Why You Should Have More Than One Mentor

There’s nothing quite like a mentor. She understands you in ways that no one else seems to, she listens intently to your rants, she asks just the right questions, and gives the perfect advice. I must say my conversations with my mentors are some of my most fulfilling and important.

Take note that I said mentors – plural. Yes, I have more than one. I even have more than two. I’ve been very blessed to work with some amazing people over the years, and I’ve made it a priority to keep in touch with them. I’m not saying I chat with them every month, or even every three months. I connect with them when it feels right, and I love having it in the back of my mind that they are there for me.

While having a mentor is important for many reasons in helping with personal and professional development, having more than one is even better. Here’s a few reasons you should strive to have more than one mentor in your life.

  • Unique personalities. Depending on the issue, sometimes you want a soft approach, and sometimes you want told be told the hard truth. You’ll know it in your gut what type of advice you want. It’s wonderful to have different mentors with different approaches to go to depending on the issue. And sometimes it’s helped me even to imagine what hard truth mentor would tell me in the situation. Since she has a black and white approach, I can usually guess. And that’s helped give me insight to situations.
  • Varying viewpoints. I look to my mentors to provide insight and advice on topics that they can relate to, but everyone has a different journey to where they are now. Having multiple mentors means my issues can be looked upon from various points of view. And that’s so helpful when you want different perspectives on an issue.
  • Different advice. Sometimes, when you chat with your mentor, you have a gut instinct of what you think or what you want to do. The truth of the matter is that sometimes you’re not looking to be told what to do, you’re looking for someone you respect to listen to you and pull out what they hear. One of the wonderful things about having multiple mentors is that if one tells you something you don’t feel good about, you can always go to the other one. It takes your mentor off the pedestal and makes her feel real. Because mentors aren’t perfect, either!

Don’t be afraid to engage someone as a mentor. In general, people love giving advice! As long as you respect someone’s opinion and experience, ask them to chat through problems with you. Trust me when I say it will make a world of difference in how you think through your problems. After a while you will be able to look upon things with different perspectives. And that’s the best way to solve any problem.


Be Indispensable in 2011

With today’s shaky economy so many of us are worried about job security. Doing your job is simply not good enough anymore. Here are some tips to continue to be viewed as valuable to your employer.

  • Become an expert in your job functions. Note that I didn’t say to become an expert in everything here. You were hired to do a job – do it, and do it well! If one of your job functions is to manage the website, instead of sticking to the usual updates, do some research about your website’s traffic and how you can improve a viewer’s experience. Don’t bog your supervisor down with a million ideas, but put together some recommendations and lay out an expected timeline for implementation . The easier you make things for your supervisor, the more indispensable you’ll become.
  • Always be easy to work with. It’s good to speak your mind and contribute your opinions to a discussion, but always do so with tact and respect. Remember that everyone you are working with is working for the same thing – your nonprofit’s mission. Don’t let personal feelings or vendettas enter into the workplace, especially while working one-on-one with a colleague. Unfortunately, many people are difficult to work with. If you’re not, you will be respected by all of your colleagues – and you never know who’s cozy with the boss.
  • Get friendly with the competition. There is an unspoken line between nonprofit staffers and board members – cross it! Board members are people, too! And they make important decisions about salaries and staffing. In any correspondence with a board member, treat them as you would any donor, with the utmost respect and courtesy. If you’re asked to get checks signed by a board member, take the opportunity during the visit to make small talk, take a look around the building, and be pleasant. Chances are that board member will remember your positive attitude the next time there’s a staffing discussion.
  • Be a Jack (or Jane) of all Trades. Even in a small nonprofit, a job description is usually pretty specific. There are most likely at least 12 things not listed in your job description that you will be asked to do in the first four months. Instead of pouting through it, be open minded and learn different skills. Suddenly you will become the one everyone asks for help with their Outlook, advice on mailings, in replacing the copier toner, in fixing the office toilet (true story!)… don’t get bogged down in these requests but be able to give a helping hand when your workload allows.

Unfortunately, even if you follow these guidelines closely, there will still be people who might have criticisms of you and the way you work. There’s a simple way to address this – be confident! If you are confident in yourself and the job you are carrying out, that will come through in your working style with your colleagues. Managers love nothing more than to believe their employees have everything under control. And if you do, you truly will be indispensable!


Five Things I Wish I Knew About Being a Development Coordinator Five Years Ago

If you’re wondering what being a Development Coordinator is all about, here are five aspects of the job that jumped out at me as lessons I’ve learned in five years of working in the field. None of them would have deterred me from being where I am today, but I wish I knew about them before!

1. There’s always work to be done.

There will always be more money to raise, more donors to call, more data to clean up. The work of a Development staffer (and most nonprofit staffers, for that matter) is never done. You need to start your days at work knowing you’ll do the best you can to tackle some of the high priority projects, and be satisfied with what got done at the end of the day. Don’t get bogged down in the big picture of having a huge fundraising goal – break your tasks into manageable chunks and you will go far!

2. You’ll always be part of the supporting cast.

If you love the spotlight, become Program Manager. Development staffers, especially support staff to the Director of Development, are almost always in the background. We’re the ones setting up the registration table, answering questions about auction items, or processing payments – not the ones discussing our passion for the cause or smiling in photos with a big check. When people want to learn about the activities of the organization, they want to hear it from those working directly with the clients, not from administrators (which Development staffers are considered).

3. You will always be known as someone’s assistant.

It might be the Director of Development or it might be the CEO, but as support staff for a Development department, outsiders won’t understand what you do. A Program Assistant will have specific duties that outsiders understand, like managing volunteers, but a Development Coordinator, even if she manages the website, e-newsletter, and does all data entry, she will still be asked about the guest list for the gala. Be secure in the fact that outsiders might not understand that there is plenty of work to be done for more than one person – I’m sure your boss is aware!

4. You’ll be asked to answer phones, fix computers, and deliver checks to be signed.

For some reason the Development department becomes the do-everything-no-one-else-wants-to-do department. At the heart of a Development Coordinator’s role is to improve capacity for an organization… on the surface, that might look like simply to raise money, but it’s really so much more. It means that you’re suddenly the organization’s IT department and you’re asked to hold an Outlook training for the staff because you manage the website, so you must know about computers! Note: Many nonprofit staffers feel they do much more than their job description, so this should be no surprise for anyone!

5. Someone worked very hard on that piece of mail you’re glancing at.

After working a short time in Development you’ll realize that what is commonly referred to as “junk mail” was actually drafted multiple times, reviewed by several people, mail merged, printed, stuffed, sealed, and hand delivered to the bulk mail center at the post office. Being a Development Coordinator has opened my eyes to how much effort is put into a lot of things, including direct mail. It definitely helps me appreciate the little things! Just remember that not everyone has your same experience, so not everyone will treat your mail, or anything else, the same way.

It’s not that being a Development Coordinator is all hard work and no fun. Being support in a Development team is great – you get to get your hands dirty in various projects and talk to donors, the biggest advocates of your cause. Just remember the above five things as you work away and remember that you’re contributing to your organization’s mission, every day. We all should be so lucky.