Many of us make New Year’s resolutions in our personal life, but what about our professional life? Doesn’t it deserve some resolve and fresh perspective? Today’s article by my colleague Mandi Matz helps us all kick off the new year – and the new decade – with some great ideas to inspire us. ~Helen
Happy 2020 to one and all!
I’ve always loved the new year. I find it a good time to reflect about the year – and in this case, the decade – ahead. Just for fun, I did a quick Google search to find the most popular new year’s resolutions. According to Time.com, among the top 10 resolutions are:
- Lose weight and get fit
- Learn something new
- Spend more time with family
These are all great resolutions for our personal lives, but I began to wonder if we could apply them to our professional lives. Here are a few ideas, some of which may help you or inspire you to develop professional new year’s resolutions of your own.
Lose Weight and Get Fit
Before I joined HBG, I worked at a college. One of the many nice things about working at an academic institution is the long winter break, which could sometimes be almost two weeks. I always found that after the frantic pace of year-end fundraising, the break was a great time to exhale, and I would come back to work in the new year with renewed energy.
But in order to get into the right mindset as I went into the break, I had to get my space “fit.” In other words, I always spent the last day before the break cleaning my desk – sorting though the piles on top of it, cleaning out my files and then filing or pitching anything remaining. I did some electronic fitness too – clearing the cache and organizing the desktop of my computer, updating my passwords and labeling, filing and answering my email. Once this was done, I would start planning the weeks and months ahead by putting assignments, deadlines and tasks in my calendar.
I know this sounds simple and obvious, but I always found that after shedding the excess weight of some clutter and putting everything in order, I felt lighter and psychologically ready for the new year. Now that I work from home, I’ve found that keeping my physical space “fit” is even more important. Is there a way you can get your physical space in shape for the new year?
Learn Something New
One of the things that I love about being a prospect researcher it is that almost on daily basis I learn something new. In that spirit, I’d like to share three favorite resources that, if they aren’t on your radar already, may help you.
- Databases available through your public library: Given that I’m a former librarian, I always encourage new researchers to get a card from their local public library if they don’t already have one. For the cost of the card – free! – a world of resources is available, which can be invaluable if you work for an organization that doesn’t have the budget for subscription resources (as I once did). Most libraries subscribe to some version of Lexis, as well as at least one national newspaper that can provide basic biographical information. I particularly like the newspapers for obituaries and wedding announcements, which can be great sources of family relationships and wealth information.
- Investopedia: When I stated in prospect research more than a decade ago, figuring out a prospect’s stock holdings really intimidated me. Investopedia was the lifeline that helped me figure out the different SEC forms and how to understand what I was reading in them. I still use it often. It’s a highly searchable and user-friendly source of information about all things finance. I also appreciate this site’s transparency regarding its writers and its editorial, ethics and advertising policies.
- The acknowledgements of books: In my spare time, I’m a big reader, especially of nonfiction and memoirs. It’s a cliché, but I do read books from cover to cover. Over my years as a researcher, I’ve found that you can find information about a prospect almost anywhere, sometimes where you least expect it. I once read the memoir of an Oscar-winning actress whose performances I like. I didn’t give it a second thought until I got to the acknowledgements. In them, the actress revealed that her child was treated at the hospital where I worked at the time, and she and her husband (who wasn’t an actor and had a different last name) were very grateful to a certain doctor. A look in our database revealed that our organization hadn’t made the connection between the patient and her famous mother. She and her husband were unassigned and had made minimal gifts to the hospital. Using what I found from this unexpected source, I made sure this couple was assigned to a gift officer and from there, a more appropriate solicitation strategy was developed for them.
Spend More Time with Family
Most of us probably spent a lot of time with our families during the holiday season just passed. This got me thinking: Is there a way for us as professionals to spend more time with our work “family”?
Here’s one idea – and I must give credit for it where credit is most certainly due. I started my prospect research career working for a large cancer hospital in Southern California. The development office was in downtown Los Angeles, while the medical center was in a city about 20 miles away. While I loved my job, I didn’t feel a part of the hospital or its mission. Even among my development colleagues, it was hard to feel connected — we were 200+ employees spread over two floors. But I was lucky to work for James Rygg, a wonderful boss who had a surprisingly simple and effective way of bringing us together: he started a “lunch club.”
Every month, James invited five or six people from different departments within the development office to have lunch. The idea was to bring together people who may not interact much during the normal course of our work. I’m sure there was a method to James’ madness of putting the lunch guests together, but I never quite knew what it was. I must admit though, it worked. The times I was invited to lunch club, I ate with people I knew only by name or had seen in passing in the elevator or parking garage.
I always looked forward to lunch club. First, it was a kick to receive the email that I was next up in the rotation and finding out who my “mystery” dining companions were. Second, I would inevitably leave lunch thinking: “Wow! I wish I had talked with that person much sooner.” As busy development professionals, I think we can sometimes get so caught up in our work we forget that we have colleagues who can enrich our lives both professionally and personally and that it is important to stay connected to them in a meaningful, face-to-face way.
If you work in an office that is large enough, can you to start a lunch club? If you work at home, as I do now, can you make a conscious effort to remain connected to colleagues by getting together a little more often?
I hope this post gives you some useful ideas and questions to ponder to help make your professional year ahead fulfilling and successful.