The Twin Cities chapter of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network is a community of nonprofit staff, volunteers, supporters, and allies: current and future leaders who want to connect with others in the social sector.
Like fellow board member Jamie Millard, I proudly identify as a gamer. But my personal favorites differ a little: instead of getting immersed in a massively multiplayer online game, I’m more likely to crack open a strategy card game like Magic: The Gathering, the premiere and still best example of the genre.
So when I was rereading Jamie’s post on video games for professional development, I was nodding along and pondering the similarities and differences in my experience. Since different games stretch your brain in different ways, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned from years of drawing seven cards and mulling over the proper sequence of plays, and how that can apply to my and your professional life.
Have a game plan
One of the biggest breakthroughs you can have playing any strategy game is to move from simply making the move immediately in front of you to thinking about how it will play out several turns down the road. What will it lead you to do the turn after? How does that change if your opponent plays something you know they’re likely to have? Can you win if your opponent has a certain card, or is it time to get aggressive and hope that you can beat them before they draw it? If you can answer those questions, you’re far more likely to emerge victorious.
In the professional realm, one place this comes up is for those on the job hunt. Most people know the outlines of what they’re supposed to do: go to networking events, have informational interviews, update LinkedIn. But stories of people who ask for informational interviews and then have nothing to say are plentiful. Just showing up isn’t enough. If you think ahead to others’ likely thoughts and motivations, and have something to offer them, only then will you really get somewhere.
Because there’s natural built-in randomness in any card game, it’s easy (and often cathartic) to rage after a loss about how your opponent drew the exact right card at the right time while you drew nothing for five straight turns. But after a while, you start to realize that there’s more to it than that. Did you play the wrong card on turn five? Or neglect to play around a card you should have thought your opponent might have? Or maybe there are cards in your deck that aren’t holding their weight and need to be replaced. Asking these questions is the key to making better decisions, which is when you start to notice your luck magically improve.
It’s the same story at work. When a sticky situation comes up, it’s easy to say it’s unfair. That might very well be true. But guess what? It doesn’t matter what’s fair or not. All that matters is what you’re going to do given where you are now. That might mean having a difficult conversation with a coworker, asking for new or different responsibilities, or even finding a new job entirely. What it definitely does not mean is sitting around feeling sorry for yourself while allowing the same thing to happen over and over.
Focus on what matters
One of the trickier strategy game lessons I’ve had to learn is that everything is a resource, including your life total. Losing a bunch of life in a turn can feel nerve-wracking, sacrificing a bunch of cards now to prevent it can leave you in an even worse position next turn. By the same token, throwing cards at an opponent to put him or her down to a low life total is a one way ticket to failure if you run out of ways to finish them off. The goal is to win, not to end the game with the most resources or highest life total possible, and you have to play accordingly.
The next time you’re stressed out on the job, ask yourself what you’re really trying to accomplish, and how much the things keeping you busy are helping you get there. It’s easy to fall into a culture of stress, where everyone keeps as busy as possible because it feels like the easiest way to prove your worth. But the most deeply ingrained tasks and traditions can be a distraction or even actively harmful to what you know needs to be achieved. Identifying those is one of the best ways to bring about transformational change from any position in an organization.
What lessons are you picking up from your favorite pasttime? If you pay a little attention, you might be surprised at how much there is to learn.
It's Equal Pay Day today - what does that mean? That's how long white women have to work into 2014 to earn what white men did in 2013 (women and men of color have greater pay inequity and have to work further in 2014 to make up the difference).
In Minnesota, we tend to pride ourselves as state that fosters strong, healthy communities and looks out for our most vulnerable residents. Although we do stand ahead of many states in community health and well-being in some measures, we still face challenges prevalent across the country and world, including a gender wage gap. Women make a fraction of the wages of their male counterparts, even with identical training and experience.
The #ynpnwagegap event on April 1 at the Nicollet tackled this subject. The event opened with Debra Fitzpatrick from the University of Minnesota's Center on Women and Public Policy, which convenes and connects across divides to bring down barriers to gender equity and build broad-based public responses. She and her colleagues at Gender Justice have done extensive research and work on the gender wage gap and its causes and its implications for our communities.
The Center’s recent update on the Status of Women and Girls in Minnesota states women represent two-thirds of those in the state earning at or below the minimum wage and continue to be the majority of those living below the poverty line. Compared to about thirteen years ago, the average income for single mothers in Minnesota and across the country has declined significantly, whereas the median income for most families has stayed the same. Women earn an average of 80 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts in Minnesota, and the gap is even larger in rural areas and reaches to 40% for women of color.
The event gathered steam as we broke into small groups for facilitated discussion on topics including gender dynamics in the workplace, wage negotiation, exploring notions of gender difference, and being an effective ally to others. The group shared tips on how to effectively navigate wage negotiation, how to question our own ingrained assumptions on the roles of women and their competence in traditionally male-dominated fields, and the daily impacts of these assumptions on the opportunities available for women. These assumptions and expectations can impact hiring choices, but also the more intangible beliefs that our young women hold about their own abilities. On average, high school girls match male performance in science and math coursework, but don't perform as well on high-stake pre-college tests, which demonstrates the power of these assumptions. Pushing this analysis further, the group also discussed the false dichotomy of traditional gender roles and exclusion (and discrimination) of people who are transgender or who do not identify with either gender.
What can you do to help improve gender economic equity in Minnesota? For starters, you can advocate for regular wage reviews at your organization or company. This can encourage institutional responsibility for equitable wages, and not leave the responsibility lying solely on the shoulders of individual women at the negotiation table. The Minnesota Council of Nonprofit publishes a Salary and Benefits Survey every two years to help organizations maintain fair and competitive compensation practices. You can also take an online assessment to learn more about your own gender assumptions.
Right now, you also have a political opportunity let your voice be heard on the topic! Legislation is currently proposed to comprehensively address these issues in Minnesota. Gender Justice and the Center on Women and Public Policy are two of the founding members of the Minnesota Coalition for Women's Economic Security, which is advocating for the adoption of the Women's Economic Security Act. The Act is a set of bills that will improve economic security of women in Minnesota, and ultimately improve the lives of all Minnesotans. Specifically, the legislation includes bills to: close gender pay gap; increase the minimum wage to $9.50; expand access to high-quality, affordable childcare; expand family and sick leave for working families; protect women from discrimination in the workplace; enhance protections for victims of violence; encourage women in non-traditional, high-wage jobs; help women-owned small businesses succeed; and help older women be economically secure. Take action and contact your legislators to express your support of this legislation.
Don’t forget to check out the #ynpnwagegap Twitter feed from the event.
Several years ago, as part of the Artists In Storefronts project in Whittier, artists Sheila Regan and Anton Pearson created a striking image on the side of Rainbow Chinese Restaurant on Nicollet Avenue. Emblazoned across the side of the building in moss-growing gel were the words ‘EVERYONE TOGETHER DIFFERENT’. The collaborative process of creating the piece, the ephemeral and delicate nature of its materials, the work to maintain it, and the power of the phrase have stuck with me as fundamental characteristics of a civil society. It is inclusive – EVERYONE – equitable – TOGETHER – and diverse – DIFFERENT.
Recently the air has been full of conversations and actions on equity, diversity and inclusion. You can’t have missed it, and it’s difficult to pinpoint where the current surge started, either locally or nationally. It is impossible to deny that diversity, inclusion, and equity, especially racial equity, are central to the conversations that we are having right now.
Imagine, you’re at the office early, morning beverage in hand and you settle in for a productive morning. That’s when Tony (who has been driving you nuts for months) comes over asking the same questions about the same project in the same way since he started. Your pulse rises and you can feel the knots forming in your shoulders and neck. You consider your options: fleeing at lunch and working remotely the rest of the day or shaking Tony by the shoulders until he understands the answers you’ve given to him a thousand times in a thousand ways.
Now – pause…