie?

“If you’re someone who likes to come to work, punch the clock, and methodically cross off your ‘to-do list’ without interruption, then working for an AMC is probably not a good match,” says Thompson. Fortunately, Thompson enjoys the variety and the high-energy, high-impact environment at CHMS, and he thrives under high-pressure deadlines.

If you answered “Yes” to most of these questions, you should definitely consider an AMC position the next time you’re ready to make a career move. It just might be a perfect fit.

Reprinted with permission. Originally published by ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership (March 2016), Washington, DC. Article written by Christine Umbrell.