As a busy professional in a public interest agency, the most valuable tool I feel that I have is the knowledge of my coworkers and colleagues. But, with how busy we are trying to meet all of our client needs, it seems that we never have the time to share our thoughts and information.
That is exactly what I find most valuable about the YNPN monthly “Coffee with a CEO” meetings. YNPN members meet at Hoxworth Blood Center in Clifton and enjoy networking with other young professionals working in the non-profit sector.
In the last few years, there has been a rise in interest in attracting and maintaining young talent in the work force. YNPN is unique because it originated with the idea of helping YP’s who choose to work in non-profit careers to network with each other. As our agencies are often so much smaller than our for-profit counterparts, this can often translate into smaller offices and fewer co-workers. Thus, meeting with other like-minded young professionals proves all that much more valuable. We can learn from each other and our respective experience. I am still in awe of the amazing people I have met through YNPN, especially since there was nothing like this when I first began working in the public sector. Back then, it seemed like mentoring young talent was not on peoples’ minds. Employers expected you to do your job with minimal problems and no complaining. Grooming young talent for the future was just not something employers considered.
So much has changed since then. According to H.A. Musser (President & CEO of Santa Maria Community Service, and this month’s “Coffee with a CEO” speaker) now, more than ever, leaders in the non-profit world are talking about succession planning. He explained that this may be fueled because of the “dire predictions of the gap of skilled people to lead non-profits” after the anticipated retirement of many of the “Baby Boomer” generation who are currently in the leadership positions. He advised that the skills we learn by participating in YNPN will give us an edge over our colleagues who are not as well informed.
Mr. Musser cautioned that some bosses will think ahead for us, while others will not. He discussed a memorable experience for him when he was a young professional in his first few years at Santa Maria. He was in the kitchenette when he ran into the Executive Director who asked him if he would like more responsibility in the agency. This innocently simple question planted a seed for him, which with increasing responsibility, has lead Mr. Musser to a 28 year career working for the people of Price Hill at Santa Maria.
While there will be people eager to help us along the way, each one of our career successes lies in our own hands. As Mr. Musser pointed out, there are leadership training programs where we can learn management skills, but, we also have to keep our eyes open for ways to expand our professional repertoire and skill sets. He highlighted practical guidelines for success, such as: being eager learners, taking initiative, working hard and getting results, and sometimes even pursuing advanced degrees. If you have prepared yourself by solidly doing your job and getting good results, that puts you in a position for more advanced opportunities later. Ideally, someone in your office or firm who notices you and your excellent quality of work would approach you with the chance to take on more responsibility. Based on your excellent track record, they will think of you as the go to person. Once the doors have opened up, you will be able to take advantage of showing what more you can do.
If you are not currently in a supervisory position now, Mr. Musser pointed out that you can still gain those skills by working with volunteers in your organization. Sometimes, the opportunities to develop the skills you need are right in front of you, they just need to be revealed in a creative way. As he said, people who follow want to follow someone who has already done the work. So, the better we do our jobs now, and thoroughly complete them the better leaders we will become.
When asked how he has stayed at Santa Maria for 28 years without his work becoming stale, Mr. Musser pointed out that passion for the mission of his organization has kept his work fresh for all this time. His point about passion for our work was echoed by a number of YNPNer’s. When our personal interests line up with the organizational interests, and we believe in how we deliver our services to the community, it keeps our work fresh for all of us. It is why we continue to do the kind of work that we do.
Helping to build and maintain positive relationships are two more key elements in making work fresh and keeping it exciting and interesting. YNPN will continue to prove invaluable in providing us the opportunities to learn from each other and support each other as we continue to grow and develop our individual leadership styles. The non-profit world needs our talent and our current leaders want to see us become the leaders of tomorrow. YNPN will keep us poised to fill their shoes when our time comes.
Hope to see you at the next “Coffee with a CEO” on Thursday, April 26, at 7:30 am.
Amy Kurlansky is a guest blogger and a member of YNPN Greater Cincinnati