Laura Champion, Donor Relations Coordinator – Direct Response
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada
At almost 30 I still want to change the world. I want to make a difference in people’s lives and I still truly believe that I will do that in my chosen career as a fundraising professional. Some would call me naïve and others would call me ambitious. Recently, I have had two conversations with fundraising colleagues who had completely different vantage points on the topic of ambition.
Colleague One was saying that career ambition is something she feels she should have but does not. While this makes her feel guilty, she has reached the point of wanting the regularity of the 9 to 5 knowing that her non-work life would fulfill her. At the same time, she feels guilty because so many others in our peer group are working toward something different. She also feels a little judged because she found happiness at a level in her career that was/is not enough for others.
In contrast, Colleague Two has been chomping at the bit for nearly two years as a fundraiser, making connections and speaking with people on how to innovate their organization. He hustled in the best sense of the word and has not seen the results that he wanted. He says, he has become so frustrated by the sector not embracing his level of ambition he has considered leaving fundraising all together. He is motivated by his desire to support a family but blind ambition has impaired both that goal and his career. His blind ambition is not only impairing his career goals but because he cannot find a job is hindering his ability to reach personal goals, like supporting a family.
I find myself somewhere in the middle of One and Two. There are weeks where I network with industry colleagues almost every day, reading up to 20 fundraising blogs, and checking out job postings to make sure my skills are remaining competitive. Then there are weeks where I just want to go home and catch up with my old friend Netflix. The difficulty of being a young educated professional is that we are bursting with ideas but are not in a position to implement. Some of us are lucky to have supervisors who let us channel this creativity in our roles but I know this is not the case for most.
So what is one to do about all this? How do you channel your ambition is without any of the side effects my colleagues are experiencing? So far this is what I have found works for me:
1) Know thyself. What is your ambition driving you toward? To make a certain salary level, to reach a certain title, to be valuable enough to make your own schedule and hours, to be out of the office in time to take the kids to soccer, or all of the above? Know what it is you want and then be judicious about how you get there. Saying yes to anything is a good way to open doors but if you are not careful it is also a good way to lose focus.
2) Eyes on your own paper. Ambition can be fueled by jealousy and internal expectation. Do your best not to worry what others and focus on what YOU can be doing to get where you want to go. It is an important reminder of what we all learned at a young age – it does not matter where anyone else on the test, or in this case their career, you will not succeed unless you focus on what you need to do.
3) This is a marathon. As a young professional, you have at least another 35 years ahead of you in your career. You cannot do it all at once. It can be frustrating in the day to day when ambition or lack thereof is nagging at you but know that whatever you are working toward will all come with time.
As I approach my 30s, I realize that ambition is going to continue to be an important piece of my career puzzle. So fellow fundraisers – how did you figure it out in the early days of your career? Did you find that driving ambition was helpful or tempered level of ambition was just fine?
Let’s talk about it. @charitablelaura
Laura Champion is Donor Relations Coordinator at Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. She has a thirst for fundraising knowledge and is always open to discussion. You can find her on twitter @charitablelaura.