Stepping into Leadership

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Leadership: Develop Unlimited Talent


What opportunities lay ahead for emerging leaders in the not-for-profit sector?

That depends...

The Ontario Nonprofit Network describes the situation as such: “The nonprofit sector can be a great place to work. It often provides employees with the opportunity to be a part of an inspiring cause. But, for many “early career” employees, those who are post-secondary students, recent graduates, and seeking or working in their first jobs, obtaining meaningful and sustainable employment within the nonprofit sector can actually be quite difficult.”

The reasons for this are complex, but could be seen to stem from a few persistent trends.For those at the early stage of their careers, these trends create a double-edged sword. One the one hand, the shift away from government funding towards project-specific or short-term funding means employment is fractional or contract-based. On the other hand, it also allows young professionals the opportunity to gain valuable experiences, skills and contacts from a variety of organizations.

Opportunities to learn new skills and grow in your career may feel hard to come by if you’re at a small organization with limited professional development dollars. So let’s bust that myth. Research from the Centre for Creative Leadership suggests a 70/20/10 rule applies to leadership development: only 10% of learning comes from formalized training, 20% from coaching and mentoring, and 70% from on-the-job opportunities.

The great news is that the amount of free or low-cost, on-the-job learning and development opportunities are abundant; the Bridgespan Group suggests 52 free on-the-job ways to hone your skills, such as organizing or presenting at all-staff meetings, shadowing a senior executive, or drafting sections of the annual report. The HR Council of Canada echoes this, with their own list of free or low-cost professional development techniques, including peer assisted learning, job rotation and special assignments.

We asked the Vantage Point team about some of our tried-and-true professional development activities for $100 or less and here’s what they said:

What other strategies have you tried? Leave your ideas in the comments below.

About the Author

What excites Carol the most about her role as Director of Learning is the opportunity (her favourite word) for sector transformation and the ability to practice an appreciative approach—a mindset that directs energy and effort into all levels of the organization. Carol is a self-described Prairie...

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