Professional development and continuing education are paramount to providing excellent servant leadership in our communities and organizations and yet, many times, commitment to this effort wanes. Several factors contribute to this: finances, schedules, limited support from upper management and community boards of directors but even with these factors, community management professionals need to make sure to prioritize their professional development. It is a priority that must be recognized and consistently advanced.
I can recall when I first began my community association management career, investing in my professional development seemed too daunting. I had young children, student loan payments, a new mortgage…sound familiar? But I knew that if I were to be successful in this profession and an asset to my employer and the communities we serve, I needed to make my continuing education and professional development a priority. And so, I got creative.
Get a Mentor
One of the things I did immediately was identify those in my organization who were excellent in what they did, and I watched them. I took notice of the things they did well, how well they worked with others, how involved in the success of their teams and communities they were, and I set out to emulate them. For a select few, I went a step further and asked them to be my mentors and they agreed. Whether it was a quick call, an email, a brown bag lunch in the break room or in the case of one of my mentors, a venting session complete with occasional tears and with another, a lunch at one of his favorite spots for a big bowl of Cincinnati chili, I took every opportunity to gain experience from them. Time was my biggest investment and the professional and personal dividends have been exponential. Their generosity in sharing their knowledge and expertise with me birthed was the catalyst for me to become a mentor for new professionals in our industry.
Start Small and Grow Smart
Continuing education for the new management professional typically begins with the M-100 course and while many organizations pay for all or most of this course, smaller communities or management companies may not offer this benefit. If you find yourself having to self-pay for your continuing education, start saving and show that you are willing to invest in yourself. If you normally have a designer cup of coffee several times per week, take that money and instead use those funds to start saving for courses. Commit 1% of your monthly net income toward growing those funds. Ask your company if they would be willing to contribute half of the course expense. As you continue to make these small investments in yourself, it will increase the likelihood that when budgets are discussed and continuing education and professional development line items are considered, your employers may be more likely to commit to allocating funds toward your continued education. Showing that you recognize your worth and are willing to invest in your further development underscores your commitment to excellence.
Consider the ebbs and flows of your organization or community’s operations when planning for your continuing education. It is not a good idea to schedule your classes during your annual budget planning, especially if you are a portfolio manager with multiple properties. Like maintenance and administrative calendars for your properties, create a continuing education calendar. Schedule courses for less busy times, being mindful of projects and other tasks related to your workload that may require more of your attention. Webinars, one-day courses and other educational offerings by CAI National and WMCCAI also serve as excellent resources for your continuing education and professional development credits. For example, the lunch time webinars offered are perfect because they allow you to expand your knowledge without taking too much time away from your daily management responsibilities. Finally, be mindful of the timing of your courses as it relates to your recertification requirements for your designations. Don’t find yourself scrambling to get all your recertification hours in the last two months of the period. To quote one of my fellow manager colleagues, who also happens to be a great mentor and mentee, “Prior proper planning prevents poor performance; people, please prepare yourself.”
Call to Action
Take that first small step. Look at your calendar right now and plan to register for one course. Don’t overthink it. Don’t talk yourself out of it. Don’t try, just do it. Make 2022 the year that you determine to prioritize your continuing education and professional development. You will be a better for it and as a result, so will the communities you manage. It’s a win/win.
Crishana L. Loritsch, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
Crishana has been an active member of the WMCCAI since 2002. She is a passionate advocate for the community association industry and believes in the power of volunteerism and paying it forward. Her commitment and enthusiasm have allowed her to be recognized by WMCCAI as a Rising Star, Committee Chair of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, receiving the Chapter Appreciation Award, was inducted into the WMCCAI Hall of Fame in 2020, and most recently received the Distinguished Service Award in 2021. A natural mentor, she strives to influence everyone in her sphere to be better, every day. She truly believes that the chapter represents the best and brightest in the industry.