Happy New Year! Learning is a life-long pursuit, even when you don’t get a report card with letter grades. When you join the professional world, you can distinguish yourself by continuing your education. Always seek knowledge in your chosen field and keep up with the best practices. In the legal field, this is required. But for most of us, it is not required and thus a way to distinguish yourself.
Here are some practical ways to continue learning that apply to nonprofit managers, but you can use the principles in any chosen profession:
1. Know A Lot About A Little. Become an expert in your chosen field through experience that is supplemented by outside infleunces. See below for examples of books, conferences, mentors, email lists, blogs, and other resources that will help you become an expert in one area. If you focus on free market organization fundraising as I do, make sure you receive Ben Case’s daily advice email and Kevin Gentry’s weekly email.
2. Know A Little About A Lot. Learn something about a broad range of topics so you can converse with a wide range of people and hold your own. Watch “Jeopardy” so you learn facts about certain areas and study categories where you don’t know much. Read newspapers regularly so you know about international affairs and a wide range of domestic topics.
3. Attend Events. There are events and conferences in almost every field you should attend. Most professions have a “trade conference” where the industry leaders get together to discuss best practices and browse an exhibit hall full of relevant vendors. Also attend local events at think tanks or lectures on campuses to hear from experts in your subject and others with interesting arguments. For the free market nonprofit community, the best meetings include the SPN Annual Meeting, CPAC, Heritage Resource Bank, Atlas Liberty Forum and Dinner, International Students for Liberty Conference, Defending the Dream Summit, and FreedomFest. Attend AFF’s professional development programming or check out the Leadership Institute‘s various training programs.
5. Take Advantage of Resources Read blogs, listen to audio books, listen to podcasts, get on email lists, and use all the resources that are available. In this area, I recommend EconTalk, Cato Podcasts, Heritage Morning Bell Email, Daily Examiner, and Erick Erickson’s Morning Briefing. There are many others you can select for your specific profession and interests.
6. Read Business Literature. You may not work in a for-profit business, but many of the ideas can be applied to your work. I think Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is an excellent book that will help you improve at working with others. I also like Little Bets by Peter Sims and Forces for Good: The Six Practices of Highly Effective Nonprofits by Crutchfield and Grant, which is a special take on Good to Great by Jim Collins. I like the way Brian Tracy thinks as well.
Start with one thing at a time and you will distinguish yourself over time. It is surprising how few employees take advantage of the resources that exist. Will you?
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation.
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