As a fundraiser ‘hungry for more’, have you ever thought about what ‘more’ means? Here are my practical insights to developing career goals that are right for you
Guest blog by Konna Beeson, Corporate and High Value Officer, TREEAID , TEF mentee
I started my career in sales, moving into fundraising two years later to follow a passion I found at University with Plymouth RAG. As an ambitious person, I thought of myself as behind the curve though, having gone into my dream sector ‘too late’, with a title I could have had many years earlier. In hindsight, I wouldn’t be the fundraiser I am today without the enormity of skills I gained from my past experiences, such as my time at DK Recruitment which will always be a highlight of my career. Regardless, this made me push myself (sometimes too far) to try to excel and fast-track my career. The problem though, is that I never stopped to think of what I really wanted and why…
A better title? Sure! But what title, what responsibilities, what areas peak my interest most?
A better salary? Sure! But then moving from sales was probably a horrible idea….
More responsibility? Sure! But what kind? How much? People management or project management? Do I want to maintain large events or develop new corporate business?
From my first meeting with Nicola, my mentor at CRUK, through the Tony Elischer Foundation scheme, I started to think reflectively and ‘top-down’ like this and understood what my skills were, what would excite me next, and how I could get there. Not only did this stop me burning out, it made me more knowledgeable, confident and able to work smarter when it came to my development.
So, here are my five key learnings to help your development;
Reflect on the work you do more broadly! What do you enjoy most? What are your best skills? Where could these be applied elsewhere?
- If you’re in an events role for instance, it could be what you love most is; managing your supporters, engaging with people, growing sign-ups or streamlining processes. Maybe you just don’t know if it’s for you and what comes next.
- Understanding how your personality and skills fits with each part of the job you do is workplace wisdom at its finest.
- I know many fundraisers that keep a log of their favourite moments and achievements like a reflective workplace journal and I have also started doing this.
Read job descriptions. One of the best tips I was given is to read job descriptions for roles you feel you should do next.
- See what experience you are missing to help you seek it and become that person.
- See what the ‘reality’ of that job is, so you know if you’re suitable and would enjoy it.
- Be inquisitive. Being more knowledgeable about the day-to-day of other roles will help guide your questions in coffees and in interviews.
Have coffees and talk to people in other roles. You will find out LOADS about the reality of the roles you might want to do, what people love (or hate) about them and common skills people have that make them a great fit
- LinkedIn is infinitely more useful than a lot of people realise. Find people and ask for a coffee or call – fundraisers are a helpful bunch!
- Speak to people at the same ‘level’ as you in other fields, just as much as senior fundraisers. Accumulating experience in the different fundraising areas (events, corporate, major donor etc) is often more useful than taking a lateral ‘manager’ role step-up just because it sounds good.
- Many fundraising leaders I admire most have done this and I have no doubt it’s a reason why they’re able to deliver far more income for great causes than others. (Don’t believe me? Search on LinkedIn and snoop on career history for people you admire.)
Seek out the experience you are missing.
- Knowing the experience you need to gain for an ideal next step makes asking and seeking it out that much easier and you’ll be more confident too.
- By seeking out specific opportunities from your managers, such as filling in for them, your future interviewer will see someone who has already ‘done that job’, making you a perfect choice.
Dedicate one day a week when you will commit to do ‘something’ for your development.
- Listen to one podcast (I’m currently listening to Rob Woods’ brilliant “Fundraising Bright Spots” podcast and heard Liz Tait say she did this early in her career too).
- Talk to one person to meet for coffee or chat.
- Read one job description.
- Read one blog.
- Research one mentoring scheme.
- Research one training course.
- Any of the above makes for at least 52 steps a year you are taking to advance yourself. That is HUGE and will focus you and avoid burnout too.
The best leader is one who is just as passionate about what they do as when they started. The best way to be that person is to look after yourself, heighten your own unique skills, take on roles you enjoy and work for organisations you enjoy representing too – the world is a better place with better fundraisers after all!
Thanks to Konna for this guest blog. Konna is a member of our 2019/2020 cohort of mentees. If his thoughts have inspired you to invest time in your development think about applying to join our next programme which starts in spring 2020. Details at www.tonyelischerfoundation.org