In recent years I’ve spent lots of time training non-organizers to think like organizers—people like lawyers, doctors, and public health professionals who find themselves working alongside organizers and want to know how their skills can best compliment a campaign. I get almost as many general career questions as I do organizing questions, so I’m sharing some of my top tips here.
- Write a one-sentence mission statement for yourself so people know quickly how to help you. When someone asks you what you want or how they can help you, don’t launch into one of Fidel Castro’s five-hour-long speeches, say it in a sentence.
- Make emails as brief as you can. When asked how long it took him to prepare a speech, Woodrow Wilson is credited with saying, “It depends. If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.” Brevity is a craft.
- Networking events are not where executives hang out. It’s always good to be in circulation where you can meet people who you can truly help, but if you want to meet the people who hold the purse strings and do the hiring, go to…
- Fundraisers. If you don’t have the $300 ticket price to throw around, do this instead: Dress in your fineries, show up at the event, and offer the 23-year-old at the nametag table $30 to let you in. Let them turn away your money. Some may decline, but others will let you in as if you paid the full suggested donation. Once you’re in, strike up conversations and ask who else would be good for you to meet. Keep your helper ears on because if you show up wanting people to help you they’ll smell it from a mile away. If you show up wanting to help them, you and everyone else will feel more at ease. Consider yourself a connector of people to their next hire, dentist or nanny.
- Do ask busy people to help you with very specific things, like how to be sure you’ve picked the right target for your campaign. Do not ask busy people to show you around their office or to dump their entire brains on you.
- Assume you only get to ask a busy person to do one thing for you, because you may not get more than one bite at the apple.
- Take your contacts with you when you leave a job. Keep them warm through social media, and holiday cards if you’re old skool.
- Try your best to be kind. Always. To everyone.
- Lastly, steal this resume. It belongs to the fastest, most successful job finder I’ve ever met. And this is someone who took years off the work hamster wheel to travel the world and learn languages. Identifying particulars have been changed, but you’ll get the drift. I think it works because it quantifies her work performance and draws out specific skills.
What are you top professional tips? I’d love to hear them.
And if you haven’t already downloaded these free guides, you can get them at the links below. If you can think of other tools that would be helpful, please let me know.
One of the biggest challenges organizations have is the campaign planning process. To help serve them, I’ve created a guide of the 11 essential points that I use with organizations, as well as with my grad students at Johns Hopkins. In it you’ll find the critical elements your campaign must have. Use this as an easy reference guide for staff, volunteers & trainers.
- The 10 steps of power mapping
- The questions to ask and where to find answers
- Easy reference guide for staff, volunteers & trainers
- What coalitions do
- Who to recruit
- How to pick the best coalition name
- Attracting diverse coalition partners10
- Leadership & structure of coalitions