By Michael Tune (NLGJA executive director)
I am all over the place in my passions. I can get so excited about golf, then cars, then religion, then “The Great Gatsby.” My husband and I joke about my “flavor of the month,” a trend that actually runs in some of my family. I suppose it’s the flightiness in each of us, the “something shiny” that catches my eye.
I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. It can mean that I am able to talk about a variety of issues and subjects. However, it also has the potential to make me useless in any one given thing.
In my private life, and in my work, I try to find one, two, or perhaps three things that I’m passionate about, and spend the majority of my time concentrating on those. I find that if you are passionate about something, you spend time on it. If you spend enough time on it, you become a bit of an expert on the topic.
Working at a nonprofit is a lot like so many other jobs: The duties and responsibilities can be all over the place depending on the day or the project. As nonprofit leaders, we can find ourselves doing everything from cleaning the bathrooms and screwing in the light bulbs to presenting a new program to a potential funder or meeting with a Fortune 500 CEO.
Oftentimes, being a jack-of-all-trades is absolutely necessary. Your boss needs X, Y, and Z. She needs it today, and you need to pay your bills. However, it also means you’re spending lots of time working on issues or projects that you really aren’t that passionate about. Be mindful that, over time, you’ll run the risk that the passion you first felt for a job could die completely. You risk burnout, or even losing your edge.
In your personal life, find something you’re passionate about, and become the authority on that issue. If possible, make sure it’s marketable and, as always, look for ways to incorporate it into your work to help capitalize on your growing skill. You may not ever become a walking Wikipedia, but since Wikipedia already has that particular passion cornered, you can instead find that one thing to truly own for yourself.