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So You've Got the Job, Now What? Part 3: Maintaining a Competitive Edge

A person wearing glasses.

Welcome to the final part of this three-part series digging into the details of how to keep on growing once you’ve landed and started the job.

So, you’ve become all you can be for your organization. You are now an ambassador, advocate, an agent of (and for) change, and an all around contributor to a mission you are passionate about. You’ve stayed active and have continued to learn new things.

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “What’s next?” and “How can I sustain the momentum?” When you think about maintaining that edge, you have to consider how to stay competitive within your organization and your industry.

Below, you’ll find three activities you can engage in to ensure that you will stay on top of your game.

Move with the change

We all know that change is inevitable. While some change will be difficult, it’s something we all have to do; especially if we want to be in demand.

Most organizations see constant growth and evolution. Whether new technology is being introduced, or there are changes being made in operating procedures, forward movement has always been proven to be beneficial for long term success.

If your organization is implementing a new system, be the first to learn it. It doesn’t matter if it is not relevant to your current role. With these additional skills, you can increase your capacity which will increase your value. My mentor always tells me, “You should know something about everything and everything about something.” I follow this philosophy wherever I go and I’ve never been left behind.

Keep in mind, increasing your value internally will also increase your value in the job market. This is especially true if the skills you’ve learned are transferable. Should you decide to leave your organization and embark on a new adventure, being able to articulate what you’ve done as well as demonstrate your ability to adapt to change will make you a more attractive candidate.

Network, network, network

I cannot stress enough how important networking is. Networking, building relationships, and getting to know people in the organization and the industry will always keep you in the know. This insider information will allow you to be strategic in your approach to advancing your career.

Here are five key networking behaviors you should engage in:

  1. Engage in professional activities. Join a professional group or society or attend a conference. You should be around those who are seeking the same knowledge and growth as you. You may even consider joining the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network.
  2. Participate in communities of practice (CoP). A CoP is a group of individuals who share a common goal or passion. They will usually meet to exchange knowledge and learn collectively. For example, if you work in HR, join the Human Resources Professional Association of Nonprofit Organizations (HRPANO).
  3. Increase your visibility (internally and externally). One way you can increase your internal visibility is by volunteering for stretch assignments. Is there a major project coming up? Can your skills be of use? Volunteer! Externally, you should look for opportunities that will allow you to share your knowledge; volunteering at a conference for the CoP you’ve joined is a great way to do this.
  4. Get to know people. You should socialize both inside and outside of your organization. Don’t just sit at your desk all day. Take a trip to water cooler or staff lunch area. Same goes for when you are at an event. Don’t just stand by the snacks; find a group, introduce yourself, and join the conversation. Get to know people, learn about them, and allow them to get to know you.
  5. Maintain contact with those you meet. This goes beyond just talking to someone at an event and exchanging business cards. Send a follow up communication. It doesn't have to be extensive. You can simply write, “It was great talking with you about (insert topic) at the event. I know of another event related to (insert topic) and thought you might be interested so I am passing along the information.”

Continuously develop

Development goes beyond learning something new. It is growing, evolving, and maturing as an individual and as a professional.

Continuous development requires you to engage in activities that will allow you to expand your thought processes. Explore opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone and force you to see and do things in new ways.

For example, I recently attended a training session to become a Certified Purpose Leader. I was very reluctant when my manager first approached me about this professional development opportunity. I did not immediately see the relevance to my role. However, I decided to have an open mind and attend. Having completed the training, I now see my work in a completely different way and have discovered how to make work a better experience for others. I’ve learned how to better communicate with people where they are and “speak their love language,” as they say. I am also able to better identify what drives and motivates others and this enables me to help them stay engaged in their work. This is a skill and credential that I can take with me everywhere I go.

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About the Author | Waajida L. Small, Ph.D., HCS is a Human Resources scholar and practitioner with over a decade of HR leadership experience. Waajida is currently the Director for Human Resources at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a global non-profit organization with over 4000 staff in 64 countries. Waajida has a doctorate in human capital management and is a certified Human Capital Strategist.

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