How to still be involved after your 9-5

The days where having an undergrad degree was enough, are long gone.

Everyone is so busy in their workplace with various different projects that we tend to forget what else is out there for our careers beyond our current jobs.
To become a successful young professional, you need to always be upgrading and adding more credentials to your profile to help yourself stand out. I will be sharing the three most important aspects of being a successful young professional from my own experience – how to get involved, how to put yourself out there, and the benefits of having a mentor.

Quite a few organizations now have opportunities for young professionals to sit on committees and help build networks. This is a great way to increase your skills in a specific role that you may not have been in before. I, myself, sit on a Young Leaders Council (YLC) with United Way of Peel and it helps me to see what other organizations are working on and how they are making a difference in their communities. As well, I use some skill sets that I may not always be able to use at my 9-5 workplace, like being the lead in executing an event from beginning to end. Although the events are smaller in scale than what we do at my workplace, being apart of YLC does help to strengthen my existing skills and knowledge in fundraising events.

Look into different networking opportunities that are out there and practise what you would say about yourself. When I attend networking events, I always start conversations with those who I feel comfortable with in order to practice my choice of words and dialogue. Then I try to push out of my comfort zone; I start approaching executives and Directors to create conversations and learn about the different opportunities in my industry. And remember, everyone in the room is there for the same purpose – to get to know one another.

Putting yourself out there, creates visibility and helps you develop a connection with new people. One of the ways you could achieve this is through social media. Follow people in your field on Twitter and read what they have to say, along with the articles they post. Use this as an opportunity to “tweet” back about what you found inspirational about the article. Also, become an active “tweeter” and talk about your experiences in your workplace from a positive light. Twitter can also be a great place to find out about opportunities in your field. Through Twitter, I have come across great conferences to attend and learn about others who will also be attending. I use that as an opening to “tweet” while attending the conferences and to connect with new people. I have also discovered bursary opportunities and fellowships through Twitter. Twitter is definitely a great place to get connected!

Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date as often as possible to keep yourself visible and recognized for your achievements thus far. If you’ll be attending an event, make it visible on LinkedIn – You never know who you will connect with. I always post various events that I will be attending or hosting, and so that I can get connected to people in the fundraising world.

Lastly, find a mentor! I cannot emphasize enough the great impact a passionate and engaged mentor can have on your career life. The great value of a mentor comes from someone who has walked your career path and can be of guidance for you.

How do you find a mentor? Look at about 3 – 5 organizations that you would want to work for. Then look at their staff roles and find what best suits where you may want to be a few years down the road. You want to make sure that the roles you select are realistic and achievable. Then, use your research skills and find their contact information and reach out to them. I know it may be easier said than done. But what’s the worst that can happen if they say no? Well then, you move on to the next person on your list until you find the right mentor for you. It is a commitment from two people in a mutually benefiting relationship that can move you forward both professionally and personally. You could also reach out to your local AFP chapter, as many of them have official mentoring programs.

Once you have a mentor, make the most out of the time you have together. Implement the suggestions that are given to you by your mentor. Your mentor wants to see you grow and succeed in your career, which is why they are there to help you. Lastly, keep an ongoing relationship with your mentor. If you come across an article that you think he/she would be interested in, send it to them or something that you think may be of interest to them.

To be a successful young professional in your career, you need to get out of your comfort zone. Think of it as looking for a new donor. You will go above and beyond to make your donor happy and receive a successful gift for your organization in return. In this case, the gift is to make you a successful young professional.