by Abby Landmeier
We are in a time of recession, where many struggle to find jobs. The city I live in is experiencing one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, rising above Flint, Michigan. We grumble. “Stupid recession,” “stupid economy,” “why now?” Why not now? I am not an economist, in fact I have never taken an economy class in my life, but this time period is valuable to young professionals.
Many of us would respect, but daydream while our elders told us stories of a mythical Great Depression, unpacked stories of World War II and times when things were just plain tight when they were starting their families. The best we could do was listen, but we never felt the worry and fret. Most of us are not at that level right now, but many of us are feeling the pinch, and complaining about it. However, young professionals, regardless of the field need this experience and need to heed its teachings.
The great leaders in nonprofits have been through recessions, have withstood torrent storms that have left marks of devastation. Through the devastation, they rebuild, and emerge stronger and more focused. They have learned planning, and know when to enact flexibility and compromise.
This experience is unequivocal to the leaders whom have been there- it is all yours. We are in a space where great leaders are being built; the current economic times are a great contributor in aiding skills sets. Those in their twenties and thirties haven’t felt something even comparable to the current times on a national level. There may have been situational times that elapsed, but nothing causing tremors in the job market, and exposed turmoil in various industries.
Thrift, all nonprofit professionals need to learn this concept. A fine line is created though; it’s learning when to save and when to spend. I worked in an agency that was so thrifty it was costing them a great deal of money, spending would have saved them. Look at thrift as far as being frugal. Ensuring essentials are not compromised, services, product quality, and staff improvement, but cutting expenses that are not essential to the function of an agency. This looks different for each agency, there are no hard and fast lines, and that is the beauty in the learning of right now. Darn right it’s hard, different views are brought to the forefront and conflict is inevitable. Through conflict, when treated right, innovation arrives after the rubble is cleared.
There are great conflicts going on in our nation right now in relation to our economy, health care, banking, industry, unemployment are just the major players. The worst thing we can do right now is hide, deny and wither in sorrow. We need to take risks, and with those risks failure will occur. Failing early is great, new steps are taken leading to a path of discovery. Innovation is not possible without failure. Major innovations that we take for granted today were the process of great failure, take the light bulb. Edison toiled for a long time to make the light we are enjoying tonight possible.
Through this time, the young professionals need guidance from those who have been there, to show them the ropes of how to manage the seas that seem frightening to us. This past fall I spent a month highly underemployed, which felt highly abnormal to me. Job offers were frequent only two years before, and the path from one job to the other was not long and not as challenging. I feel very thankful that was all the time I spent in that position, and I am striving to help others who are in a hard position themselves.
Learning isn’t always easy. Bike riding always lands skinned knees. May those knees be skinned now to teach young nonprofit professionals and usher them into becoming the leaders and teachers of a new generation.
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