Defining Who We Are and What We Do

June 3, 2010 at 7:29 am | Posted in Career Moves, Life and Living | 5 Comments
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When you’re in grade school, what you look like and who you hang out with defines who you are.  Kids have a tendency to see things in very simple terms.  When you get to college, this gets a bit deeper – where you’re from, what’s your major, and what sports team are you a fan of (ok, so maybe that last one only pertains to certain fanatical states, but you get the idea).

In the real world, at least in America and other capitalist societies, you are very often defined by what you do for a living.  This goes back to our earliest ancestors whose last names were Blacksmith and Baker.

I work in the non-profit industry for a living.  I am a communications professional, and ironically enough, when I try to explain what this means to somebody who is unfamiliar with communications work, they have a hard time grasping it.  Why can’t us communications professionals define what we do to an unfamiliar audience?  We pride ourselves on reaching target audiences, the moveable middle, being wordsmiths that know how to talk about our company and our cause.  But for some reason, trying to explain what we do, day in and day out is an ongoing struggle.

For me, it is true that what I do for a living defines me — in some ways, at least.  I got into this field because I love to write. I love being creative.  I can’t draw, I can’t paint, I can’t sing, but I can write.  So that is my craft.  I am a literary artist who chooses to use my talent for the greater good.

Of course, what you do changes over time, and as you learn new skills you tweak your self-definition.  Writer with technical skills, who can do some design, some web, some PR, some this, some that. And over time what defines me will change.  One day, I’ll be an aunt, a wife, a mother, a grandmother.

Today, I am a communications professional.  I am also a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a friend, a woman, an advocate, a dog lover, a chocolate fanatic, a traveler, a blogger, and a human being.

This One’s For the Children

May 11, 2010 at 9:46 am | Posted in Career Moves | 3 Comments
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Doing what you love for a living is incredibly important.  But we all have our days where the 5 o’clock whistle can’t come soon enough.  We think about our job perks, look up vacation deals, visit, whatever it is that helps us make it through the day.

I have another thing that helps me make it through the really tough days.  I have been lucky enough to work in non-profit for 99% of my career (there was a short internship with a global financial firm – don’t ask).  I know what you are thinking. Lucky? Doesn’t non-profit mean no money?  Yes, that is basically what it means at first, but like any other industry, the pay increases as you climb the ladder.  What it really means is that everything I do serves a greater purpose, actually helps somebody, and makes a difference in the world.

I have worked on countless issues in my short career– none were really overly divisive.  Who doesn’t want a better foster care system, better education, better health care, affordable access to arts and cultural activities?

My work has helped children, minorities, the elderly, the ill, and more.  Mostly in indirect ways where I will work to promote the great work others are doing.  But there are stories, like the one I’m about to tell, that had a real impact on a real person.

I had an elderly client who had founded a program that mainstreamed children with kidney disease into the general popular at this camp upstate.  My charge was to promote this camp and its unique treatment of children with this serious illness.  The children received their dialysis treatment but were also able to be involved in most camp activities.  I saw first hand how this woman’s vision positively affected many children.

I was able to get this woman interviewed on a couple radio shows and draw some nice attention to this program.  I remember speaking with her one day before an interview.  She sounded as frail as any average 90 year old woman could sound.  That kind of aging is hard to comprehend.  The things this woman has survived are incredible.  It is so easy to ignore that when you hear a weak woman on the other line.

About a year after the project I received an email from my contact at the camp.  She informed me that this woman had passed on.  She said the work my team and I had done was so incredibly important and meant so much to her and to the cause.  I helped to give this woman a voice.  It is stories like this one that remind that what I do everyday really makes a difference.

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