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Ignore this professional advice

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Me: I should really try to follow this professional advice. 
Evil Kermit: Ignore it.

Hey, I see you there. Setting goals, meeting them, just being generally reliable and competent. But... is that enough? Assertive, articulate, logical people are esteemed, and traditional professional advice is full of rules about how to behave more like them: Stop saying these 5 things; Never ask this question at work; Don’t get emotional; Don’t ruin your chances with these 7 behaviors; Take control of situations; and so on.

Some of us are left to worry that our speech, mannerisms, personality or emotions are undermining our own success. While I’m not sure it’s productive to write off ALL professional advice, sometimes Evil Kermit has a point. Here are 5 oft-heard directives I believe we can just stop worrying about.

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What does it mean to be a witness?

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I’ve been thinking about secondary trauma (sometimes called vicarious trauma or indirect trauma) and the nonprofit sector lately. Those of us enmeshed in the work of healing a wounded world are constantly exposed to images, stories, and descriptions of violence. Whether it’s against an individual or an entire people, we know the depth and degree of evils in the world many people actively avoid confronting. Our jobs require that we engage with violence against others and the Earth.

The ah-ha moment I had while reading Judith Herman’s classic book Trauma and Recovery is a moment I’ll never forget. There is a part where she asserts there are three parties involved in an act of violence: the perpetrator, the victim, and the witness. Most of us are familiar with the roles of the perpetrator and the victim, but few have heard of the witness. The witness does not have to be present at the time of the violent act, and they don’t have to know the victim personally. They can hear an account of violence, see a video documenting it, read a story or report, or see photographs. There are many ways to be a witness. 

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6 things I learned about my career from GRRRL PRTY

main.jpgAs a music lover in the Twin Cities, I’ve been a big fan of GRRRL PRTY and their fun, loud, unapologetic music. GRRRL PRTY is an all-woman rap collective made of Manchita, Sophia Eris, Lizzo, and DJ Shannon Blowtorch. GRRRL PRTY disbanded this summer so you’ll only be able to catch them at rare reunion performances. While you’ve got that GRRRL PRTY x BIONIK album on repeat, check out what I’ve learned from observing the artists of GRRRL PRTY over the last few years:

Note: I don’t know, and have never met, any of the GRRRLs - all of this is based on seeing them in the Twin Cities music scene over the last few years. Their own personal relationships are probably more complex than how it’s presented to fans like me.

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How to survive a 30-year crisis

main.jpgWhen you think of a “young professional” what comes to mind? Is it a recent grad tackling their first job out of college or maybe someone in their mid-to-late twenties just starting to gain traction on their career path? 

Very rarely do people (myself included) think of “young professionals” as someone in their 30s. Why is that? I'm 30 and a proud member of YNPN. I fly my young professional flag high. And yet, the words “young professional” still make me think of someone in their 20s. Do you know why? Because I always imagined that by the time I was 30, I’d have all my stuff together.

I mean, come on, it’s 30. By 30 you have a car, a house, a great job, a significant other, a few kids, a pet, and a magical closet in your house where all your random kitchen gadgets, sweaters, and miscellaneous cords (you know, the ones you never know what to do with) are all nice sorted and labeled. You probably go for a jog every morning. You are freaking Martha Stewart by the time you hit 30. Right? RIGHT!?

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We need to raise the AmeriCorps living allowance. Here’s why.

main.jpgRaise your hand if you got your start in the nonprofit sector as an AmeriCorps member. I did, my spouse did, many of our YNPN Twin Cities members did, and maybe you did too.  

I served two terms in AmeriCorps and can directly trace my career trajectory back through my current grant writing position to a corporate fundraising job and back to my AmeriCorps gig in corporate volunteer coordination experience. My spouse served as an AmeriCorps member with a conservation organization and is now a certified arborist, providing field support to AmeriCorps members in a full-time position at that same nonprofit. We are living proof AmeriCorps provides relevant entry-level experience to people looking to start careers in the nonprofit sector.

AmeriCorps is valuable in training entry-level staff and helping people get a foot in the nonprofit door, which is why we need to raise the living stipend.

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Excellence, top dogs, and underdogs

main.jpgI consider myself progressive, but in an attempt to understand opposing views, I read Science Left Behind by Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell. Instead of placing politics on a left-to-right spectrum, the authors used a triangle to distinguish between liberals, libertarians, progressives, and conservatives. The three points on the triangle were Freedom, which liberals and libertarians most value; Equality or fairness, which progressives most value; and Excellence, which conservatives most value.

Excellence, they said, was made of self-determination and personal initiative. Conservatives want people to be able to excel if they choose and think the best should win. They oppose too much regulation and like competition. At one point, the authors stated that, "We might even begin to make the case that progressives are engaged in an undeclared war on excellence itself."

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It’s time to give volunteers the keys to the family car...

main.jpgMinnesota is a great place to be a volunteer… There is a robust nonprofit community with plenty of meaningful opportunities.  The latest numbers (from 2015) have 35.4% of residents volunteering ranking Minnesota 2nd in the nation!

Yet Minnesota ranks 12th in volunteer retention at 68.5%.  How is it that nearly a third of all Minnesotan volunteers do not return?

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The magic key that will transform the nonprofit sector

main.jpgWe’ve all heard it, I’m sure. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Right?

Whether or not you’ve heard this aphorism, I’d be willing to bet you’ve experienced it. I sure have – in different sizes and types of organizations, and in different ways within those organizations.

But never have I been more frustrated by this truth than when it relates to the lack of a culture of philanthropy in a nonprofit.

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Thanks for coming to work

giphy-simpsons.gifFirst YNPN blog post of 2017. First thought: You survived 2016.

We may be battered from a rough year (don’t even get me started on why… you’re already on the internet, so it should be clear as day).

But thanks for coming back to work.

It’s easy for work to feel just like … well, work. But being a part of a nonprofit, you are the starry-eyed workhorse that has been seeking justice and impacting our community every day. And not everyone has the same opportunity to do that as a job.

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On baseball & building a team

main.jpgI don’t really follow sports, so the bulk of my athletic knowledge comes from movies. (I watched my mom’s beloved Cubs win the World Series this fall with at least part of my brain thinking, “Oh, they’re playing baseball, like in A League of Their Own.”) When I caught up recently with the 2011 film Moneyball, based on the book about the use of sabermetrics in baseball, I wasn’t expecting to care much about its stats-heavy story -- much less find an analogy that I’ve returned to frequently in my life. But the movie’s central concepts have continued to come up in my work when I think about team-building and what I and my colleagues bring to our jobs.

Moneyball’s story focuses on Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), general manager of the struggling Oakland A’s and a former MLB player himself. As a high school student, we see in flashbacks, he was singled out by major-league scouts impressed by his well-roundedness: He was equally good at hitting, running, and fielding. That promise led him to give up a scholarship to Stanford… but then his big-league career fizzled.

moneyball.gifThe insight that eventually leads to the Oakland team’s success under Billy Beane is this: Players who are good at everything don’t necessarily help a team win. Scoring the most runs is what really matters, and players getting on base is what helps teams score runs. The most important stat in this view is “on-base percentage” -- so a player who draws a lot of walks could be more valuable than a power hitter who’s inconsistent.

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