‘Every Meeting Has Been an Investment in My Career’

JoyBanksAs the budget year at my organization came to a close, it seemed like the perfect time to get caught up with my household’s finances as well. That got me thinking about the investment I make in my SLA membership every year.

I am probably in the minority in my generation (Am I a Y? A Millennial?) because I actually balance my checkbook. Every expense is entered into a program so I can clearly show my husband that we eat out far too often. While sometime tedious, this exercise also allows us to analyze our spending habits, make adjustments, and save for special expenses like the SLA Annual Conference.

My first experience with SLA Annual was in 2010 in New Orleans. After five years of membership in SLA, I was going to the annual conference! And after attending my very first conference, I finally “got” SLA. Sure, I had supported the organization, agreed with its mission, and liked the (very few) people I had met, but I had never really gotten SLA.

Attending SLA 2010 allowed me the opportunity to meet people, network, and refresh my professional life. After that event, I connected with my own chapter, got involved with organization-wide projects, took what I learned back to my employer, and became an advocate for the profession.

Since that first annual conference, my husband and I have made a point of saving for each successive one (and he’s so jealous that I get to travel to these cool places). I received some assistance from my chapter while serving as president-elect and president, but I’ve refused additional financial assistance from the chapter to help build that group’s finances. When I changed jobs, I made sure I would be compensated for taking time off to attend SLA and other professional conferences, even though my employer would not contribute to my travel expenses. Every meeting has been an investment in my career—and it is my career, not that of my employer.

You may be thinking, “Well, it’s great that you have all this money, but I just can’t afford to go.” I understand. That’s why it took me five years to get to my first conference. I had loans, inherited debt from my husband, and went through several periods when I made the only income for our family.

I’ve found I need to save about $35 per week—essentially one meal out with my husband—to have the funds to pay for the annual conference. My challenge to all young professionals (and those who just haven’t invested in their career in this way) is to make this personal investment and put SLA expenses in your own budget.

Attend the annual conference as often as you can. Make connections with people you won’t meet anywhere else. Come up with inside jokes that only make sense once a year. Go to the IT Dance Party and dance like you just don’t care. Go to the business meeting and find out what’s really going on in this organization. Meet those people who seem larger than life, then volunteer and become one of those people.

We are one SLA, and this is your organization. It sounds simplistic, but the more I invest in my career, the more value I receive from my profession. It is worth every cent and every sacrifice.

Now, go cook dinner and put the savings in your SLA piggy bank!

— Joy Banks

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