YNPN Phoenix

From comic books to collective impact: The importance of ongoing professional development

postedby Aaron Stiner,
Host Chair
YNPN Leaders Conference

I have been fortunate to practice a professional craft in many careers, ever since junior high school when my first job was selling comic books and trading cards. After I graduated from college, I served as a sales rep for a veterinary pharmaceutical company, before transitioning into a 10-year career in the nonprofit sector. My most recent career is as a full-time stay-at-home dad (or chief life-quality officer, as my wife likes to say!).

While my list of professions is quite varied, in each one I have made it a point to seek out and participate in professional development and networking to help improve my practice. Early in my career it was pretty informal. Working in the comic book store, I would make sure to talk to the sales reps who sold us products, along with visiting trade shows where I would talk to as many vendors and other shop workers as I could. Working in pharmaceutical sales, I was fortunate to receive extensive in-company training, yet I continued to seek out external workshops, along with networking with both in-company and out-of-company peers. And, while at Valley of the Sun United Way, where I also received excellent in-house training, I was able to successfully self-advocate to attend two different national conferences and several local conferences.

Oops! Now What?

posted by
Shawn Rudnick,
Board Member,
YNPN Phoenix

Very recently I made a bit of a mistake and by bit I mean that I made a speaking gaffe in front of a crowd of 100 plus people while representing an organization at arguably their biggest event to date. Luckily it hasn’t appeared to do any real damage, but still is something I need to learn from. This is an event that most young and even experienced professionals have to deal with at some point. So here is what I have picked up from my all too regular experience in this area.

I find that the first step in overcoming a mistake is to own it. My first reaction and the wrong one, was to down play it. While this is natural, it does you no good and makes you appear more unprofessional then the original event. So don’t make excuse or point fingers compounding the mistake. Even if others contributed to the mistake you can’t control their behaviors, you can only affect your own. Most professionals will be willing to give you a second chance, but not if you can’t admit it.

My second reaction, being overly critical of myself was just as useless. Luckily, I have learned to go through this phase quickly learning to funnel that energy into something useful, but in years past I often got stuck. Guilt can be a good wake up call, but it also can prevent you from making amends and lead to further mistakes due to a lack of focus. A couple realizations have helped me to move on from this reaction. First, mistakes happen and very few are so bad you can’t recover. I still don’t like mistakes but I have come to accept them. Also, like the mistake itself, you have control over what happens next. Finally remind yourself of what you have done well. My speaking error, while not insignificant, doesn’t define me. I did a lot of impressive work before and during that event and can continue to do so in the future.

So, you’re thinking about serving on a board. Now what?

posted by
Shawn Rudnick,
Board Member
YNPN Phoenix

Serving on nonprofit boards has been some of the most rewarding and frustrating work I have ever done. It gives you a chance to have significant impact on the direction of an agency and issue you are passionate about. I have experienced the amazing work they can do when they at their best, as well as felt the disillusion when they don’t. While I’m no Yoda in the wisdom column, I hope I have picked up a couple tips that could be useful for those looking to serve or already working on a board.

We will start with a bit of a shocker. It’s a job (no really, it is), and like any job it deserves the proper time and energy required to do it right. The agency you are assisting is no less deserving of your best than your employer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you go Office Space on your employer. Living off Jack’s “Value Menu” isn’t desirable, but your board work shouldn’t be kicked aside out of convenience either. So, make sure you understand the time commitment (about 16 hours a month) and alert your employer of the new commitment.  Employers can be supportive of this work when they realize the benefits in terms of skills and increased moral that can come with service.

Fear not, nonprofit professionals!

posted by Aaron Stiner,
Senior Program Manager,
Paths of HOPE, Catholic Charities

I am at one of the most intense, rewarding, and sometimes frightening times in my nonprofit career. And I don't think I'm alone.

As Senior Program Manager of Paths of HOPE at Catholic Charities, I am preparing to lead my team and a group of cross-functional, internal stakeholders, along with our CEO and Senior Management, through a two-day program planning session. With our CEO's support, this is my team's best opportunity to gain commitment from stakeholders on resourcing and supporting our program's priorities.

I'm a new leader, managing a young program with high expectations. It's fantastic work – very intense and rewarding. But it can be scary at times – looking at a mountain of work, thinking there has to be a better way to manage – because if we don't, we can't improve lives. No pressure there, ha!

As Board President of YNPN Phoenix, I often hear from other emerging nonprofit leaders – including our board – a shared desire to perform with high standards in the face of huge workloads, while at the same time wanting life/work balance. We love our commitments, but it can sometimes be a challenge to hold it all together!

But fear not, nonprofit professionals! There are ways to work through even the toughest times that don't always need to include escaping to an undisclosed tropical location and leaving your smart phone at home with your cat.

Facing a challenging situation at work? Access resources! The ASU Lodestar Center, the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, YNPN Phoenix, my fellow MNpS graduates, my coworkers, boss, friends, and professional mentors are all resources I access to get me unstuck on my quest to improve the common good.