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Life Moves

The following blog is by Kristen Wolfe.

Recently I connected with a friend who had just returned from the east coast. As we broke into small talk and chatted about our lives, the all too familiar question popped up: “How are you liking your new job?”

From the way social media portrayed it, I assumed her job was nothing less than amazing and drool-worthy (those Instagram and Vine posts had to be true!). Her response quickly deflated the fantasy bubble floating above my head. “It’s okay. It’s just a job”, she said. She went on to say what a difference working in Minnesota was compared to back east. It wasn’t necessarily the job itself but the culture was less than pleasing.

As an Illinois/Chicago native and somewhat recent transplant, I could relate. When the words “passive aggressive” spilled out of her mouth, I winced and patted her arm--letting her know how much I felt her pain.

As we continued talking about work, I asked her what she was going to do next and she responded with: “I’m actually thinking about my next life move.”

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Nonprofit Growing Pains

A graduate during the recession, I held 6 nonprofit positions over 5.5 years. Do the math, and you realize very quickly that I changed jobs frequently. Over this time span, I learned to embrace change and to never get too comfortable, mastering the ability to shift gears on a moment’s notice.

Earlier this year, I hit my two-year anniversary at my current job. I just finished a huge project at this job and, after some time off, I reflected on my current situation: I felt restless.

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Mud, messiness and clarity

mud.jpegSometimes when you go through a process it gets muddy before it gets clear.

As a consultant for nonprofits with Aurora Consulting, when we do a strategic planning retreat with clients we often warn them things will get “muddy” for a time but we won’t stay in the mud. I’ve come to see it’s not about needing a new process that keeps things clear and organized. It’s about allowing everyone to dive into the mud, get messy, stir around, and see what comes out the other side.

I can also see how this is true in life. In small ways, such as organizing a closet, to big ways like finding the right path in your life or career.

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Failing into the future

Think of someone you greatly admire or consider a hero. While ruminating about their secrets for success, have you ever also considered how much they may have failed to get to where they are? While that may not be the first question that springs to mind, when you’re curious about how they accomplished certain heroic feats, doesn’t that consideration make them seem more human and relatable, once you know that they’ve also struggled and overcome obstacles along the way?

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Challenge to Change: Why Passion Isn’t Enough

If I had a dollar (or even a dime) for each time I read or was told that “following my passion” is the premier pathway to a successful career and overall life satisfaction, I’d be a very wealthy woman. I don’t doubt the tremendous value-add and personal fulfillment that accompanies a strong connection to your work and/or your organization’s mission. But personally, I find the ‘passion ethos’ lacks a healthy dose of practicality, especially for a mid-career professional who may be asking themselves, “What’s next?” (Spoiler alert: I am this person asking myself this question.)

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The Wonders and Worries of Grad School

Disclaimer: Yes, I work at Hamline University; yes, I am earning a Master’s in Nonprofit Management at Hamline; and yes, I interviewed the director of the Hamline MANM program (among others) for this blog post, but this is NOT an ad for Hamline University. Take from it what you will – I hope you gain a few pearls or nuggets of wisdom that make you really think about pursuing an advanced degree in the nonprofit sector.

Pursuing an advanced degree is a big undertaking – one that requires many hours of hard work and many gallons of coffee. The decision to attend graduate school should not be a light one. I will help you weigh the pros and cons – and give you a few things to think about before making your decision.

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Reflect and Repeat: Describing Your Internship

main.jpgAs an intern, I’ve researched seemingly obscure topics, tweeted, blogged and “Facebook-ed,” and taken on other mundane tasks that few people dream about. Most young professionals in the nonprofit world have all had our share of internships. And it has been worth it, right?

Yes, definitely! But just as important as the experience is finding a good way to describe an internship or temporary work experience, aiding in your transition from part-time installment to full time employment.

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Breaking the Salary Silence

main.jpgThere is something taboo and mysterious about salaries. When I decided to do a salary survey of young nonprofit professionals, it was my hope to start breaking down walls of discomfort around talking about our salaries. I expected 10-20 responses and ended up getting over 100. If that’s not a sign that we’re ready to start talking about salaries, I don’t know what is.

It’s obvious from my survey, which is not scientific by any means, that there is a collective sense of feeling undervalued and underpaid throughout the sector—strongest in those with less than five years experience.

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How to be a quitter

Hockey sticks and helmets on the iceGrowing up playing hockey, calling someone the Q-Word was akin to insulting their mother, stealing their Gatorade, and throwing in a breezer wedgie to boot. In my hyper-competitive and melodramatic adolescent mind there was nothing lower than giving up, literally the last step before death. Needless to say, I never imagined I would become exactly that.

In the past year I’ve quit four major occupations, three of them jobs and one a labor of love organization I co-founded with two close friends. While I didn’t exactly set out to become a quitter and none of my decisions to quit were easy—some were much harder than others—I don’t regret it.

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Navigating shifting seas: Thriving during workplace changes

If you’ve had any interaction with a nonprofit over the past five years, you know that it’s a time of never-ending change. Realignments, redistribution of talents, tightening belts, cutting costs, closing organizations, rebirth of organizations, shifting departments, shifting responsibilities — the list goes on and on. You may find yourself doing a completely different job than when you began, or you may be the new guy or gal who’s come on board as a result of these changes. So how do you navigate shifting seas? How do you choose your battles and still manage to stay afloat?

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