I have to admit that this week I didn’t have the ease of inspiration that I usually do for writing my biweekly Friday posts. Lately I’ve been so busy and have been lucky enough to have some incredible guest bloggers come in with their ideas, so when faced with coming up with one of my own… I uncharacteristically faltered. However, I was saved by the fact that every once in a while I save a draft of a blog post on something while it’s fresh on my mind and figure that I’ll post it sometime in the future. That’s why today I’m writing about an event I participated in back in November 2012 at my alma mater, Wilfrid Laurier University: Career Connections.
Career Connections was a combination of a career fair and a networking event: current university students had the opportunity to visit “exhibit tables” hosted by alumni where they could learn about a specific career they were interested in, or network with alumni in diverse occupations to inspire their own career paths. Students were encouraged to ask questions about the alumnus’ current career, industry, and the path they took to get where they are today. We – the alumni – were invited to share advice we have for students interested in pursuing a career in our field. We were also encouraged to bring information about our organization and any other information that might be helpful for students thinking about a career in our industry.
Firstly, I was delighted to be asked to participate. Being that I work in alumni relations, and organize events somewhat like this one, it’s always fun to be on the other side of the event. Secondly, I was so grateful that – especially at a business-focused school like Laurier – the organizers were making an effort to include careers like fundraising, something that isn’t likely to spring into a 4th year student’s head when they’re thinking of what they’ll do after they graduate. Thirdly, I was excited to have the chance to share the joys of my field with soon-to-be university graduates!!!
When I go to events like this, or networking events in general, my mission is simple: truly connect with a few people. I’m not a mingle and small talk kind of girl; I would much rather invest in deep and meaningful conversation with 2-3 people than leave with 15 business cards of faces I can’t recall. So at Career Connections, I didn’t pressure myself to have a line-up at my table, just a few students who I could have some good conversations with. Thankfully, that’s what I’ve got.
I had three students come to my table and really stop to learn about what it is I do. When asked by a student what I love most about my job, I said that every day is different; one day I could be out in Halifax hosting an alumni event, the next day I could be quietly working on a young alumni solicitation letter, and the next I could be calling a major gift prospect.
One student said that he was interested in education, but not in being a teacher. I said educational fundraising is an amazing way to be involved in education if it’s something you’re passionate about; you might not be on the front lines teaching kids, but you’re actively working to raise funds so that the teachers can do what they do with the best resources available.
On the same vein as every day being different, I spoke to another student about how fundraising engages so many different “muscles” in you; there’s lots of opportunities to build and enhance interpersonal skills, many times I find myself using the critical thinking skills I learned in university to analyze fundraising communications materials, and when it comes to making the ask, it’s a great challenge every time! You have to think hard to align the needs of the institution/organization with the passions and interests of the prospect. It’s tough work, but rewarding, and fun!!!
Career Connections was a great experience, and I hope to have more opportunities in the future to share with others the joys of the field I love: fundraising.
Written by Maeve Strathy
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.