By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting
You may have noticed on Facebook, Twitter or in conversations that many people are participating in an informal thankfulness movement this year, recognizing something that they are thankful for each day in November. Perhaps you are even participating. While I am late to the game, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading lists from friends and family members. Now, I can probably guess what you’re thinking, but don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you by recapping 20 days worth of things I am thankful for. This week, I want to share a short list of the top three pieces of advice (in no particular order) I am thankful I received when preparing for and starting my career. Please feel free to add your own advice, or advice you are thankful you received, in the comments section below. Happy Thanksgiving!
Being prepared shows that you are respectful of other people’s time
If you are granted an informational interview or are meeting with a busy contact, show your appreciation by being organized and honoring time commitments. If you are scheduled to meet someone at his or her office, arriving 10 minutes early is typically acceptable, but be sure to use this time wisely. This is your last chance before the meeting to make sure any documents are in order and easy to find and that you have business cards or anything else you need handy to make the meeting run smoothly. Even if the meeting is at your own office, be sure to set aside a few moments before to prepare. Write down or type up questions before the meeting to stay on track and prioritize how you want to use the time. If you notice the allotted time running out during the meeting, jot down any follow-up questions to be asked later. If time is a concern to you or the person you are meeting with, be very explicit about the amount of time you are hoping for and stick to that plan.
Be open and honest about your project commitments
If you know me, you know I love to be busy and am happiest in a very fast-paced environment. However, if you have a similar tendency, it’s important to remember not to take on more than you can realistically handle. As you’ve probably already heard, the only thing worse than saying you can’t take on a project is promising you can and then not delivering, leaving the rest of your team scrambling to come up with Plan B. If the project is something you are very interested in taking on, discuss your schedule and your zest for the project with the leads on the new project and your current projects. You might be pleasantly surprised to find some flexibility that will allow you take on both or tag team the project with another coworker. If there is no way to take on both projects, your team will at least know that you are interested in that particular type of work and keep you in mind the next time a similar project comes up.
Get involved in your community
The best way to learn about nonprofits (or any field, really) is to participate in their programs, and the best way to expand your network is to get out there and meet new people. Try participating in fundraising events, networking events and behind-the-scenes duties at your favorite charities. If you are ready for an ongoing commitment with an organization you love, enquire about joining the board or make a regular commitment to volunteer for a specific duty. Not only will you be serving and strengthening the community, you will be strengthening your network and skill set.
As you reflect on the Thanksgiving holiday, be sure to thank those who have helped you along your career path for all of the time and resources they have dedicated and for believing in you. Pass on the good fortune by sharing your advice and stories with other nonprofit professionals below.