As I gently descend into my golden years, some things keep coming to mind that I repeatedly test myself on, and I want to share them with you. The following five recommendations absolutely do not constitute any sort of fundamental commandments; they are simply items that, if you give them some priority in your life, can help make you more successful and, ultimately, happier.
Build and maintain a network – Within the constraints of your job and your family, make an effort to get to know people, of all ages, who are in your professional world. They don’t all have to be in advancement, but perhaps focusing on the not-for-profit world generally is a better definition of the pool I have in mind.
After you have met such individuals, regardless of how close you feel to them already, record their contact information, along with a sentence or two about how you met them and what you know about them. Then make a point of keeping in touch, regardless of the medium you choose to use. The most immediate objective is to keep yourself in front of them and them in front of you. Many of these individuals will become friends, others merely associates, but you will be building your network of people you can get in contact with when you need to, and they will remember you too. One never knows when you will want to take advantage of your entire network, or any single member of it.
Stay with an employer long enough to get promoted – There is a growing tendency of professionals in our field to jump from one opportunity to another every couple of years. Usually this is done for a relatively modest increase in compensation, and you are – for better or for worse – going from the known to the unknown.
When potential employers look at your resume, one of the things they ask them selves is whether, if they hire you, you are likely to remain with them long enough to make a difference. If you are able to demonstrate that, yes, you are prepared to hang in there long enough to achieve success at your responsibilities, and further, that this fortitude and success has ben recognized through internal promotion, then you are in a much stronger position to get the really great jobs to which you aspire.
Never burn a bridge – This one may require you to dig deeply into your reserve of goodwill toward mankind, but it is worth it. Certainly some percentage of bosses are not fun to work for, and some colleagues can make your life unpleasant. Even people on committees you serve on can act immaturely and counter-productively. Try to walk away without speaking your mind or “leaving a scar’ from your separation. Our community, as large as it is, is smaller than you think. You may come into contact with these individuals again, and even more likely, you will come into contact with others who have heard them mention you.
Never stop reading and writing – There are incredible demands on our time today, and great temptations to use one’s free time in superficial and shallow communications. If you read, even periodicals, you will think. And if you write, whether thought pieces to friends and relatives or merely in your own journal for your own eyes, you will reflect and contemplate. Try to be serious in your selection of reading and writing subject matter. Give yourself credit for owning a first-class mind. Someday you’ll be glad you did.
Build your retirement fund early and continuously – Sorry to sound like your uncle, but this one may be the most important of all! Will there even be Social Security when you finally are ready to retire? Will you have a bucket list of things you are putting off already in terms of travel and comfort? Do you have relatives you want to make sure you can help if and when they need it? Then begin now to invest so the corpus can grow throughout your lifetime. It’s never too late to start!
Keep these five things in mind if you’re early on in your fundraising career, or truly, any career. Do you have any advice you would add?