I’m not a PA, but I want to be

While there are some emerging conservators who will apply for Professional Associate (PA) status as soon as they are eligible, it seems that many others might be less aware, less interested or less confident about applying to become PA’s. PA membership was more or less off my radar until several months ago, when my good friend and former pre-program internship supervisor wrote me an email asking if I had thought about applying, offering to write a recommendation, and informing me of the next application deadline. She had actually encouraged me to start thinking about this before I was eligible, and the fact that she was taking the initiative to bring this to my attention again made me sit up and think about it much more seriously.

Once I determined that I could apply, I looked closely at the application and guidelines and started asking myself why I, or why any conservator, would want to be an AIC Professional Associate, other than the privilege of getting to attach a little ribbon to your nametag at the annual meeting. What does it mean to be a Professional Associate?

I had heard that there are a lot of people who are eligible who do not apply, but after looking over the application requirements and the benefits, I couldn’t think of any reasons NOT to apply, so I thought I’d poll a few conservators who are PA’s to ask them why they applied, what the application experience was like, and what PA status means to them. Their responses made me even more convinced that I should apply, and prompted me to come up with a list of reasons that might inspire others. Here they are:

Top 5 reasons to apply to be a PA

1.  Inclusion in the “Find a Conservator” tool on the AIC website

This benefit may be particularly attractive for those in private practice or interested in private work. Several of the conservators I spoke with mentioned that they had gotten leads on private work through this listing.

2.  Voting privileges within AIC

The ability to vote was seen as especially important by many members during the certification discussion. When future issues come up for a vote by the membership, being a PA ensures that your voice will be heard and your opinion will count. I’ve heard some people argue that just being an associate member of AIC should be enough, but this isn’t going to change, so if you want voting privileges, this is how you can gain them.

3.  Make yourself stand out when applying for jobs, contracts and grants

From the colleagues I spoke with, I know for a fact that PA status will be valued on job and grant applications and that some government issued RFQ’s (requests for quotes) require that applicants are Professional Associates.

4.  Eligibility to apply for Individual Professional Development Scholarships

I recently found myself in a position where I wanted to attend a meeting but I really couldn’t come up with the money to go. I realized if I was a PA, I would be able to apply for this funding, which can help defray costs for professional development activities, including attending workshops, courses and conferences.

5.  Recognition among your peers and colleagues

This is a big one that I really took for granted. But among all of the conservators I’ve spoken with, their respect and appreciation of PA status is very evident. One person said that “if you want other people to advocate for you, provide them the ammunition-peer approval in a profession is big ammunition”. When I realized that people I really respect and admire think that being a PA is a valuable part of being a professional conservator, I found myself aspiring to this as well.

So now that I’ve written all of this, the pressure is on me to actually apply, since I’m now eligible to do so. I’m encouraged by the fact that everyone I spoke with said that applying was straightforward and easy, and that it was possibly more work for the people writing the recommendation letters than the applicants. So make sure to ask the people who you want to sponsor you as far ahead of time as you can and make it as easy on them as you can.

Finally, for those of you who are PA’s or Fellows, I encourage you to reach out to conservators who have not yet applied for this status to do so, and offer to support their application. And for those of you who are eligible but uncertain-don’t wait for people to suggest this to you-start a dialogue with your past and current colleagues, professors and supervisors, and ask them if they recommend that you apply and if they’d be willing to support you. You will undoubtedly be rewarded with encouragement and a boost of confidence.

A special thanks to Ellen Carrlee, Anne Kingery-Schwartz, Vanessa Muros and Emily Williams for their assistance and encouragement!