Step outside your comfort zone and up to the challenge

by Amanda Bingham
follow me on Twitter: @amanda_l_b 

Writing this blog post has been hard for me. For the past two days, I’ve been asking myself “What do I have to offer the nonprofit community?” (I’ve also been asking myself “Why did I wait until two days before the deadline to start the post?”) I don’t even work for a nonprofit—I work for a company that works with nonprofits. So here I am, young in my non-nonprofit career and trying to write a blog post for other nonprofit professionals…talk about stepping out of my comfort zone. (Cue my blog topic a-ha moment.)

One day, hopefully in the not too distant future, I will work for a nonprofit. Being a force for positive change in the world has been my dream for as long as I can remember. To start meeting other nonprofit pros and learn about Minnesota nonprofits, I joined YNPN-TC. I increased my commitment by becoming a YNPN-TC volunteer. When given the opportunity to lend a hand at events or lend my words to the blog, I signed up for that too. Putting myself out there as a voice for the nonprofit community, while still trying to find my place in it, has all been a little terrifying.

Even though I’m not a nonprofit professional (yet), stepping into these unfamiliar waters has taught me a thing or two about moving into a nonprofit career.

Don’t be afraid to try new things.

Ok, this seems pretty obvious. But seriously, you are never going to excel or advance if you are afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. It’s a great way to gain experience and skills to help you stand out. Have an idea for recruiting more supporters online? Ask the person you report to if it’s okay to give it a try. Have an idea for a speaking proposal for a conference? Share that and see if you can team up with someone from your organization or an organization with a similar cause, and submit a proposal. Whether it’s a little idea or a big one, don’t be afraid to try—you never know what great solutions you may come up with, like this one.

Don’t be afraid to say you don’t have a clue.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you volunteer for a new project, be upfront about the fact that you need a little guidance to start off on the right track—others will appreciate your honesty and willingness to try something new more than anything. If you try to hide the fact that you don’t have a clue, that’s going to cause you some problems.

Ask your network for help.

Have something you aren’t sure about or need advice on? Find some people from your networks who you can reach out to. The YNPN-TC community is one resource—joining YNPN-TC isn’t just about going to the sweet events they put on every month. It’s about joining a network of professionals with a plethora of knowledge. Reach out to these individuals and others who you trust to help you with professional dilemmas. (Mom doesn’t always know what tools you should use to measure supporter engagement, you know?)

Most of all, have confidence in yourself.

Sometimes, it all just boils down to being willing to take the plunge. And remember this—just because you try something new doesn’t mean it will always turn out to be something you’re great at. We learn from our mistakes. It may be a flop, but at least you can learn from the experience and work to refine those skills to do better in the future.

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