By now, you’re well-acquainted with the surprises you might encounter in your first year working for a nonprofit. But how do you survive those challenges? We’ve gathered some advice to equip you for starting a new job.
Build relationships firstWhen starting a new job, you may be excited to hit the ground running. However, it might help to take a step back and see how things work first. Ananda Valenzuela, managing director of the nonprofit Rainier Valley Corps in Seattle, says to take some time to get to know the organization and the people you work with. This will pay off down the line, when you can have a greater effect on the organization. “Create relationships now,” she says, “so that in the future you have allies as opposed to being a solo voice no one agrees with.” How do you do that? Steven Weimer, music professor at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, says to learn about who your co-workers are and what they specialize in. “Have a vested interest in what they are doing and show that you are a hard worker and a strong team player,” he says. “The trust that you build goes a long way.”
Pinch your penniesWhen you’re first starting a new job, you’ll need to practice strict self-management around your finances. You can reduce your expenses in many ways, like moving in with roommates and avoiding expensive purchases. Identify what’s required rather than desired and adjust your habits accordingly. Erin Martin, a registered nurse for Community Hospice of Texas in Fort Worth, suggests looking to online communities for help, inspiration, and support. A group she found on Facebook has really helped, providing her with advice from people who have been through similar situations, sharing their successes and failures. She also suggests using apps to help you manage your money. “You can’t budget until you know where your money is actually going,” she said. “I realized I was making more than I thought, and it was manageable once I actually started accounting for every dollar.
All workplaces have drama, even at a mission-focused organization where everyone is ostensibly supposed to be pulling in the same direction.
Budget your timeWeimer says to set aside as much time as possible during the first year to figure out an appropriate time budget. When starting a new career in higher education, for example, you may not have as much scholarly or creative time as you would like, since teaching and administrative tasks will eat up most of your schedule.
Navigating workplace dynamicsAll workplaces have drama, even at a mission-focused organization where everyone is ostensibly supposed to be pulling in the same direction. Weimer says to take some time when starting a new job to understand the hierarchies within the organization: who has seniority or higher rank and who has lesser precedence. With that knowledge, you can avoid going over anyone’s head or burning bridges. David Erpenbach, a physician’s assistant at University Orthopedic Surgeons in Knoxville, Tennessee, says the best way to navigate these issues and build trust is a straight path. “I try to be nice to everyone equally from janitors to doctors,” he says. “Everyone is human. We’re all just trying to get by and make a living. If I just plan to generally treat everyone with respect, then I don’t have to think to act any different to someone because they are my boss or whatnot.” But sometimes, even if you’re kind and respectful, you’ll run into bullies among your coworkers. Martin says the key is to lean on those you find to be kind and supportive while not engaging the bullies. Don’t vent to these unsupportive coworkers, and don’t use them as a resource unless you have to for the safety of your patients and the development of your own knowledge and skills. Instead, seek out the co-workers who avoid gossip, welcome questions, share their knowledge freely, and support others when they’re overwhelmed.
Making an ImpressionWhile you may not want to set about fixing everything in the organization just yet, it certainly helps to know how to make a good impression at a new job. The best way to stand out to your supervisor, of course, is to do your job as efficiently and effectively as possible. “If they don’t have to worry about you or feel like they need to monitor you, that’s usually good,” Weimer says. “Ask questions if you are not sure of something. Bring your new ideas to them and be ready to develop and implement them yourself.” While you should look for opportunities to do or suggest things that would be mutually beneficial to your colleagues and the department as a whole, Weimer says you should make sure to not take on too much. With this advice, you’re even more ready to take on your first year. You’ll surely be changing the world by your second.