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What career advice do you wish you had been given ?

What career advice do you wish you had been given ?

I recently ran across a Linked-In post requesting ideas for a presentation on pursuing a leadership career with a nonprofit, to a group of students who will soon be graduating. It made me think about things I wish I had known when I was first getting started! Here are three of those things:

  1. Be intentional about professional development. Once a career goal is set, establish a 10-20-70 plan that includes formal training (10%), time in a mentoring/coaching relationship (20%), and on-the-job learning (70%). For the on-the-job pieces, look for opportunities to grow and stretch capabilities. Get out of your comfort zone!
  2. If not-for-profit leadership is your career goal, be certain your professional development plan focuses on developing business skills at least as much as it does on building knowledge of the specific social service field targeted. One of the very sad things I’ve seen happen repeatedly is not-for-profit leaders failing, not because of lack of expertise in their field, but because they never found the opportunity to develop exceptional business skills. It’s important to understand that the job of the CEO or Executive Director is to lead the organization, not to provide direct service. And leading an organization demands an entirely different skill set. (See my recent blog post on Leadership).
  3. (Heads up… This may be the most important point!) Whatever career path you choose, make sure it fires your passions and provides you with the opportunity to do what you do best, every day. (Read Marcus Buckingham’s “First – Break all the Rules”!) I recently spoke with a very successful consultant who told me he can’t imagine ever retiring, because what he does every day doesn’t feel like work. This is a sure sign that he has found a great match up with his natural talents, the things he was born hard-wired to do well.

If you were speaking to a group of students or young professionals considering not-for-profit leadership as a career goal, how would you advise them? What advice do you wish someone had given you?

Summit Solutions Consulting is serving nonprofit agencies in the Ohio valley and surrounding areas. Contact us!

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