Thursday, August 5, 2010
How'd You Get That Job? The Story of a Thirtysomething Executive Director
Laura Zabel's guest post for Rosetta Thurman's blog. Four great tips on how to get your foot in the door and then take a seat... at the head of the table. Previously Laura appeared on Rosetta's radio show for a special episode, A Day in the Life of a Young Nonprofit Executive Director.
When I present at conferences or meet with people who are interested in nonprofit careers, there is always at least someone who asks me, “So, how’d you get that job?” When I first started 5 years ago, this question stung a bit (in the same category as “Wow, you’re younger than I expected.”) But now, as I’ve proved to myself that I can do this job, I see that people are just genuinely curious about my career path and how, after holding positions as an executive assistant and then a development manager at mid-size organizations, I came to be the executive director of a 20 year old organization at 30. So, I’ve tried to pull some useful tips from my experience for other emerging leaders hoping to make the transition to an executive director role:
1. Apply for it. That’s my flip answer, but it’s also true. I think sometimes, emerging leaders spend a lot of time pointing out how few younger executive directors there are in the field and assuming that no one would hire them for those positions without actually going for it and throwing their hat in the ring. I remember very clearly reading the job description for my position to my husband and telling him, “That’s like my dream job in 10 years.” and he said, “Well, then maybe you should apply for it.” Oh, right. It’s very hard to get a job you didn’t apply for.
2. Passion for the mission. It wasn’t (and still isn’t) my dream to be an executive director, it was my dream to change my community and to help and advocate for artists. I know that I probably wouldn’t have had an interview for an ED position at a different organization, but a real, authentic passion for the mission is hard to ignore. I was a constituent of the organization and invested in the community that the organization serves. When I hire new staff now, this is my number one criteria.
3. Figure out how to add up all your experiences to equal something more than the parts. In my previous jobs I’d taken on a lot of new projects and tasks that weren’t originally part of my job (who doesn’t do this at small orgs, right?) and I was able to show the hiring committee that having all those experiences made me familiar with a lot of different facets of running an organization. I served on the board of a tiny organization. I’d also started and run one major side project that showed that I could, in fact, be in charge of things like budgets and people (even if they were all volunteers!)
4. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, to find organizations that might be willing to take a risk on you, you’re going to have to take a risk on them. The fact is, the job I have now, wasn’t the job I applied for 5 years ago. There were some pretty big issues facing the organization – financially, strategically, and brand-wise. It was a job that people with a lot more experience than me probably didn’t want or couldn’t afford to take. But the organization also had a strong history, and a really engaged staff and board, who were committed to the mission and willing to do the work to set a new vision. They took a big risk on me and they were also willing to continue to support and mentor me, which made me feel comfortable taking a risk on them.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Fringe Festival and National Poetry Slam!
The Minnesota Fringe Festival is fast approaching! Did you know that the MN Fringe is the "largest nonjuried, uncensored Fringe in the United States"? We're big fans of the nonjuried here at Springboard.
As usual, this year a whole passel of our fiscal sponsorship & incubator program clients have shows in the Fringe (click through to see more information about these great shows):
The Princeton Seventh
Dead Composers Society
Trouble in Tahiti
Harmony Theatre Company and School
The Little Prince
Inside the Kaleidoscope
Alan Berks and Company
Mad Munchkin Productions
Eat My Zombie Shorts!
CSI: Ben McGinley
Black Dirt Theater
Paul Bunyan: An Unlikely Beginning to a Tall Tale
Rogue's Gallery Arts
Couch Aliens vs. the False World
Plus, our own Laura Zabel will be making guest appearances, along with other Twin Cities comedy luminaries, in Match Game Minnesota!
AND, if all that wasn't enough, the National Poetry Slam (another fiscal sponsor/incubator program client) starts tomorrow in St. Paul. We are proud to be a sponsor of NPS 2010 and excited that this big event is coming to St. Paul!