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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Job Transition Take-Away

I'm changing organization, and I'm excited and sad at the same time. Only having graduated in 2004, it's a significant change for me to change after three years in one place. I had a great time, and lots of challenges to grow with [1].

The biggest take-away for me is that I've found my niche: Nonprofit communications. I believe that if a nonprofit gets its communications, its relationships with constituencies and external environment right, there's hardly anything to stop it from changing the world. This understanding of my niche motivates me to look into further education to deepen it, possible with a marketing degree.

Some other things I've learned:

  • Communication is deeply strategic. To do it well, you need to reconsider what you want to achieve, who it is that can help you deliver this change, and how to engage them to get things done. Raising awareness on obscure objectives and as an afterthought will not work. Strategic communication is hard; the tools are often the easy part.
  • Resources spent working on a project don't matter as much as your own focus does. It's easy to spend endless amounts of time on petty projects and email requests. It's your responsibility to break out of that, set goals and make time for them.
  • Help people improve. You can't change people. But what you can change is your own way of dealing with them. More likely than not they will adjust their behaviour. If you are helpful, listen and take time to explain, you are supporting your colleagues' (and the organization's) learning processes - and that probably improves the outcomes.
  • Take time for the small things. It's never urgent enough to spend time on a better database, working templates or other crucial infrastructure. Yet, they are important, and often don't need that much time. Take half an hour before that meeting starts, the time you're waiting for the information to be sent or just the time when you're too tired to think of anything big and strategic, but don't keep postponing these tasks.
  • Pick up the phone and connect. Email is not a good medium for discussions and questions, and sometimes prone to misunderstandings. A simple phone call takes 2 mins and gives you the information you need immediately. Instant messaging can work wonders as well.
While I'm slowly moving towards my new field - social and environmental standards - I can feel the pressure rising in me: Will I be good enough? Will my work meet the high expectations? Will this be a good fit? How can communications best help to deliver our programme? What ideas will we need to bring together all these requirements? These and other questions will fuel my start. They scare me. But then - isn't a question without an obvious answer the best way to inspire powerful solutions?

[1] The highlights: Setting up the Countdown 2010 initiative, developing the exhibition "Nature - our precious web", and relaunching I've also worked with some amazing people and organizations, and helped to stage some events that moved things forward in conservation.
Photo: PrASanGaM via Flickr

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