Even the boss has to clean up once in a while

publication date: Nov 18, 2013
author/source: Laura Champion & JJ Sandler

Since completing my classes I have done my best to keep in close contact with my classmates about their internship experience, job hunt and new employment. While we have all had our successes and struggles during these times, there are some themes that run through all of the stories. I keep hearing the same idea, in different iterations, crop up again and again – “it’s too administrative” or “it’s too entry-level.”  While being supportive and taking into consideration all of the other aspects of the job in question, I struggled with my own internal monologue and what I was wrestling with personally and professionally.

Educated or not, we work our way up

I realized that I was seeing this through the lens of both a Boomer and of my own generation. More specifically, I was seeing and feeling the frustration that Boomers express about our generation’s inability to accept that we have to work our way up. Many of our mentors and our bosses are highly educated, but rarely is their formal training in fundraising. The vast majority of them entered the nonprofit job market in the most entry-level of positions. They had to work their way up to the top and now expect the same for us, the Millennials. And they expect that we will do it with the same positive attitude and work ethic that they brought to the table.

I thought that this generational misunderstanding was hype without a lot behind it, but I find myself completely torn. While I want to work hard, be busy and succeed at even the smallest task, it is incredibly frustrating to have spent all of that time and money to be trained in a specific skill and then be left stuffing envelopes. We are a generation who is truly stuck – student loans, rent and bills to pay pushing us to take a job, yet a strong resistance to taking a position that requires much less education.

I have learned in my internship the value of knowing the basics of meeting planning, how to use the copier and being savvy with Outlook. Knowing how to do all of the most basic tasks on your own will benefit you as you do rise up the ladder, make you better at what you do and more understanding to those who assist you. However, I’m a late 20s adult who wants nothing more than to have a career and be good at fundraising. I am passionate about the art and the science of fundraising and despite all the voracious reading I do about it, I am not able, yet, to contribute in a meaningful way to any planning or execution.

If not me, then who?

I was in my early 20s when a piece of advice was bestowed upon me that I still carry with me: “Even the boss has to clean up every once in a while”. While this may not be profound, it provides a clear indication of what is required to succeed professionally. When our mentors and predecessors retire and leadership is thrust upon us, remember the administrative tasks you are performing now. You will have more respect for the people completing these tasks because you understand why they need to be done and why you don’t want to do them. They need to get done, however, and doing them instead of delegating them may just help you relate to your staff.

To my fellow Millennials; remember the value of working from the bottom up. A degree will get you in the door but you’ve got to walk before you can run. That will often mean making copies, setting up meetings and managing a calendar of someone whose position you would one day like to fill. Remember you are learning – what an appropriate management style looks like, how the business of fundraising really gets done, and who you will one day want to surround yourself with.

To the upper class – the Boomers; all I ask is that you cut us a few breaks here and there. Recognize talent, grace under pressure and transferable skills so that we can feel confident that the administrative workload will transition over time to managing our own event/project/portfolio.

Laura Champion (@charitablelaura) is a recent graduate of Humber College’s Fundraising and Volunteer Management program. Having completed her internship at Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada, she has just joined West Park Healthcare Centre as Development Specialist on the I CAN campaign. Her goals in life include obtaining her CFRE, becoming a published author and being successful enough on Jeopardy to be brought back for the Tournament of Champions.

JJ Sandler (@j_s_believe) has a bachelor’s degree in international development from the University of Calgary and has completed the Humber College Fundraising and Volunteer Management program. During his internship with Camp Oochigeas, he focused on developing the infrastructure for a major gifts program. He is now Campaign Representative with United Way York Region. JJ is intent on completing his CFRE designation within five years, after which he hopes to earn his CGA credentials. He aspires to one day work for one of the Canadian NHL foundations.

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