Young & Professional: Why YNPN-TC should hold space for tough conversations

While I don’t consider myself a writer, I highly respect those who write for a living or for pleasure. I wasn’t sure where to start, so I looked to someone I’ve always admired: Oprah Winfrey. I admire Oprah as a black woman and as a millennial who grew up watching her become an influential and powerful voice for women. Her book “What I Know for Sure” came to mind when I started brainstorming how to start writing. The book is a straightforward account of her biggest adversities in life and how overcoming her greatest challenges allowed her to learn the important lessons i.e. what she knows for sure in her life. So here it goes. 

What I know for sure is the Twin Cities has a plethora of amazing and motivated young nonprofit professionals with the desire to do impactful work in their positions. But it’s safe to say that not all organizations provide the resources to keep them satisfied, both in and out of the workplace. Low wages, long hours, student debt, increasing rent and bills, and for some, child care, all contribute to burnout and are preventing many from being capable enough to that impactful work. Many organizations are not paying their employees enough, not providing adequate health insurance, and not providing a comfortable and safe workplace environment for employees, especially to those with marginalized identities. Although nonprofits are mission-driven, they still operate with money as their bottom line, and when there isn’t enough to go around, the ones at the bottom of the hierarchy are sacrificed first. 

When mission, passion, shared values, and skills meet a motivated nonprofit professional, it is a great start. When they are nurtured, they can thrive. And when they thrive, they will have the opportunity to do that impactful work that changes their community. 

YNPN-Twin Cities is hosting an event on September 24 called “Young and Professional: Navigating ____ in the Workplace.” This is an opportunity for our members to have an honest discussion with career professionals about the issues impacting them. While the original idea for this event was to discuss EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion), it became apparent to the board and the planning team that we had to address our members directly. So, we turned to our most recent member survey to hear their concerns with the sector and our organization. 

Our members let us know that they would like to attend more programming around professional development. Our members also let us know that our programming in the past hasn’t been the most inclusive or welcoming and has held them back from attending. Other critiques included the lack of representation of professionals of color, which translated to a lack of proper representation in the voices we choose to amplify. Internalizing everything our members said, we wanted to create an event that was a direct response to our members and their desire to hear from professionals that have experiences and goals like theirs. 

You might ask who should show up to this event and why? And the answer is - any person invested in the improvement of the nonprofit sector and its employees, particularly the young, poor, disenfranchised, or historically marginalized because they are the employees closest to the communities impacted by organizations. Also, because those employees are often the furthest away from power within their organizations. And YNPN-TC wants to change this. While we cannot present all the answers to improving the nonprofit sector in one program, we can offer those folks the opportunity to discuss and question the factors that affect their daily work lives and their long-term career paths. We heard our members loud and clear and intentionally selected speakers that reflect our membership, through identity, education, career and most importantly, the trials and tribulations of the workplace for a young professional. 

With a panel of seasoned professionals, our time will be spent discussing issues in the workplace. From the microaggressions and bigger conflicts derived from racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and religious intolerance and how they interact with other uncomfortable topics like conflict resolution, negotiating salary, and the education and wage gap, we want to create the space to discuss the barriers to your professional development. And while we as a board do not have all the answers to solving those problems, our service lies in holding the space to have these critical conversations. Only then can we speak up against the forces that prevent us as young, aspirational individuals from transforming our daily work lives, the organizations that employ us, and the greater community we serve. 

We must hold our employers accountable. We must demand that organizations keep their employees satisfied and safe, in and out of the workplace. And finally, we must demand that we as individuals and as contributing members of organizations confront white supremacy, religious intolerance, classism, xenophobia, sexism, misogynoir, homophobia, transphobia, and all the other aberrations within a multicultural society dominated by the colonial mindset - white, cisgender, heteropatriarchal, wealthy and powerful.

I can promise that I will work tirelessly to make sure our programming is accessible, educational and valuable to our members. With that promise comes my call of action for you: ask yourself what you know for sure. Like Oprah, we can reach our “Aha!” moment of sudden insight or discovery by asking ourselves that question. We might even have some in common. So I ask you to explore your own personal history, find your values, and apply them in your daily life, even if you’re met with resistance from others. While this may sound like a flippant, privileged request, it is just a means to a start. My call to action is meant to find our common humanity, starting from within – by sharing our personal history and learned values. Only then can we begin to work together against the forces that keep us down and silenced. Like chain links on a fence or woven fabric intertwined, we are more impactful working together. And as a board, we hope to provide the programming and support needed to keep this call to action alive and working, not only for YNPN-TC, but also for the many organizations that employ our members.

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