publication date: Jun 26, 2012
author/source: Philippe Gérard
Job candidates often emphasize how long they have been
working in the field as if that alone was a badge of honour. Is experience
counted in years really relevant if it is not diverse and progressive?
Employers are looking for experience, not repetition.
Consider this example: Candidate A claims to have 20 years
of fundraising experience. A closer look at his CV reveals that he has raised
funds fairly consistently. The gift size, however, has always been in the same
range. He has not managed a diverse menu of projects, nor has he managed a
team. Candidate A seems like a solid
fundraiser and adding him to the team would likely bring some value to the
organization. His manager can be reasonably assured that this candidate will
reach his annual goal.
Candidate B has fewer than half the years of experience of
candidate A, but she has built an impressive track record showing an increased
amount of responsibility and project complexity. Furthermore, the gift size has
increased in her relatively short career from five to seven figures. Candidate
B also quickly advanced from an individual gifts coordinator to a manager of
Who would you hire as Director of Development of a small
Track record trumps
As a recruiter I do not get too impressed by the years of
experience a candidate has to offer, and as a career advisor I encourage ambitious
fundraisers to get into a frontline fundraising role as quickly as they can and
start building a track record. Education and years of experience are important
elements, but nothing is more important than your track record. Employers do
not care how much you know in theory if you cannot back it up with hard
What I wanted to show with the above example is that when
managing our career we want to make sure that we do not get too comfortable and
stay in one area of expertise. I know this is easier said than done. On the one
hand, we want to demonstrate our consistency to employers by holding longer
tenures and not leaving an organization or position every other year. On the
other hand, we want to show progress and diversification. How can we achieve
progressive experience while staying in the same organization or even in the
Ask for opportunities!
Harvest Gen Y
A few years ago I met Jason
, alias the "Gen Y Guy," an interesting young man who published his
first book at the age of 18. Jason is considered an expert on Gen Y and has
delivered over 2,000 international keynote speeches
(http://www.jasondorsey.com). One story in his presentation on managing across
generations stuck with me.
A young engineering graduate started her first job as a
receptionist in a firm. She accepted this entry-level position because she
wanted to start working in her field, and she had heard that the firm's CEO believed
everyone should be given opportunities to show their talents. A proposal to an
important client for an even more important job had to be submitted. The
receptionist thought she had an excellent idea and pitched it to the CEO at a
staff meeting. The CEO encouraged her to craft a draft proposal. Not only was
the proposal excellent, the CEO submitted it, the firm got the job - and the
receptionist an account manager position.
Jason explained that one of the characteristics of Gen Y
workers is that they expect to be in positions of high responsibility quickly.
While many roll their eyes when hearing another story about unrealistic Gen Y
career advancement expectations, I think we need to find ways to harvest this
kind of energy, enthusiasm, and drive.
Take the shortage of frontline fundraisers for instance. If
you come across an aspiring fundraiser who is just dying to prove himself and
get out there to make calls and work on philanthropic gifts, why does he have
to wait for years in order to show what he can do?
Seek growth opportunities
Asking for opportunities is a great way to add additional
responsibilities without leaving your current organization. Ask your supervisor
to give you a special project to work on, collaborate with other units, cover a
leave replacement or interim position, or have the opportunity to supervise
(maybe a co-op student or a volunteer).
Collaboration with other units will likely expose you to
areas of responsibility you have not experienced before. Maybe your current
focus is in face-to-face fundraising but you would like to learn more about
developing strategy or stewardship plans. Maybe there is an opportunity to be
involved in a special project where you can work with different units to gain
this additional experience.
In larger charities there may be the opportunity of
secondments to another position or department to gain additional experience and
add a different specialty. At one of my previous positions, the organization
revamped its database system dramatically and struck a special project team for
the development and implementation phase. Representatives of different units
were seconded to serve on this special projects team. What a great opportunity
to gain new skills without giving up the security of your current job!
Other opportunities include parental or other term leave
replacements. In some organizations it is possible for employees to take a
leave to accept another interim position and return to their previous position
at the end of the term.
Young, eager employees who have leadership aspirations can
ask for the opportunity to play an acting manager role in the absence of their
supervisor. In addition to the experience gained the employee can also find out
if a leadership role is really for them.
Consistency is crucial in our business of relationship
building. Finding ways to discover and hone new skills while continuing to
master current responsibilities is a double advantage for our CV. We will
demonstrate longevity in an organization while also showing that we continue to
be energetic, motivated, passionate and driven. It shows that we will not rest
on our laurels but consistently push ourselves to succeed in new endeavours.
Philippe (Phil) Gerard has
been a fundraising professional for 14 years in the community service,
education and university advancement sectors.
His specialty is major gifts fundraising. An MBA with a human resource
management specialization set him on the exciting path of fundraising talent
He is a director of
advancement with Simon Fraser University
and teaches as an adjunct instructor in Georgian
College's Fundraising and Resource Development Program. Phil is also the
President of Gérard Consulting -
Fundraising Talent Management and author of Phil's Careers Blog. His firm
helps fundraisers find a great career and organizations find and retain the
next great colleague. For more information, visit www.philscareers.com or www.gerardconsulting.ca.