I graduated last weekend. Cue the relentless flow of scared, excited, sentimental and nostalgic feelings. All of the feelings. For the most part I’ve held back my emotions and have yet to cry. (I’m sure it’s coming. Don’t worry, I’m not a robot.) But here’s what I’ve learned during this transitional phase—which naturally is all relatable to the nonprofit world.
1. Be picky about where you work and how you invest your time.
Work for a boss who inspires you and coworkers who you genuinely enjoy being around. It will make going to work not seem like work (even when you’re taking 20 credit hours in the second semester of senior year). In the nonprofit world there are a lot of people who settle on working for the first organization that benefits a cause they like that’s hiring.
It’s a constant struggle for nonprofits to find and hire talent that breathes life into their office and brings a killer set of skills with them. How do you do it? You develop awesome company culture (and no, that doesn’t necessarily cost a lot money). I will be forever in awe by the bond we’ve developed at The Hub over the years. If your nonprofit’s culture is lacking or getting stale, perhaps it’s time to change things up.
2. Say yes more than no.
This was a particularly hard lesson for me to learn throughout college. I was a homebody, comfortable with my existing circles and slightly uneasy about meeting new people and trying new things. Fortunately, I avoided being woefully under-socialized by learning to say “yes.”
Say yes to that meeting with a grant foundation that you might not get. Say yes to a lunch with another local nonprofit (because even though you’re somewhat competitors, we’re all aiming to improve our local or global communities in someway). Say yes to random coffee field trips at work, after-work hours or going to see your coworker wrestle on a Saturday night (yes, this happened)—because it will bond your team more than meetings and strategy sessions. I assure you, you won’t regret the times that you break the comfort of your routine.
3. Don’t be afraid of change.
Ew, what a horribly cliche thing to write in a post-graduation blog post. (I know and I’m sorry.) Graduation brings a whole lot of change and not a lot of time to adjust. You get handed that diploma and then shoved off the plank to fend for yourself. But we’re fighters. And we will prevail.
Nonprofits are scrappy. Give us a problem, and we’ll probably find 12 different ways to solve it (on a budget, no less). Don’t fear moving forward with your cause. It will bring change. Change is scary. And for some, that’s reason enough to do nothing and remain stagnant. Find people who are interested in your cause who want to push you further—challenge your NPO to embrace the challenge of change. And take a lesson from this freshly graduated student: change leads to good things. Promise.
Are there any lessons that I missed? (I’ve become very open to life advice lately—go figure.)