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Pages tagged "Professional Development"


A new professional perspective online

We all have a story that led us to our careers – the careers where we feel are our calling.

For me, my calling was journalism – after finding public radio in the middle of the night as a result of insomnia during a major health issue. Yet, changes were unfolding as I graduated. As people consume news in the digital space, revenue has been impacted and jobs are hard to find. The additional competition for jobs made me wonder continuously if I made the right choice to pursue work in this field. I found myself not only uncertain, but seriously discouraged, and frightened.

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In the attempt to make sense of events, I went on social media. Along the way, I was able to connect with friends and colleagues in the industry, and meet new people and get their views on how they see journalism, the media and their work – and see what inspires them. As uncertainty became a constant, so did the search for that perspective and inspiration.

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What you think DOES NOT matter: 5 things your communications staff wants to tell you

NOTE: This blog is an expansion of a speech I gave at “5 Minutes in Hell,” YNPN-TC’s annual event for people who want to practice public speaking (my slides are available on Google Drive and a video of the full speech is at the bottom of this post or on YouTube). For those considering submitting a speaking proposal in future years, I highly recommend it! You won’t find a more supportive practice venue.

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There is no one answer to what a communications job looks like, especially when it comes to nonprofits. While large organizations can have entire teams where each person has their own subject area or expertise, small nonprofit organizations often have only one staffer (or part of one) who is responsible for getting the word out about everything the organization does. 

Communicators have all kinds of duties: writing, social media, websites, emails, graphic design, media outreach, among other things. For some organizations, the communications staff is also responsible for development and fundraising, while others house these duties in separate departments.

At our core, however, all communications professionals have the same goals: We want to make sure the people who need our organization’s information get it in ways they understand, and we want to make sure our organization looks good.

These goals can mean that communications professionals care about strange things like fonts and colors and images, and we sometimes say certain words should or should not be used.

In this blog, I am sharing some of the largest “pet peeves” communications professionals have in the hopes that non-communicators can learn and work more effectively with their communications staff, and we can eliminate the communications-programs-development divide.

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It is hard to be a good supervisor: But worth it!

Note: For this blog, I’m using manager and supervisor as synonyms, and they should be viewed as skills implemented and required based on job responsibilities. Your title may say Regional Director of Party Bus Coordinators, but if you have four folks who have to send you their time cards every one to two weeks, you are supervising someone.

In my previous blog, I shared all of the ways it is easy to be a bad supervisor. It’s easy to put your schedule first and demand things be done your way. It’s easy to give limited feedback and just expect your employees to “Make it work!”

Working in the nonprofit sector, people are quick to look at other factors for the reason why people leave their organization and the sector. They can point at the low wages, compassion fatigue, or the need to live up to representative community leadership and ignore that Gallup finds that more than 50% of employees leave their job because of their boss/manager. We need to accept that the nonprofit sector is not immune to having bad supervisors… if anything it is worse.

So what is a supervisor to do? It is hard to be a great supervisor. It is challenging to be open to feedback, to truly listen, to put in the time needed to prepare for check-ins, to stand by difficult decisions, and to give critical feedback in a constructive way to those you supervise.  All of that is very true; in this blog, I want to share some ways it be a great supervisor, and I want to assure you, while it may not be easy, being a great supervisor is worth it.

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It is easy to be a bad supervisor

Note: For this blog, I’m using manager and supervisor as synonyms, and they should be viewed as skills implemented and required based on job responsibilities. Your title may say Associate Director of Regional Bouncy Castle Rental Logistics, but if you have 3 folks who have to send you their time cards every 1 to 2 weeks, you are supervising someone.

It is easy to be a bad supervisor. No seriously, it is way easier to use the positional power to make your supervisee’ lives harder, your organization’s results down, and your staff turnover high and team morale low.

The nonprofit sector has trouble already with competitive wages, compassion fatigue, and the need to live up to representative community leadership, so it can be easy to blame those factors as the reasons folks leave their organization or even the sector. While those are all are real reasons for why folks pop on Linkedin on their lunch break, Gallup finds year after year that more than 50% of employees leave their job because of their boss/manager. The nonprofit sector isn’t immune from this, and, if anything it can be even worse.

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For those times you feel like a fraud

Recently, someone requested a meeting with me to chat about many things—from the nonprofit sector in general, to what the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits does, to ideas he had for the sector that he wanted to run by me. As I sat and waited for him to arrive at our meeting, one thought kept going through my head: ‘He is expecting to meet with an adult, but he’ll get here and see me – a kid (even though I’m 27). What business do I have being here?’ It’s a feeling I know all too well – imposter syndrome.   

According to The American Psychological Association, imposter syndrome “occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success.”  People will often think their accomplishments are the result of luck – not ability, and often worry that others will expose them as a fraud.

I always assumed these worries I was having were because a) my anxiety gets the best of me or, worse, b) because they were all true. I had no idea this was a legitimate thing. When I realized that these thoughts I was having weren’t actually true, I started to wonder what I could do to shut that voice up. It’s a work in progress, but here are some things I’ve learned that might help you if you’re going through this as well.

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Ignore this professional advice

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Me: I should really try to follow this professional advice. 
Me to me: 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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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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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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Shimmy and swim to confidence

Speak Up. Don't Speak Up. Be Assertive. Raise Your Hand. Calm Down. Interrupt. Be Nice. Don't Be Intimidating. Don't Be Angry. Calm Down. Stop Shouting. Dress Respectably. Be Confident.Every person at the latest Pollen Work Redux event about Confidence was beautiful. I mean this in the sense that the folks attending were projecting a seriously genuine aura of belief in themselves, support, and kindness, and it was absolutely amazing to be in a room with 250 other women with that kind of vibe.

This is true of every event I go to in this series focusing on bringing together “women spanning diverse backgrounds to reimagine the future of the workplace.” Unfortunately, there’s no space large enough for every woman in the Twin Cities to simultaneously experience a Work Redux event, so this blog is my little part to share the message far and wide – women are in the workplace and, in the words of Pollen’s Jamie Millard, we have a crisis of confidence, but together we are going to totally rock the world.

Pollen's Work Redux events embody what Nancy Lyons of Clockwork (and one of the panelists) advised – “As leaders, we make room for people to come exactly as they are.” Outside of our jobs, we have families, passions, hobbies.  We are activists and artists, naturalists and explorers. We can’t leave our worries, our mental and physical illnesses, or our insecurities at the door. We are whole people, and accepting a whole person in a space – especially a work place – can bring so much to the table. How we accomplish this can look really different, depending on the space.

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