I recently read an article from Nonprofit with Balls about the 12+ Pieces of Advice for Young Folks Graduating and Entering the Nonprofit Sector. As a young person, having graduated and entered the nonprofit sector, I skeptically read this as yet another article telling me how to behave, what to do, etc.
Didn’t I get enough of this from, um, I don’t know, my parents? But, as I read the advice, it was the exact advice I had been giving to my friends who sought meaningful experiences in the nonprofit sector. Here are my thoughts on his advice, and ways you can make sure you follow it:
He first advised to get several mentors, a critical piece of advice for young folks. I’ve taken a liking to embracing my Midwestern background, and going full force “outgoing” on some cold Seattle natives to seek out mentors in the nonprofit world. I also echo his advice to network all the time. During my first week of service as a VISTA Leader, I immediately began attending networking events such as the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, Young Professional of Seattle, Emerging Leaders, and Seattle AmeriCorps Collaborative events. I highly advise cultivating a network of nonprofit professionals, and developing mentors in multiple areas to continue your growth as a service leader and professional.
I agree with the advice to learn one thing from everything – This is life advice. If you feel like an experience was a waste of time, then you’re adulting wrong.
On the note of adulting, crappy stuff might happen, and being in AmeriCorps prepares you for the crappiest of crap. But, we need to stop complaining about it on social media. No, you will not get all the thanks you deserve. Yes, there is red tape that will stop you from changing things immediately. No, you are not always right and your ideas are not always that amazing. Yes, you have amazing ideas but you need to be patient! It rains in Seattle, the bus is late, people are frustrating… Determination, commitment and persistence are just a few of the most valuable characteristics that AmeriCorps members have, AND these are the characteristics that are necessary to continue a career in nonprofits. It’s important to start everyday with gratitude, understand your role, and don’t talk bad about anyone.
Tune out those who are judging you based on your generation and realize how awesome you are. You don’t fit into a box, and if this generation is good at one thing, it’s challenging the boxes and categories that too many people get placed into. Push back and be yourself. I think T-Swift said it best… haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate.
Does anyone remember Lily Moscovitz, famed local television star from “Shut Up and Listen” in the Princess Diaries? But really, we could always be better listeners.
The last one I want to reiterate, do not start a nonprofit. I repeat, do not start a nonprofit. I can’t tell you how frustrating it’s been, even with my limited experience, to hear people say they want to start their own nonprofit. Before you think about this, consider the consequences (I recommend watching Poverty, Inc.). Blogger said it best:
Seriously, this could be its own blog post, but please do careful research before starting a nonprofit. Most likely, another organization is doing something that aligns with your idea. Some nonprofits should be started, but more often than not, I see orgs that are duplicating other services, or are well-intentioned but don’t consider the consequences (e.g., “Let’s collect and send sewing machines to Africa!”)
Check out the other valuable pieces of advice he offers:
- Have fun, but pay attention.
- If you want to change the world, stick around.
- Save for retirement.
- Do your job, and do it well.
- Dress professionally.
- Take time for the people you love.
- Learn all aspects of the field.
- Be generous with giving credit to others.
- Be gracious in both success and failure.
- Take it easy on yourself.
- Do not start a nonprofit (I though I should include this one again).
- Develop a good sense of humor.
Overall, young nonprofit leaders have a lot to learn from others, and it would do us well to pay attention. I, myself, know that this whole nonprofit career thing has been and will continue to be a journey of lessons. Admittedly, it’s a journey I am really looking forward to having.
About the Author Jacquee is Communications Lead for the Seattle AmeriCorps Collaborative. In her second year of service, she enjoys using her background in social work, interest in writing, and pursuit of a career in nonprofits to lift the work of AmeriCorps members across the Seattle area.