At last month’s YNPNdc Leadership Conference, I facilitated a panel discussion with two of the most dynamic people I know in the career management and personal branding businesses. Karen Chopra owns a thriving career counseling practice in the district and Davie Uejio who is the Lead for Talent Acquisition at the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The conversation was informative, enlightening and inspiring…and almost impossible to distill into a few thoughts. Here are a few key takeaways for me.
- We can’t control what’s happening in the workplace. There is constant change—new careers, new organizations, and new ways to share information. If you step back, you might miss a great opportunity.
- We can control our reputation and our message, what we can contribute and our skills and knowledge.
- We are ultimately in charge of our careers. Although we might not be able to avoid a layoff or suddenly find ourselves working for a not-so-great boss, we can be ready for unexpected change.
To do that, ask yourself these questions to see if you do own your career:
- Do you know what you’d like to do? What lights you up—makes you want to jump out of bed every day because you can’t wait to get started? If you know, write it down—make it yours. Keep adding to it and refining the description. If you don’t, consider everything you read or hear about through the possibility of it to becoming a potential career.
- Where is the work you think needs to be done getting accomplished? What are the careers that will get you there? What are the organizations that are aligned with your personal goals and purpose? Learn more—find people who work there. Ask for informational interviews. Become familiar with what they’re doing. Follow them on Twitter and connect with them on LinkedIn. Join relevant groups.
- What skills do you need so your resume will get noticed? If you need to develop new skills or enhance current ones, how will you do it?
- How strong is your network? Who’s in your corner who can talk about your skills? How have you helped others achieve their career goals? They may be the people who can help you now. Continually strengthen your relationships.
- What’s your LinkedIn profile telling others about you? Have you googled yourself lately? Find out what others can easily learn about you. Don’t put anything on the web that you wouldn’t want a future employer to see. Look for what might harm you and work to have it removed.
- Take action every day to move your career forward. Tomorrow will bring surprises—both good and bad. The key is having clarity about what you want, knowing what you need to get there and creating the message that communicates that you can uniquely do the work.
You’re interested in developing your professional skills, but haven’t taken action. Why not? Chances are that you – or your nonprofit organization – are operating under a common professional development myth. I’ve outlined four of these myths below, including reasons they shouldn’t hold you back from developing your best professional self. Hopefully I can convince you and you can convince your organization to invest in professional development.
MYTH #1: It only benefits the individual
Some nonprofits are hesitant to invest time and funds in professional development because they believe it only benefits you, the individual. They worry their investment will walk out the door if you leave the organization. This viewpoint is short-sighted. Yes, the individual gains from professional development opportunities. But having a representative from your organization at conferences, seminars and events is a great opportunity to educate the nonprofit community about your organization’s mission and programs. Having a presence at these events also allows for new partnerships between organizations. Finally, the individual attending – you! – will bring new knowledge back to the organization that can then be applied to programs over the long term.
MYTH #2: It’s expensive
Sure, some professional development opportunities are expensive. But you can also find a number of low-cost or free events. YNPN-TC is a great place to start, offering monthly events at little or no cost. In addition, some more costly events offer scholarships or allow discounted rates for volunteers. If the cost is prohibitive, don’t be afraid to ask if opportunities exist to make the event more affordable.
MYTH #3: Networking doesn’t count
Talking one-on-one with someone over a drink can be just as valuable – or more so – than sitting through a lecture and PowerPoint. People meet and connect with colleagues in many ways, and networking events are one of those opportunities. There’s nothing wrong with having fun while you’re developing your network, as long as you keep it professional. Sometimes the best connections made are those one-off conversations that lead to a new partnership for your organization or a new opportunity for you personally.
MYTH #4: You can’t do it without your organization’s support
While it’s great when your organization supports professional development, this unfortunately isn’t always the case. Don’t let it hold you back. There are many professional development opportunities that take place outside work hours. Happy hour events or weekend conferences are not uncommon, and will allow you to pursue your professional development goals on your own time. Check out the low-cost Minnesota Rising Un/Conference – it’s held in annually in the fall; visit their website this summer for more info on 2013.
Next time you find yourself making an excuse instead of attending a professional development event, make sure one of these myths isn’t behind your reasoning. Take the time to convince your organization – and yourself – that professional development is worth the investment.
Have you run into these, or other, professional development myths? What have you done to overcome them?
Do you have a favorite low-cost professional development event or organization?
It’s hard to work at nonprofits these days without hearing about the leadership challenges our sector faces.What kind of leaders do we need? Who will lead the sector in years to come? How are we cultivating and supporting the next generation?
Gregory Cendana is tackling these questions as the youngest and first openly gay executive director of theAsian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), the first and only national organization of Asian Pacific American union members and allies to advance worker, immigrant, and civil rights. Although he was selected as the organization’s executive director when he was just 24-years-old in 2010, Gregory has been learning the ins-and-outs of organizing and leadership since he was a teenager.
At home, he heard his father, who emigrated from the Philippines, talk about his concerns with his union. Inspired to help his father and learn more about unions, in college Gregory secured an internship with the very same union that his father belonged to and became involved with campaigns in California and across the country. This led him to running (and being elected) as the president of the United States Student Association. These transformative experiences not only allowed him to develop critical skills in leadership development, public speaking, and coalition building, but also connected him with a mentor who soon encouraged him to apply for the executive director position at APALA.
With the help of a mentor, hands-on experience, and a desire to strengthen workers’ rights, Gregory is entering his third year as executive director.
Do you want to become an executive director of a nonprofit?
Here’s Gregory’s advice:
- Connect with current executive directors: “Get to know executive directors or people in similar positions. If you can, get them as mentors. Learn and understand what makes them good at what they do but also talk about the challenges they face and skills you should you pick up so you can handle the job.”
- Surround yourself with supportive people: “As friendly and gregarious as I am, there are moments when I feel like I am by myself. It’s a reminder of the responsibilities and what comes with the role; being an executive director can be lonely. But if you surround yourself with people that care about you and want to support you it will be easier.”
- Make sure the board is behind you: “When I interviewed for the position, I only met the executive board members, so just five people. At my first in-person board meeting, the majority of our 42-member board—and many were founding APALA members—were there. They said to me, ‘We have been doing this work for decades. We throw our support behind you and care about the next generation.’ This was important because it showed how the ideas I had and leadership’s vision of the organization were aligned.“
- For additional information, Gregory recommends Managing to Change the World by The Management Center.
- Want a leadership position at a nonprofit? Check out these opportunities on Idealist.
Gregory is currently the Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO and Institute for Asian Pacific American Leadership & Advancement. He also serves on the Executive Committee of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and as Chair for the Labor Coalition for Community Action. Named one of the 30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30 & the “Future of DC Politics”, Gregory is a recognized organizer, speaker, and trainer. Previously, he served as President of the United States Student Association (USSA), where he played an integral role in the passage of the Student Aid & Fiscal Responsibility Act and Healthcare & Education Reconciliation Act.
If you loved this article, read more of this series here.
Photo by Robin Maben.
Time Flies When You Waste It
The old saying goes, “Time flies when you are having fun!” It’s true, but time goes at the speed of light when you waste it. There are many professional and personal examples of time-wasting: Ineffective meetings, constantly checking email/Facebook/Twitter/websites, having arguments and making complaints to get your point across, watching bad television, and more. Any of these activities can make a precious hour or two vanish in an instant—time you will never get back.
What's the solution? It’s not as simple as just stopping the activity. The ways we waste time are often habits and routines. Habits and routines are our default response to moments where we haven’t made a choice about what to do next. Habits are broken when we make conscious choices to spend our time on something more valuable.
For example, if we have not made a choice about how we will start our work day, we will likely check email, Facebook and Twitter, and then an hour later make some progress on our task (and then check email, Facebook, and Twitter again).
The key to making more effective use of our time is to intentionally interrupt our routines with something more meaningful or productive. The next time you are tempted to default to a time wasting routine, choose to do something more meaningful instead. Call and thank a partner. Reach out to someone and ask them to give to your organization or buy your product. Start your project. Have the difficult but necessary conversation you have been putting off.
Fortunately, there are a number of amazing resources to help us address some of the time wasters mentioned above. Here are a few:
Effective-ize your meetings. We’ve all been in meetings that leave you wishing you could have your time back to work on something else. I strongly recommend Al Pittampalli’s Read This Before Our Next Meeting(2011). It’s only $5 on Kindle. Buy it. You will thank me later when you are working on an awesome project that will make a difference, instead of sitting in a meeting to plan the next meeting.
Conquer your inbox. Organized Audrey, a consultant who focuses on organization, offers some excellent tips on increasing “email productivity” and how to tackle an overflowing inbox. She coined one of my favorite quotes, “Clutter (including email clutter) is the result of delayed decisions.” Her email advice changed my life—I no longer spend useful time wallowing in my inbox.
Go on a Facebook fast. In May of 2012 I deactivated my Facebook account and didn’t reactivate it until January of 2013. Surprisingly, the greatest benefit I derived from this experience was mental. The impulse to check my News Feed every ten minutes? Gone. The interesting thoughts I had? They were pondered, deliberated, and personally discussed with others, instead of summarized while waiting for artificial affirmation (likes and comments). I more fully experienced each moment without the mental distraction of posting it online.
Automate your tweets. If you are responsible to post status updates and tweets for your organization, use a service like Hoot Suite. My favorite feature of Hoot Suite is the option to schedule posts. In just 20 minutes I can take care of the next two weeks of posts. Now I can better focus on projects at hand without the distraction of writing my next tweet.
Have Difficult Conversations
Unlike meetings, email, and social media, this is not a time waster. Rather, it is necessary, scary, unpleasant, and incredibly powerful. Many have relationships (both personal and professional) that are sucking the life out of them, but fear having conversations to address the situation. I’m here to tell you from personal experience facing your fear is worth it and comes with great reward—fullness of life. If you need help mustering the courage to have difficult conversations or face any challenge, I highly recommend The Flinch by Julien Smith. It's free on the Kindle.
Often people make time fly by wasting it instead of investing it in fun, meaningful, productive, and life-improving activities. Time is life. Today, start making decisions that interrupt your habits. Make conscious choices that maximize fun, memories, and meaning. The fulfillment we get from our lives, work, organizations, and society depend on it.
How have you become more effective and not wasted time?
My Five Week Networking & Job Blitz
A little over a year ago I found myself in uncharted territory. I had recently completed my master’s degree in nonprofit management and was looking to change careers from the faith-based nonprofit sector, where I had been for five years, to the general nonprofit sector and I didn’t know where to begin.
I began meeting with a family friend who became my career coach. Through her support and “assignments,” I started the craziest five weeks of my life which I now call my “five week networking blitz.” At the end of the five weeks I had met with 25 nonprofit professionals, applied for ten jobs, had three interviews and took a new position. My career search had become my full-time job.
As I look back on my five week networking blitz, there are six takeaways which made me successful in my career search.
You are looking to make connections not just get a job
Yes, the end goal is to find a job but don’t expect every conversation to be about getting a job. Not everyone is hiring but the connection you are meeting with may know about an opening. You are looking to build your “black book” of nonprofit contacts. People you can reach out to when you are struggling with something on the job and people who begin to think about you when a job opening occurs. These connections will be partners throughout your professional career.
Make a list of your nonprofit connections
Make a list of all of your nonprofit connections with their organization, position, phone number, email and mailing address. Highlight contacts who will be most beneficial to your search.
When first sitting down it may seem like your list is going to be short, but think about everyone you interact with. These people can include classmates, past colleagues, someone you met through YNPN Denver, board members, or organizations at which you volunteer. Another challenge would be to add people who work at your “dream” organization. This may be a stretch, but remember, you are only looking to make a connection, not get a job offer.
Ask for an informational meeting
Once you have come up with your list of nonprofit professionals, begin setting up informational meetings with these individuals. Once again, you are looking for information which will help you professionally. If you know you are looking to move from programming to development, meet with a development director and ask questions about what working in development looks like and how you can break into the field.
Remember, people love to talk about their jobs and why they do it. You are interviewing them and you are telling them about you and what type of position you are looking for. At these informational meetings also ask them for some of the best resources they have used in their own profession.
If you meet them for coffee or lunch, offer to pay. Don’t forget, they are taking time out of their schedules to meet with you and offering to pay shows you value the conversation.
Ask for two additional connections
At each informational meeting ask your contact for two additional contacts that may be beneficial for your job search. You are trying to spread your networking net as far as you can, but depending on your professional experience your initial net might be small. By reaching out to their contacts you are meeting with new connections that may have other leads. Instead of just you looking for a job you now have four people looking for opportunities.
From my initial list of 30 connections I ended up with a list of over 60 people. I am now connected to people whose paths I would never have crossed if I hadn’t asked for additional contacts.
Write a handwritten thank you note
This by far is the most important step to the networking blitz. You need to send a handwritten thank you note for your informational meeting. Why handwritten? You want to show that the conversation was valuable and deserves the time it takes to write a handwritten message. In the note write about the meeting, thank them for the connections (reminding them to send you their information if they haven’t given it to you) and write about something specifically that was talked about at the meeting. For example, if they said they are in the middle of a large fundraising event wish them luck.
Write the thank you note in the car right after the meeting and stick it in the mailbox the same day. By doing this you are making sure you cover everything you talked about but also show how important the conversation was for you.
At the end of the networking blitz follow up with all your contacts. Thank them again for their time, update them on any new developments and keep in touch with them sporadically throughout the year. Once again, these are not just contacts for the five weeks but contacts for the rest of your career. Just as fundraising professionals need to steward relationships, you need to steward relationships with your contacts.
Drop them a note around Thanksgiving thanking them for their help in your professional career. Email them about a job opening they might be interested in. When you change jobs, let them know.
At the end of the day, remember it is a two-way street. Right now you might need their help in finding a job but you want to be there for them when they need you.
Have you ever participated in your own networking blitz? What were some takeaways which may be beneficial for others? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The second in a 3-part blog series by Jeanne Bell of CompassPoint and Trish Tchume of YNPN
Pedro Trujillo is 23 years old and has been organizing around immigration reform for 4 years, currently at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles(CHIRLA). He tells an important story of unintended consequences—of unintentionally pitting generations against one another in the national movement to pass the Dream Act.
Instead, he says, he would like people who were pushed out of high school and did not obtain their diplomas to take ownership of the fact that they too are Dreamers. "I want immigrant grandparents and families to step out and say, 'We are Dreamers too!'"
With what he calls "the small but important victory of the Obama Administration’sdeferred action policy," multigenerational leadership was essential. "The whole reason we won 'deferred action' is that all parts of the immigration reform movement started saying the same thing, not just the youth."
|Jeanne Bell and Trish Tchume||In co-designing our joint conference, Generations of Change: A Multigenerational Leadership Conference, YNPN and CompassPoint were committed to moving the generational differences conversation forward to how the generations can and are working together for progressive social change. One of our panelists was especially provocative on the topic.|
|The mainstream often expressed acceptance of the Dream Act because eligible young people were "not at fault" and were "brought here against their will." He says this messaging came about in part through immigrant-youth-led discussions on what language would work best and be viable with mainstream America.||Youth activists from CHIRLA’s, Wise UP! program in Los Angeles|
|"Once young immigrant leaders began to incorporate these talking points into their story of self, many other students adopted it without question. Naturally, politicos jumped on this messaging too, as well as the media and everyone else. I say naturally because it is easier to stand next to and demand for an undocumented student to be considered 'American' if they are on their way to a degree, than to do the same for someone who is a household worker or fast-food restaurant employee and is also undocumented.|
We agree with Pedro that activists across the generations have more that unites them than distinguishes them; our work together is the only path to meaningful victories in the work for social equity.
By Jeanne Bell of CompassPoint and Trish Tchume of YNPN
We thank the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Walter and Evelyn Haas, Jr. Fund for their investment in our collaborative national convening and this blog series it inspired.