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The Café is Open: The value of receiving peer feedback

main.jpgEvery sector is unique. Each has its own set of insider lingo and modus operandi that may seem mysterious to an outsider. The nonprofit sector is no different, which is why networking in a room of new people that have little to no familiarity with the sector can often times turn into a cemetery of lost opportunities.

Here’s the usual scenario: I strike up a conversation with someone and run through the normal course of getting-to-know you questions. And somewhere in the midst of the interrogation comes the “So, what do you do” question. I test the waters by casually responding that I work for a local nonprofit. At which point—about 85% of the time—I can see my potential peer and network slowly begin to lose interest. One last Minnesota nice rescue attempt is made with the typical follow-up, “What do you do at your nonprofit?” And by the time I get to the word “and” in Office Manager and Membership Coordinator, they’ve lost all interest. And I’ve lost my chance to potentially bounce ideas and get advice on job-related issues.

So, where do I go to get answers to the questions that I deal with as a young nonprofit professional? I’ve tried talking to friends, but I end up spending more time thanking them for nontransferable advice, then applying any.

YNPN Twin Cities (Young Nonprofit Professionals Network) and the Emerging Leaders Network lunches (ELN), co-hosted by YNPN-TC and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofit, have served as great resources for me over the last year and a half. ELN lunches are meant to be an opportunity for those with less than 10 years of experience, or those transitioning into the sector, to get advice on common topics or issues.

I know this might just seem like a shameless plug for YNPN events, but I’ve honestly received a great deal of information and advice at ELN lunches like how to ask for a raise (which I’ve put to use), what is organizational culture and how I can impact it, and various nonprofit resources such as Map for Nonprofits. I could go on and on, but I think the only way you’ll really be able to see the value of ELN lunches is by attending one and getting answers to your questions and advice on your problems.

The 2011 Emerging Leaders Network Lunches will be held the 3rd Friday of every month and topics include:

January 21 – The Café is Open
February 18 – Building your Network
March 18 – How to Ask for What You Want
April 15 – Navigating the Line Between Professional and Personal
May 20 – Foundations 101
June 17 – Board of Directors 101
July 15 – How to Communicate with Personality Types
August 19 – Development 101
September 16 – Managing Change
October 21 – Civic Engagement and Nonprofits
November 18 – Finance 101
December 16 – Is being an Executive Director in my future?

Because I’m sure there are other resources out there, let me know what are some other places you go to receive work and career-related advice?

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