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Extra! Extra! Read All About It: The Insider scoop

Since the landing of the economic hurricane in 2008, professional development has remained a prominent buzzword for young nonprofit professionals (YNPs). With an overwhelming number of professional development opportunities in the Twin Cities, it was great to get the inside track on some of the advanced degree programs, networking opportunities, and trainings and workshops at YNPN-TC's  Insider event.

Advanced Degree Programs

The Facilitators
Stephanie Jacobs – Master in Public Policy, Humphrey Institute
Trisha Reinwald – M.A. Nonprofit Management, Hamline University

To master or not master? That is the question that many YNPs grapple with. And that’s the question Stephanie Jacobs—Director of Member Services at the Minnesota Council of Foundations—and Trisha Reinwald—Executive Director at Minnesota Jaycees—attempted to help YNPs answer as they shared their experiences and answered questions about their respective graduate degree program. Here were some highlights:

  • Gateway to better your____ (Fill in the blank: career, skills, self). Both facilitators echoed the notion that acquiring a graduate degree is an invaluable asset for professional and personal growth. It can help you become a better nonprofit employee, give you confidence, and lead to advancement opportunities in your current organization. As Trisha so simply stated, “She couldn’t be doing what she’s doing without it.”
  • Become a more viable job candidate. Given the current state of the economy and job climate, graduate school is a safe place to focus and gain skills. As a hiring manager, Stephanie admitted that an advance degree lends credibility and tenacity to job applicants.
  • Make sure it's the teaching approach for you. Teaching formats will vary by institution. For instance, Humphrey’s degree program is more theoretical versus the hands-on approach at Hamline. For example, Stephanie stated that she learned more so about the theory of board governance than what to do with a board. Nevertheless, she expressed that teacher support, a great career center, and the required 400-hour internship were huge pluses.

Overall, both facilitators stated that they enjoyed their experiences and gave a seal of approval for their individual programs.

Networking Opportunities

The Facilitators
Jay Haapala – Volunteering
Nicole Weiler – Social Media

Building your network is one of the most strongest and fruitful ways to get professional development. Two major ways to expand one’s network is through volunteering and social media. Here were some of the highlights:

  • New direction in volunteering. As Jay stated, volunteering in this current economic climate is about people wanting job skills. In addition, volunteering allows you to find job opportunities and professional and personal networks while maintaining a low commitment level.
  • Get on a board. One major volunteering opportunity for professional development is board service. Getting on a board not only allows you to build on skills that you don’t have or are weak in, but also to see the planning and decision side of an organization. Recent focus on board diversity (e.g. age, race) has contributed to the rush of board opportunities.
  • Will tweet for professional development. Nicole stressed social media as a valuable and rapid means for establishing and/or building your network because of the ability to ease into conversations that interest you. You can either use social media as a gateway towards face-to-face conversation with new people or as a way to engage with networks without ever having to take the conversation offline.
  • No state border patrol. Social media takes away geography as a constraint. This greatly expands your body of knowledge, expertise, mentors, advice, etc. that you can tap into.

Regardless if it’s online or a volunteering opportunity, the most important thing to recognize is that all conversations and every person you meet is valuable.

Here were some of the volunteering and networking opportunities mentioned during the discussion:

Trainings & Workshops

The Facilitators
Kristen Hoplin – St. Thomas mini-MBA program
Kelly Ceynowa – MCN Leadership Institute

Trainings and workshops are unique in that they provide you a great scope of the nonprofit sector without the financial liability of an advanced degree program. Nevertheless, here were some things attendees were told to keep in mind:

  • Be real. In pursuing any training or workshop opportunity, it’s important to have real expectations. You’re not going to learn everything you need to know about the nonprofit sector.
  • Know what you want. Because trainings and workshops present a lot of information in short periods of time, it’s important to be focused.
  • Keep everything, speak to everyone. Half the value of training and workshops comes from all the material you receive. The other half comes from the people you meet. It’s important to network with your fellow participants.

Do you know of other professional development opportunities in the Twin Cities? Share them in the comments feed!


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