A few years ago, I was talking to a colleague about ASAE when the topic of the CAE came up. When asked if I was going to sit for the exam, I said no. At the time, I didn’t feel I needed to. I didn’t think it would enhance my career. I saw myself as a lobbyist, not an association executive.
I’ve had similar conversations with a few of my government relations colleagues who question their need to earn the CAE. It’s true that association executives should know something about government relations. However, what’s the benefit of earning the CAE to the government relations professional? Is a lobbyist with a CAE more valuable than one without? As an executive director, where does having a CAE fall in the list of qualifications when hiring a lobbyist?
As the title indicates, I’ve since eaten my words. I earned my CAE last December and had the pleasure of participating in the Walk during ASAE10. So why did I change my mind?
Taking a look at my resume, all four of the jobs I’ve held since graduating college were for associations. At any point in my career, I could’ve jumped ship to Capitol Hill or some lobbying firm downtown. But I didn’t. Associations offer me great opportunities and challenges I can’t find anywhere else. What other industry would allow a 22 year-old administrative assistant to become a director of political advocacy in four years? Realizing my commitment to this community, it was no brainer for me to pursue my CAE.
So has the designation helped me in my lobbying career? Yes and no. While the CAE may not help me get cosponsors for my bill, it did come in handy when I moved from a 501(c)6 organization to a (c)3. Knowing what I can and can’t do in terms of lobbying made a big difference in my transition. Dare I say it, it made me a better association lobbyist.