Get ready… this is an entry where I tell you that I’m good at what I do professionally but hope you don’t think I’m pompous simply because I go on about how I know what I’m doing because I have experience doing it. (You won’t actually think I’m pompous. I just worry about crap like that.)
Now, I don’t know if this is unique to work on behalf of nonprofits, but I feel like as I’ve made the transition back to working directly for a nonprofit business, I’m often being told how to do my job.
Also, I should note that I’m totally open to new ideas, being proven wrong (proven is the operative word – not just people assuming they are right and telling me they are pretty sure they’re right), and learning. So, it’s not just your average, everyday person trying to be helpful that I’m bothered by. It’s people in a room who are super good at what they do but attempt to give you advice on the thing you’re super good at doing.
Like, I don’t hang drywall (hang? install?). So, I can’t ever imagine a scenario where I would say to a drywall expert, “Oh, you’re still thinking about what brand of drywall* you should use? Well, I think you should get a brand that’s really durable.” Or, better yet, “Well, I think you would probably need drywall that’s yellow because yellow is the best, I would think.”
Two things just happened there. Let me explain it through some examples that are familiar to me and my career in development.
First, there’s the “obvious” advice. I don’t know anything about drywall, but I’m not a complete idiot, so I’m pretty sure you’d want durable drywall. BUT I DON’T NEED TO OPEN MY MOUTH TO TELL A DRYWALL EXPERT THAT. HE/SHE ALREADY KNOWS.
At my former job, I’d get advice on the regular that I should sit those baseball players down and tell them all about doing great things in Kansas City. Yes; yes, I should. But, I know that, and I also knew what barriers existed to accomplishing that. AND WHY WOULDN’T YOU THINK THAT I ALREADY THOUGHT OF THAT. I’M THE EXPERT at managing internal talent given that I’m the one running a sports team foundation.
Second, there’s the “ridiculous” advice. I’m pretty sure yellow drywall isn’t a thing. But, yet, I’m compelled to tell the drywall expert something completely off-base revealing that I have no idea about what I’m talking but in an attempt to look like I know something about the matter.
This one really throws me off. I have no idea how to politely say, “You’re 100% wrong about that, and I know that because I’M THE EXPERT on the matter.”
And, can I be really honest? I feel like this happens to me a lot. And, I think it happens because people make assumptions about other people (we all do!), and I fear that assumptions people make about me are bad. For the last six years, the word director or chief has appeared in my title. I used to think that earned me some type of credibility, but I’m pretty sure these days that nobody pays attention to or cares about my title. But, I’m fairly certain that because I look young (yay!), am super short, and don’t just talk to hear myself in meetings (for real, I try not to do it, and if I do, it’s because I’m insecure about something) that people don’t typically take me very seriously or make the assumption that I don’t have a lot of professional experience.
I suspect this because people often just CANNOT BELIEVE that I am 38-years old and a licensed attorney who no longer practices and ran a $3.5 million public foundation and is really quite good at the development work I’m currently doing.
Now, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t temper all of this boastfulness with a disclaimer… I am so open to learning from others. And, I have SO MUCH MORE TO LEARN about my profession. But, you know who I’m not going to ask? The drywall gal.**
*I’m not sure if there are different brands of drywall.
**Not because she isn’t excellent at drywalling. Because installing impeccable drywall isn’t super helpful to me as I grow in my career. Just like my lousy opinion on drywalling (verb?) ain’t worth a dime to her.
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