This summer, YNPN Boston surveyed over 400 young nonprofit professionals in the Greater Boston Area about their professional development needs. We’re here to share the top five professional development needs of the survey participants and while we’re at it, provide a few resources to help get you started with addressing these needs.
1. Expanding network of nonprofit professionals
2. Developing hard skills
3. Identifying leadership opportunities that meet my needs
4. Learning how to lead an organization
5. Understanding the various types of leadership opportunities available in the nonprofit sector
We heard your needs and we’re here to help! Here are a few resources and tips to help you start tackling your professional development needs.
Build Your Network: Get yourself out there and network! Attending nonprofit-specific events is key: happy hours, book clubs, discussion groups, professional associations - find one that you like and start making some connections. YNPN Boston offers a variety of networking events throughout the year, but also make sure to seek out events from other nonprofit organizations to continue to expand your network. Some things you can do:
- Many nonprofits are hosting their own young professional events. Keep an eye out on their websites and social media for upcoming networking events. Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, City Year, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (Society Connections), and Boys and Girls Club of Boston (Friends Council) are a few to get you started.
- Join the YNPN Boston list-serv to hear about nonprofit networking events every day!
- Networking doesn’t stop at the events. Follow-up with the great people you’ve met!
- Nurture your network. Keep in touch with former managers, colleagues, and classmates. That friendly annual email just might remind them about a job opportunity that you would be perfect for.
Developing Hard Skills: We know that developing hard skills related to fundraising, social media, and software are integral to our professional development. However, it can be challenging to find opportunities when we are strapped for resources. Some things you can do, right now, to address this need:
- Check out courses offered by General Assembly and the Boston Center for Adult Education. Both on-campus and online part-time courses are designed for working professionals to enhance skills like marketing, website design, data, and visual design.
- Look into webinars, trainings, and conferences from field-specific professional organizations, such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Association of Advancement Services Professionals, Association of Donor Relations Professionals, and Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement.
- Ask your organization if they already offer training or if there is a budget for training courses or consultants. Do any of your organization’s volunteers or board members possess these skills? Ask if they would host a training session for you and other employees.
- Set aside time to take a MOOC (massive online open course) from Coursera, Udacity, or edX. A wide range of free courses are available from a variety of universities. This person is even using MOOCs to simulate an MBA.
Developing Leadership Skills & Understanding a Leader’s Role: Many of us strive to develop leadership skills both within and beyond our organizations. However, sometimes these opportunities can be hard to find! Some ways to identify and understand leadership opportunities:
- Do you have an ally within your organization who has been there for a while and you feel comfortable approaching with questions? If not, try and find an individual whose career path you admire and ask them about ways you can access new leadership opportunities within your organization. Check out our recent blog post: A CEO’s Guide: Nonprofit Career Satisfaction and Finding a Mentor for more tips about building relationships with leaders.
- Be proactive in the workplace. Volunteer to take on additional projects and knock them out of the park. Building trust with your manager may lead to additional responsibilities and leadership opportunities. The reward for good work is more work, but that’s what you’re looking for, right?
- Gain leadership experience outside of your day job. Volunteer opportunities are the best way to learn from current leaders, practice new skills, and find out what kind of opportunities are out there. YNPN Boston offers volunteer Ambassador and Board positions as do a number of other affinity groups.
In the next few months, we will be sharing additional discoveries from the 2014 Young Nonprofit Professionals Boston survey. Until then, keep up with YNPN Boston professional development events and resources on our list-serv, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.