Millennials have it tough in the job market today. No question about it, it is a buyer’s market. Employers can’t afford costly labor, so Millennials – fresh out of college or professional school – look all the more attractive. Because they are less expensive to hire, they are quickly given positions requiring competencies they may not have, with responsibilities that in another time might have spanned two or even three full time positions.
Even harder: working in a nonprofit. Starved for resources and with an infinite amount of work to be done, it’s impossible to do it all, and do it well, and still find the time to eat, sleep, live. If this sounds like you – someone with an infinite number of tasks on their list, in over their heads getting a crash course in the career world, serving as your organization’s catch-all without gaining leadership experience – listen up.
For years, Taproot Foundation has been working on becoming a Service Enterprise. We are advocates for and facilitators of pro bono service, in all its various forms, as a strategy for enhancing nonprofits’ capacity to achieve their missions, and we are increasingly walking that walk. We have our pro bono consultants working on our website, marketing strategies, social media presence, and more. This is what it means to be a nonprofit Service Enterprise; an organization that fundamentally leverages volunteers and their skills to successfully deliver on their mission.
So, what’s the point? For Millennials, perpetually exploited in the workplace yet demanding of leadership opportunities, this is a golden opportunity. Consider “outsourcing” some of the deeper dives on your task list to professionals – people who do that type of work every day. Build out some plans for the projects on your plate, and seek out help to get them done.
Here’s an example. Taproot has been working extensively on revamping our marketing strategy. We’ve been told that we are a bit heavy on the process side of things, and that we tend toward complex, heady descriptions of what we do – not the best way to evangelize the pro bono movement. We found that we had oodles of amazing content on our website, information that we could use to write a series of introductory-level blogs that we could disseminate widely on the web, educating brand new audiences about why pro bono matters. We identified 50 ideas for blog posts – but who was going to write them? As you may imagine, this is the point in the story where I start shaking in my proverbial boots. I don’t have time to write 50 blogs!!
The answer? BlogAthon. We recruited marketing professionals, copyeditors, and nonprofit professionals that we’ve worked with, along with Roots to sit down for a day and collaborate on strategy, while hammering out blog after blog. The result? 40 hours’-worth of work done in one day, and an arsenal with which to market our programs on a new level.
What else? For me, project management experience. Managing and providing feedback to senior professionals. Getting support for my work at a competency level beyond what I or my organization could provide. And this was only one day. We are fond of the marathon model here at Taproot, but it is by no means the only one. I, like most of you, have a laundry list of projects that need doing.
With a little planning, I not only impress my bosses with timely deliverables, but I gain the leadership experience I crave by managing industry experts in complex projects. Not every project can be done pro bono, but it’s worth looking into. The Service Enterprise model just may be the launching pad for your career that you’ve been waiting for. Start by just reaching out to someone that you know, or who has been involved with your organization, and see if they’d be willing to volunteer their time and talent, and see where it takes you.
Emmett Mehan is a Featured Blogger for Mobilize.org’s The Millennial Report. He currently serves as Special Assistant to the President at Taproot Foundation and he is an MPA candidate at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He will be writing monthly blog posts on pro bono, the nonprofit sector, and what it means to be a professional in the new millennium. He will share new things that he’s learned each month and invites readers to do the same. While cool kids leave comments, he also welcomes email messages at Emmett@taprootfoundation.org.