From a young age, Rachel Aden, CMP, was an avid explorer. She would wander around the farm she grew up on in Central Kansas—but hotels were especially exciting. Expansive and elegant, there was a lot to discover. Once, she remembers, she even got lost in a stairwell. She had to go all the way to the basement before she could get out. As she wandered to discover every nook and cranny, she would imagine herself as an adult, working in a hotel and wearing a classy suit.

This awe of hotels continued as she grew up. In high school, she attended a National Lutheran Youth Gathering in San Antonio. “I was overwhelmed by the size and complexity of it,” she says. “Although I had no clue of what was involved to execute an event of that size, I decided I wanted to figure it out.” She set out on a journey to do just that.

Where is She Now?

Aden earned a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management. Attending PCMA conferences in college solidified her interest in events specifically. She interned for the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) and afterwards, finally, her childhood dream of working in hotels was realized.

After years of working in hotels, Aden now serves as senior account manager at Arrowhead Conferences + Events. “It’s a dream come true for me, as it allows me to combine my passion for hospitality and my heart for ministry,” she says. “It’s truly a calling!”

Aden shared her favorite quote, Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” She says, “I have used this guiding principle throughout my life. It has never failed to give me peace and direction.”

Since she began with Arrowhead, she knew that this was the industry for her. Her leaders at the company encouraged her to pursue the CMP designation. She says, “I have always been interested in learning and growing both personally and professionally and discovered quickly that experience holds a lot of value in the hospitality industry.”

Preparing for the CMP Exam

Aden says that there will never be a perfect time to take the CMP exam. You will always come up with excuses to push it back. As much as you may feel inklings of imposter syndrome, trust that you are prepared to take the exam and have done the work to earn the designation. “Go for it!” says Aden. “Once you’ve earned it, you’ll be glad you went ahead and jumped in even though the timing wasn’t perfect. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment, and it’s definitely worth it.”

Aden considers herself fortunate to have taken part in a CMP bootcamp at Religious Conference Management Association (RCMA) under the guidance of Joanne Dennison. “Of course,” she says, “I also read and studied the materials, but I felt that I could do that much more effectively after receiving her guidance on how to study and what to focus on.”

As you prepare to take the exam, Aden says, “Remember to be proud of yourself for being willing to commit the time and take the risk for the reward of being part of this exclusive community.” Your learning style makes a big difference, so it’s critical to know which study methods are most productive for you, personally. “Be honest with yourself regarding how you learn most effectively, find the resources that enable you to do that, then create a plan.”

This advice has been offered by numerous CMPs, which goes to show just how relevant a person’s learning style is as they prepare for the CMP exam. Maybe you learn best by reading; there are plenty of textbook resources out there for you. Or perhaps you’re a visual learner; you can create charts and graphs based on the study materials. There are countless learning styles, and countless ways to feed each one.

Read More: Leaning into Learning Styles

The CMP Today

“I have been pleasantly surprised by the impact that the CMP has had while in my role with Arrowhead,” says Aden. “Having it shows that you are dedicated to the industry and to professional growth. It has paved the way for many conversations I’ve had to start on a higher level. I’ve felt the respect that having the designation provides.”

Aden admires that the designation requires a combination of both knowledge and experience. It shows that CMPs do not only pass an exam but are lifelong learners, always in action. The exam is the translation of active skills onto paper and shows that those who hold the designation have demonstrated the ability to apply those skills in their professional lives.

Since earning her CMP designation nine years ago, Aden says that the biggest change is the transition to an online format for both the initial exam and recertification. “It was an extremely tedious application prior to this, so that’s a great improvement!” she says. “But one thing that I don’t feel has changed, and hope never changes, is the respect that the designation has in the industry.”

And though the use of technology has risen within the industry, Aden expresses that it all depends on personal relationships—those relationships, she says, are imperative. “I believe they always will be, which is very encouraging to me.”

Aden’s Events

After a successful event, Aden likes to celebrate with her fellow planners over a meal or a glass of wine—or, she says, ideally, both!

When asked about her most memorable event experience, she remarks, “Where do I begin?! Because I have the privilege of working with Christian ministries, I’ve had the honor to witness lives impacted and changed due to experiences at conferences.” In her career, she’s worked with a ministry of rescue missions that provides resources and care to individuals who are homeless. She has also seen hotel staff participating in other ministry conferences. She says, “The testimonies are incredibly inspiring, and I never get tired of the calls I receive from hotels asking when a group can return due to the positive impact the staff has experienced.” Aden is passionate about working seamlessly with her event team and their hotel partners to put on events that have a resounding impact for everyone present.

“Conferences really can and do change lives,” Aden says.

Read More: CMP Spotlight: Get to Know Tarin Horan, CMP