You’re not a Vulcan, show your personality in your work

main.jpgThe following blog is by Jeff Achen (guest post)

She flung her foot up onto our table at the MCN NP Tech Conference and flashed her ankle tattoo. It was the Rebel Alliance symbol.


Her glittery Yoda t-shirt had first caught my attention and it led to our discussion of a mutual love of the gentle green Jedi master. It’s funny, but I’d have to say my interaction with this young woman was the most genuine social interaction I’d had the whole day.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t genuine in my chats with others. I had a great time talking with everyone. It’s just that we really connected for a few moments because of a mutual, if not over-the-top, obsession with Yoda. We connected because of something we both enjoyed. It was fun.

Which brings me to my point. “Fun” is the lubricant of the social networking machine. Fun attracts us to others. Fun attracts us to events. Fun keeps us engaged. And fun can draw our attention to an important issue or cause. It’s about connecting with people on a personal level by being yourself.

How much of yourself are you willing to “put out there” on social media? It doesn’t matter if it’s your collection of action figures, your adoration of Justin Beiber or your extensive knowledge of Harry Potter. Are you willing to share the real you? If so, you may of course run the risk of creeping people out. (Let’s be honest). But, you also chance fostering a deeper, more sincere connection with those in your network. In a world as digitally connected and busy as it is, many of our interactions can be fleeting and immaterial. Making a lasting impression and standing out can be worth its weight in gold.

To look at this more practically, donor cultivation is such an important part of the business of our nonprofit work. Donor cultivation is all about relationship building and bridging the sometimes impersonal donor appeal to make real connections. It can be fun work to forge these relationships, though it requires the investment of time and effort without the promise of reliably measurable returns on investment. That’s why spending this time connecting through social networks and meeting up at coffee shops is also one of the hardest aspects of our work to quantify, define and justify to those in management.

But, management knows a productive, successful employee when they see one. So, let your hair down and prepare to set your inner dork free. Oh, and here are a few tips for successfully making “fun” a part of your professional lives:

  • Accept that you have a geeky/nerdy/dorky side. (If you think you are 100% Stefan and 0% Urkel, call your best friend and have them explain to you what a nerd you can be.)

  • Laugh at yourself, love yourself and allow others to laugh at you. Know it may require thick skin at times when people don’t “get” your passion for scrapbooking. Don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed of who you are.
  • Don’t get carried away with it. There’s a difference between letting your inner dork shine and frightening obsession. If you share your love of trains with someone and they seem to groove with it, don’t take it as your cue to go on and on about the Lionel Trains Polar Express.
  • Be a dork professional. Once you’ve allowed people to see your fun side, make sure they find out you are even more passionate about the work you do than you are about your Pez dispenser collection. They will like you. And, they WILL remember the Pez dispenser-collecting do-gooder.

Share your thoughts. What are some of the fun/dorky things about yourself that you're hiding? And what's stopping you from putting the real you out there?

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