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A 'Flip' Chat With...Trista Harris, Executive Director, Headwaters Foundation for Justice

February 24, 2011

(This is the fourteenth in our series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our previous chat, with Demos co-founder David Callahan.)

How will you rock your nonprofit career in 2011? Are you having trouble coming up with ideas? You're in luck. Headwaters Foundation for Justice executive director Trista Harris has more than a few and graciously shared them during a special event in New York City last week.

Hosted by the local chapter of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP), in partnership with Resource Generation and the NYU Fundraising Students Association, the event and tips were based on How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar: 50 Ways to Accelerate Your Career, a new book co-authored by Harris and fellow nonprofit rockstar Rosetta Thurman.

Before the event, I had a chance to sit down with Harris to discuss the book and some of the issues facing young nonprofit professionals.

(If you're reading this in an e-mail, click here.) 

(Running time: 4 minutes, 4 seconds)

According to Harris, you can advance your nonprofit career by following these six steps:

  1. Develop expertise. Learn everything about your current position by talking to people who have your job and by staying informed with what's happening in the field. 
  2. Build a strong network by attending conferences, joining member organizations like the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) or EPIP, and doing informational interviews with leaders in the field.
  3. Establish a great personal brand by influencing what people say about you when you're not around. According to Harris, the best way to do this is to change the way you talk about yourself to others.
  4. Practice authentic leadership. Mimic other leaders that you admire. In the book, Harris admits to having an imaginary mentorship relationship with Claire Huxtable, fictional mother on The Cosby Show. What a great idea! As Harris and Thurman explain in the book, "[Mrs. Huxtable] is a great example of how to balance a successful career with a thriving and happy home life."
  5. Plan for balance. Instead of focusing on creating the perfect work/life balance every day, Harris recommends planning out how to strike the right balance over a lifetime.
  6. Move on up. Even if you love what you're doing now, think about what you hope to be doing in ten years. Because opportunities often are found in unlikely places, Harris also suggested sharing with others what your goals are as soon you know what they are.

For more tips on accelerating your nonprofit career, check out this post from Rosetta Thurman.

-- Regina Mahone

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