Successful Launch: How to Be Indispensable to Your Association

By Brian Haney • April 25, 2019

It’s rare to have your professional life all mapped out. Whether you just landed a new job or are starting a new career, most young professionals find the new beginning thrilling, but the ladder to success daunting. You may feel like you’ve landed the dream job, or at least secured a healthy starting job, or like many more are just lucky to find a job that pays decently despite it being outside your comfort zone. Furthermore, now that you’re here, do you know how to recognize and seize chances to move into a better role, build relational momentum, or ask for that all important raise? Whether the road is promising or scary, the following tips will help you make the most out of every opportunity.

Make great first impressions

In any new role, starting off on the right foot is key. Studies have shown that people determine how charismatic you are before you even speak or shake hands. So, avoid bedhead, smile, and come into work ready to have fun. Be someone others are happy to see!

Important tip: People first look at hands, not eyes, not faces. Hands are trust factors. When people can’t see your hands, you become untrustworthy. Handshakes are also powerful–when we have skin- to-skin touch, there is a release of oxytocin. When we get that acknowledgement, we feel chemically bonded. Oxytocin is the chemical that makes you want to connect further, so shake hands and make eye contact.

Eye contact also builds connection. Implement the “Pay attention to me” principle of conveying care – look at someone’s face! Showing that you care starts with your facial expression.. This is paramount in likeability, and likeability is the gatekeeper for relationships.

Master of the art of relationships

If you want to do well, be great at developing relationships. Eighty-five percent of success is tied to human engineering, and only 15 percent tied to technical competence. You won’t go nearly as far as you’d like if you’re not good with people. John Maxwell’s Law of Connection states “focus on others, not on yourself.” People’s opinion of us has less to do with what they see in us than it does with what we can help them see in themselves. So, build camaraderie by building up others. Good relationships turn into great advocates. You will always connect faster when your focus is not on you, and you’ll develop meaningful work relationships that will help you grow in your career.

Two people looking at a document teamwork

Align yourself with values

Great associations know their members in and out, and offer a value proposition indispensable to their members’ success. As a young association professional, it’s important to take the same value-centered approach to your career. It’s one thing to communicate because you believe you have something of value to say. It’s another to communicate with people because you believe they have value. As you get your feet wet, keep two key things in mind: How can I enhance my association’s value to others, and how can I enhance my coworkers’ value to the association? Know how your specific role completes the bigger membership picture for your association. Learn about what your coworkers do so you can find meaningful ways to help them and collaboratively achieve success. Make it easy for everyone to see you as an indispensable part of the association’s mission.

Advocate for yourself

Self-advocacy is having the confidence to speak up for what you want and need. Make a commitment to learn and improve through actions that will enable career opportunities. Begin with a clear understanding of your role and what is expected of you. You may have been hired for a job description, but you need to know how your boss defines being good in that role. Know what you’re expected to do, and how you will be measured. Don’t let there be any ambiguity.

Advocating for yourself doesn’t mean raising your hand

Good bosses love initiative, so demonstrate your worth by taking ownership of your success. The ideal boss takes time to mentor you, defines goals, provide feedback and support your growth. However, that may not describe your boss. Therefore, you may need to take charge and work to facilitate these things yourself. Self-advocacy is authentic self-sponsorship, not raising your hand and waiting for your turn. Be proactive in your roles and responsibilities, ensure that your voice is heard, and measure your progress and communicate it. Don’t assume your boss and coworkers know what you’re doing and don’t wait until it’s “annual review time” to talk about your efforts. Find authentic ways to celebrate your successes publicly as part of the team. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your achievements. Just be mindful of the fine line between self-sponsorship and shameless self-promotion.

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash
Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

How Do You Ask for a Raise?

Finally, how to do you ask for a raise or grab that promotion? Simply remember the 3 P’s:


The best way to advocate for yourself with a boss is to see things from their perspective and not your own.  What is it they want, need, and are looking for?  How do they define success?  What are value drivers for them?  The psychological principle to be aware of is consistency. We don’t want to be incongruent to what we have previously said or done.

So, if you were clear with your boss about their goals, then your approach for a raise or promotion should be framed by helping them see it as the natural, appropriate progression of your efforts, having exceeded their targets and demonstrated value on their terms.


While this may seem like a no brainer, you’d be surprised how often this is not effectively communicated. You must provide proof positive your work merits a raise or promotion. Remember: Nobody notices normal, and they certainly don’t promote it. When was the last time you went away thrilled because a restaurant just met your expectations? When our expectations are met and we are simply satisfied, that really isn’t the target. Doing what you’re supposed to do when you said you’d do it may not be enough. Work so well that your boss becomes a raving fan of yours.  Routinely exceed expectations and the proof will be in the pudding.


Building rapport and relational equity among colleagues is critical. Don’t lock yourself in a silo, get to know people in your association, especially those in roles you have no experience in. Learning from your colleagues has a myriad of benefits. First, you’re creating a work persona of kindness, support, and helpfulness. Don’t fake it or over extend yourself, just be intentional. Second, learning what others do will strengthen your capacity and knowledge, allowing you to connect with them in areas of partnership. Additionally, the more you know about the various roles within your organization, the better equipped you’ll be when climbing the proverbial ladder.

You might not know exactly how your professional career will play out, but knowing these strategies for mastering professional relationships and advocating for yourself is the road map that will guide you on the way.

About The Author

Brian Haney, CLTC, CFS, CFBS, LACP is the founder and vice president at The Haney Company, providing employee benefit plans, comprehensive property and casualty insurance and affinity programs for the association marketplace. Founded in 2012 with his father Allen, who is an ASAE Fellow, they deliver high level advice to guide associations down the best path forward. Their goal is to provide the best customer service, custom tailor solutions to association needs, and help you feel better about yourself, your situation, and the decisions you’re making financially.