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By now 2008 is off and running, and regardless of your previous level of experience you’ll undoubtedly need the advice and support of other AEs sometime during the year. No problem. There are always -other AEs who are more than willing to share their experience, materials, research, and information with you. This generosity is the quality I value the most about being a part of the Realtor® association executive community. But how do you get to know the people? How do you begin creating your own professional network?

It’s really quite easy. A major step in the right direction is to get involved in the AE community by volunteering. One of the rewards of being involved is that you’ll form a network of other AEs.

Yes, I know you’re busy, and there’s that upcoming board meeting, legislative issue, MLS vendor selection, lockbox conversion, or convention to plan—but do yourself a favor and spend some time getting to know other AEs. You’ll make tremendous friends, you’ll always have a source of information and advice, and, if you’ve been at it a long time, you might also find yourself in the gratifying position of being someone else’s mentor.
Through my AE committee involvement, I’ve made countless lifelong friends and learned from them, both personally and professionally. There’s never been a time when I had a question or concern and another AE wasn’t there to give me advice or share experience.

There are other benefits to being involved in AE committees. One that is often overlooked is that you’ll understand your own association volunteers better if you become a volunteer yourself. AEs see the staff side of volunteerism every day, but do you really know what it feels like to be a volunteer? Have you ever felt the frustration of having to be at a meeting or respond to an e-mail when you’re busy at the office trying to get your work done? If so, then you know how our own volunteer leaders feel when we e-mail every day; or when we ask them to spend countless hours of their time in meetings.

Walt Baczkowski did a great job last year of getting AEs involved, and I plan to follow his lead. Our work groups include newer, younger AEs, alongside more experienced, seasoned (I didn’t say older!) AEs. Additionally, I’d encourage all of you to use the informational and community-building tools available to us, including state and national AE meetings, the resources at nar.realtor, and AETalk, an e-mail list that’s a great source of ideas.

Recently, I’ve noticed that many of us have been in the business 25 years or more. I’ve wondered if we seasoned AEs are doing enough to help new AEs get involved so they can take our place on committees and in leadership positions; I’ve wondered if we’re doing enough to prepare our own associations for the day when we retire; and I’ve wondered if we’re doing enough to prepare our organizations for the future. That will be the focus of our work groups in 2008.

I look forward to making new friends, keeping “old” friends, and working with Gary Clayton, our 2009 AEC chair. So if you see me at NAR meetings, don’t hesitate to stop, introduce yourself, and say “hi.”

—Diane Ruggiero

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