Personal Development

Motivation is Overrated

Ever feel like you just don’t have the motivation you need to get you through your work week? Yeah, me too. PLENTY of times.

That’s the case for all of us. Even though you’re working for a nonprofit, social enterprise, or other cause-focused organization, having a great mission is unlikely to make every day a joy-filled experience. It’s possible that there is something going on externally or internally to derail you, or maybe you’re just having a “off” day. It’s natural.

So, when my intern, Kirsten, brought this topic up as a blog post she’d like to write, I jumped at it. It’s an issue that plagues even the most hard-working among us: What do you do when motivation is scarce?

Read on for the answer . . .

Motivation is Overrated

A few weeks ago, I heard my Marketing Research professor say something that completely changed my outlook on getting things done in school and at work. He stated, “Motivation is overrated, while discipline is underrated.” 

This statement spoke volumes in my world. So often, I wait for the motivation to get tasks done, and if it doesn’t come along, I end up rushing through the task as the deadline gets closer, and the work ends up being mediocre. 

I find myself spending unnecessary time searching for the right motivational playlist, reading a few uplifting quotes, or giving myself a pep talk in an attempt of encouragement. I’ve relied on motivation for too long, which is why discipline needed to be incorporated into my lifestyle. 

What I’m learning is that discipline can create a kind of ease to your career because it builds a routine and mindset to get things done . . . even when you don’t “feel like it.” With discipline, you don’t have to wait for inspiration because you already have an effective system on-call.

Motivation vs. Discipline

Motivation is defined as the desire or willingness to do something. Discipline, on the other hand, can be described as training oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way. 

While motivation is what many of us crave on a day-to-day basis, it’s simply not possible. 

There may be times while working at a nonprofit or social enterprise when the motivation just isn’t there. Work may seem overwhelming, deadlines are fast approaching, the problem you’re solving may seem too big, or frankly, maybe you’re just having a bad week. This is when discipline should come into play to keep the work flowing.

Two key components of discipline are momentum and consistency. You can often create momentum by focusing on the bigger picture (remembering why you’re doing the work), and then take advantage of momentum once it’s underway. Let that be the push you need to get started. Then, show up again and again by finding a rhythm or routine you can maintain.

Consistency creates the habitual practice of discipline. Once it becomes second nature, you won’t have to worry so much about being motivated to do the work.

5 Effective Ways to Incorporate Discipline Into Your Work

Now that we’ve got the differences between motivation and discipline out of the way, here are some steps you can take to build discipline into your work week.

1. Cut Out Distractions

In today’s world, distractions are abundant. Social media constantly tempts us, friends call or text at the worst times, Netflix begs us to binge, and so much more.

One of the simplest and best ways to minimize distractions is to create a physical space that limits interruptions. Whether it’s turning your phone on silent, making sure your chair is comfortable, or removing clutter (both on your desk and on your screen), it’s important to design your workspace for maximum focus. 

If you work from home and find your thoughts drifting to cooking, laundry, and cleaning, you may even need to consider moving to a coffee shop or co-working space so that you can get more done.

Work with a team? According to an article by Inc. Magazine, three out of four people feel distracted while at work. Eighty percent of those surveyed also claimed that the number one distraction is chatty co-workers, with 60% saying meetings are another inconvenience. 

If you have a chatty co-worker, kindly remind them that you are working on an assignment with a deadline fast approaching, and perhaps even offer an alternative time when you can catch up. But try not to let them take your mind off the task at hand.

Meetings, however, are usually hard to avoid, so make an effort to do as much work as you can beforehand. Depending on your role, you may also be able to help keep the meeting focused and on track, so everyone’s time is respected.

2. Create a Plan and Prioritize

Before you jump into your To-Do List, create a sensible plan of what you would like to get done, and if possible, write it down or use a free project management software like Asana to track it. Each item should be thought out and prioritized. 

We tend to overestimate how much we can actually accomplish during a day, so this exercise will not only help you determine the most important tasks, but decide what will make you feel accomplished when the day is done.

Classy.org has a great article that mentions prioritizing work in nonprofits. One of the tips that was included mentioned prioritizing work in four categories: Important, Not Important, Urgent, and Not Urgent.

Work may be important, but not urgent; not important, yet urgent. Classy suggests focusing on the tasks that are important first, then order them by urgency. 

Alternatively, we previously offered suggestions on how to make time for marketing. These same ideas can be applied to any project or task at hand. 

The takeaway is to be show up intentionally for your day, and not to let it simply unfold.

3. Be Accountable

Accountability is all about being responsible, to ourselves and maybe even to others. It’s important to acknowledge that you are responsible for all the work that you create, whether you are an organization of one or thousands.

There are many ways to hold yourself accountable. One simple way is to track your progress, and reward yourself along the way. Just be sure to find something that truly feels like a reward, such as a break, a piece of chocolate, a peek at social media, or for some of us, the simple satisfaction of physically scratching an item off our To-Do List.

Another way to hold yourself accountable is through an accountability partner or mastermind group. Whether you choose one person or several people, make sure they understand your goals and needs, and won’t just be a yes-man. Even better, offer to return the favor so everyone makes progress on things that matter to them.

4. Be Consistent

As we talked about above, another surefire way to move from motivation to discipline is to be consistent. Consistency builds habits, which are powerful in keeping you on track when you just don’t “feel like it.”

Routines may not sound exciting, but they can in fact, lead to a thriving social impact organization. Once you become more consistent, you’ll find tasks become easier, and your workload may even feel lighter.

This article by Chron.com, suggests that consistency in the workplace helps with the appearance of the organization and higher levels of productivity. Compared to workplaces that change often, consistency shows employees that there’s order and stability in the organization. This also helps with productivity because learning new ideas and processes take time, whereas a routine allows people to get better at what they already know. 

Even getting to work on time or going to scheduled lunches can be a great start to building your routine. From there, take a look at these eight good work habits: wellness, self-presentation, timeliness, productivity, organization, attention to detail, follow-through and consistency, and initiative. Taking the time to develop these habits suggests that you are mature, trustworthy, and dependable—an employer’s dream!

5. Take Care of Yourself

Self-care is important as well. There are times to push through the day and work, and times that it will serve you better to stop and start again another day.

When you work for a cause, it’s easy to look at the important work in front of you and think there is no time to slow down. But if you do that for too long, it can lead to burnout.

Burnout can disrupt your newfound routine of discipline, and also makes it impossible for your best work to be done, which is what your cause deserves.

Think you might be experiencing burnout? In the recent Dice.com article, Burnout is Now an Official Medical Condition, there are three markers that define it:

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion

  2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job

  3. Reduced professional efficacy

The World Health Organization states that one must have all three markers in order to truly feel burnout at work. And a few ways to reduce burnout include having a creative outlook, having a support team, and taking vacations. It’s also important to note that if you’re feeling burned out, the time to address it is now. Don’t let it continue affecting you or your work.

While motivation feels great, and gives you a good start on building momentum, it just isn’t enough to accomplish your goals long-term. Discipline may feel hard, but it doesn’t have to be, and the good news is that it can be created over time and in stages. 

Remember, motivation is overrated. Discipline is underrated. 

Through discipline, work becomes easier and more efficient. And, in time, you will see the progress you desire, and your work will thrive!

“People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.” - Zig Ziglar


Kirsten+M+King+Marketing.jpeg

Hi! I’m Kirsten M. King, and I absolutely love anything dealing with marketing, from advertising to data and everything in-between. I also love to learn and expand my knowledge on current trends and issues.

As a recent marketing major graduate of Georgia State University, I look forward to taking my skills and using them towards a career in project management.

KirstenMKing,com

LinkedIn



While motivation is what many of us crave on a day-to-day basis, it’s simply not possible. Here’s what to do instead.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


Top 5 Blog Posts Of 2018

Wow, I feel like I have a little whiplash from 2018. It feels like I’m just getting started, and yet, here it is December again!

My year was full of twists and turns, highs and lows, bumps and bruises, tears of laughter and tears of joy—much like I’m sure your year was. On one hand, I checked multiple locations off of my travel bucket list, including England, Ireland, and Scotland, as well as a cross-country Amtrak trip. I was also a guest on multiple podcasts and featured in several interviews. And I worked with some amazing new clients, along with some old friends.

On the other hand, while I launched two digital products, I was hoping for at least three. I also didn’t meet a few big numbers I set for myself, including the coveted income goal. And my health didn’t improve as much as I hoped it would.

So, my 2018 was a bit of a mixed bag. I’m trying to hang onto the good stuff and learn from the less-than-good stuff. Both of those things will help propel me in 2019.

But before we get there, I wanted to circle back to my five most popular blog posts of 2018. Since I publish a weekly blog post and you’ve got a lot on your plate, it stands to reason that you might have missed one or two along the way.

No worries! I’ll share what others found to be the most helpful in the hopes that it’ll help you succeed as well. Looking forward to a wonderful New Year with you!

Signify’s Top 5 Blog Posts of 2018

1. The Key to Your Success May Be Staring You in the Face (Literally)

Not only are you a human with a life and responsibilities, but you are also at a cause-focused organization, either for- or non-profit. So, whether your work deals with extremely sensitive and dark subjects like human trafficking or not, you still feel the pressure to succeed because there’s a social problem you’re trying to solve. There is a different kind of gravity to your work that few understand.

This can certainly wear on you over time, and without checks and balances, can lead to burnout. And burnout would be a terrible situation not only for you, but for your cause. The world needs your work!

So, what’s the answer to combating the fatigue and burnout? Community.

Read the full post . . .

2. 4 Insider Reasons Interns are Motivated to Help You

I made a couple of big, small business decisions in 2018, and one of those was to hire interns. I'd know for a long time that I eventually wanted to bring in some spry, young talent, but a couple of things were holding me back.

First, I didn't feel "successful" enough to bring anyone else into the mix. I still don't know what "successful" enough meant/means to me, but I finally decided it was time to put that thought to bed. I had valuable lessons to teach someone, and it was time to start imparting.

Second, I knew it would take some legitimate time and effort to get things in place and delegate. Most of us feel like we move at the speed of light, and slowing down isn't an option. But, again, I needed to take a step back. The reality is that I needed extra help, and there were people available to assist. And once I got things up and running, the hard part was over. So, in the end, I got over myself and found two, fantastic interns. 

Read the full post . . .

3. How to Share the Love with Your Amazing Volunteers

love volunteers.

I’ve always worked in nonprofits, and I've always relied heavily on volunteers to make things happen. Along the way, I have also learned a few things. Yes, people need to be needed. But, the warm and fuzzy feelings that first draw them to you will not always keep them around. As volunteers serve with you, or for you, they will eventually need more. And I’ve found that it is so important to continue to show them the love.

So, here's a list of the top five ways you can continue to love on your volunteers.

Read the full post . . .

4. How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

I don't know about you, but I love events. I love attending them, of course, but also working on them behind-the-scenes. When I was an event marketing director, I was able to help create a dynamic experience for almost 8,000 people. And with my nonprofit and social enterprise freelance clients, it's still a blast to see an event go from concept to completion, resulting in smiling faces, sales earned, and money raised.

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of working with one of my favorite local organizations, Atlanta Dream Center, on their annual benefit dinner. I had been volunteering with them for three years at that point, and they were Signify's first, official client, so they'll always have a soft spot in my heart. Understandably, I was thrilled to be working with them on a professional level now, too.

At the end of the evening, we had quite a surprise—we had not only met the fundraising goal, but we had quadrupled the previous year's total! High fives all around!

However, I don't think it was an accident. After working on so many events over the years, both large and small, I believe there is a key factor we implemented during the event planning process that changed everything.

Read the full post . . .

5. What (and Why) You Should Be Emailing Your List

Everyone wants to talk social media all the time, but it's not the most important thing when it comes to engaging with your current donors and customers. That's right I said it—social media is NOT the most important thing. Breathe that in, people.

Don't get me wrong, social media is an important (and unavoidable) part of marketing, especially when it comes to finding new prospects, but it isn't the top priority for those currently in your circle of trust. I'd rather you stop focusing on social media, and start focusing on your email list. 

I've had many, many conversations with friends and clients about this topic. I get some slow head-nodding, blank eyes, puzzled looks, and then a question or two usually follows. Something along the lines of, "Why is email marketing so important?" or "Ok, but what should I send to my email list?" I usually also hear that people do send emails to their fans and supporters, but it's been a few...months.

Sending emails just sorta happens when they get around to it. Maybe they'd planned to send out an email blast, but there was yet another fire to put out. Or, they'll email again when they have something "important" to say. 

Any of this sound familiar?

I'm here today to tell you what and why you should be emailing your list. Because it's vital to the health of your organization. Yep, it's that big of a deal.

Read the full post . . .

Looking for more popular options? Here are some of my readers’ all-time favorites:

12 Unique Launch Ideas You'll Want to Copy

What You Need to Convince Potential Sponsors and Partners

A Comparison of 13 Popular Social Media Scheduling Tools

5 Must-See TED Talks for Nonprofit Leaders

10 Tools to Make Your Small Business Look More Professional (Most Are Free!)


PSST: Don't forget that you only have a few more days to enter to win a Communications Strategy Session, valued at $500! Details here. Resolve to make your marketing better in 2019.



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Resources, Tips, and Ideas for Your Nonprofit or Social Enterprise

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


The Key to Your Success May Be Staring You in the Face (Literally)

The end of the year is coming fast, which very likely means a busy season for you. You either have a big sale ahead of you, or you’re heading into the year-end fundraising season. Some of you may also have both.

And, realistically, a lot of you are already tired.

Not only are you a human with a life and responsibilities, but you are also at a cause-related organization, either for- or non-profit. So, whether your work deals with extremely sensitive and dark subjects like human trafficking or not, you still feel the pressure to succeed because there’s a social problem you’re trying to solve. There is a different kind of gravity to your work that few understand.

This can certainly wear on you over time, and without checks and balances, can lead to burnout. And burnout would be a terrible situation not only for you, but for your cause. The world needs your work!

So, what’s the answer to combating the fatigue and burnout? Community.

Community can give you the inspiration and motivation to make it through another year, month, or even day.

Essentially, you need to find your tribe—even if that’s only one other person.

How do you find the community you desperately need? I’ll show you.

The Key to Your Nonprofit or Social Enterprise Success May Be Staring You in the Face (Literally)

Why You Shouldn’t Only Rely on Co-workers, Friends, and Family

When it comes to community, too many people only rely on their co-workers, friends, and family to fill that void, even when it comes to their work. I think this is a problem.

I don’t know about you, but very few of my friends and family have founded a nonprofit or social enterprise. They’re incredibly supportive for sure, but they just can’t relate.

And as a solopreneur, I have no co-workers! Some days I love this fact, and some days I don’t. But even if you have co-workers, there are probably still a few things you avoid talking about like your salary. It just gets messy.

If you founded the organization, unless you have a co-founder, you also don’t have any direct peers. Meaning, you can’t be completely open and honest with the people in your office either because you need to maintain some professional distance.

Are you seeing the pattern? If you only rely on co-workers, friends, and family to be your community, there are gaps of your work that may never receive essential feedback, support, or input. That can impact you in a big way! It may stunt your success, allow little problems to grow into big problems, or even cause blind spots.

Worse still, without the ability to adequately communicate your thoughts and feelings to people who truly understand, it can lead to depression and isolation. I don’t know about you, but these are two things I already struggle with at times, so I don’t need anything else contributing to these issues.

Again, this would be a heartbreaking for you as a person, but it would also effect your organization. And my guess is that you care deeply about your cause and want to succeed. I want that for you too, so let’s talk about a few places where you can find the community you need.

Accountability Partner

Anytime a new or aspiring entrepreneur asks me for advice, the first thing I tell them is to get both an accountability partner and a mentor. I didn’t know how badly I needed these people in my life until I had them—and I don’t want you to miss out!

An accountability partner is someone in a similar situation or role. They don’t have to be at the same type of organization, but it’s great if they have similar responsibilities. Alternatively, they could be someone who is trying to accomplish a similar goal like writing a book.

Accountability partners are fantastic because they serve as a peer who can almost act like a co-worker or partner without the same strings. You are there to help each other succeed in your goals through, well, accountability.

You’ll be able to accomplish your goals because someone is there to regularly ask about them. It’s the same reason that Weigh Watchers meetings work so well. You take the necessary steps because you’ve got to get on a scale the next week to measure your progress.

You also both show up because you don’t want to let the other person down. Plus, they can provide a perspective and sounding board that you may currently be lacking. And, let’s face it, sometimes you just need to complain to someone who fully relates to your situation. We all have those days!

If you don’t have someone already in mind for your accountability partner, ask friends, family, or even put the word out on social media. It may take some time to find this person, but it will absolutely be worth it.

You might also consider a trial period to make sure you’re a good fit. My previous accountability partner and I had only just met when we decided to test the waters. We agreed to meet twice a month for three months, and we loved it so much we continued for six months. It was a huge boost for both of us—and our businesses!

Mentor

I think we all consciously, or even unconsciously, crave a mentor. We want “someone who’s been there” to show us the ropes. We are, of course, talking about your working life here, but you could also seek out mentors in marriage, parenting, hobbies, or any number of things.

The only prerequisite for a mentor is that they have more experience in a particular area than you do, and they are willing to share that knowledge. They almost act like a shortcut in that way, helping you bypass more of the struggles to get to more of the wins.

Let me also take a moment to dispel a couple of common misconceptions about mentors. The first is that we commonly picture mentors as much older than ourselves, but that isn’t always true.

My mentor Holly is only a couple of years older than I am, but she is CFO at a nonprofit called Growing Leaders, so she has vastly different experience than me. (One of those being that she’s good with numbers, ha!) She sort of serves as my all-around life mentor. We talk about everything, and often, that includes my business.

I had another mentor for over a year, Christina, who created The Contract Shop. She is actually over a decade younger than me, but had the experience of selling online products which I wanted to learn. So, while you may be seeking someone much older than you for one reason or another, you certainly don’t have to.

And because I also work with cause-focused organizations on both the for- and non-profit side, it’s also helpful to have mentors in both spaces.

With those two examples, you may have guessed the second misconception, and that is that you only need one mentor. Holly is the one who turned me on to this concept. She has multiple mentors that fill different roles in her life and career. Some she sees regularly, and some she may only see once a year. I really love that, and want to follow her example.

In my experience and in talking to others, mentors are much more difficult to find. It was six years of searching between finding Holly and my previous mentor. And I only had Christina for just over a year before her work got too crazy to maintain our appointments. So, I know how daunting it can be to find a mentor.

But again, I suggest that you start by asking your network. And even if you have the perfect person in mind, but they seem to already have a lot of commitments, never assume they’re too busy to fill that role. Make the ask, and be okay with hearing no, but don’t let an assumption keep you stuck. Mentors often get as much out of the relationship as mentees, so it’s definitely a mutually-beneficial situation.

Honestly, you may also just need to be patient. Don’t give up, but be okay with waiting. You’ll be so glad you did!

Mastermind

You may have noticed that I said things were going great with my accountability partner, but we only met for six months. That’s because we turned the partnership into a mastermind group.

I knew several other women who were looking for that kind of opportunity, and none of us were direct competitors, so for us, it made sense that we give it a try all together.

We meet every two weeks via an online chat, and sometimes in person. Our format was pulled from reading about other groups, as well as our own preferences. So, we usually have one person that shares about something they’ve learned which would benefit us all, and we also share a win, something we might need feedback on, and something we’d like to be held accountable for at the next meeting.

The benefit of a mastermind over an accountability partner is, of course, more perspectives and voices. But in all three of these scenarios, it’s been really incredible to get the additional support and encouragement. And that includes both the good days and bad days. We all know they’re both part of the equation!

Other spaces to find community

The three recommendations above are my go-to suggestions because they are often the most hands-on and consistent opportunities for community. They also make it easier to go deep on some of the hard subjects you need to discuss.

However, if those aren’t options right now, or you’re still in the search process, here are some other, great alternatives to try. Who knows, one of these may even lead to an accountability partner, mentor, or mastermind!

  • Events: This weekend I attended the Tribe Conference for the second year in a row. There are a lot of writers in the room, and “writer” is one of the main words I use to describe myself, so these were my people. It was comforting and motivating just to be around their energy. I also feel that way when I attend social justice events. Find the places your people gather and go meet them.

  • Co-working Spaces: These places have become huge community hubs for many entrepreneurs and small businesses. Not only are you working around new people you might not otherwise meet, but many of them also have regular and special events for you to actually hang out with the people sitting around you. I would definitely need these sort of structure introductions. ;)

  • Facebook Groups: It’s quite common now for course creators, coaches, and business owners to have Facebook Groups. (Psst: Have you seen the Signifiers group?) These online outlets are another great place to meet people in similar situations or pursuing similar goals. I’m in a bunch of them that relate to different areas of my life like business, hobbies, church, causes, friends, etc. If you’re have trouble finding community in-person, or have very limited time on your hands, this could be a great source for you.

  • Social Media: I’ll differentiate social media from Facebook Groups for the purpose of this post because groups are generally more targeted. On social media, you may have other friends and followers who could easily become trusted members of your community. For example, I have a new friend I met this summer over Instagram because I wanted to find other people who were Enneagram 4s as well as INFJ’s, both of which are smaller segments of the population. So, it’s been fun to chat with her about how our weird and wonderful minds work. :)

Encouragement From Tribe Conference Speakers

The work of your nonprofit or social enterprise is essential, and it needs you. But you can’t serve it well if you feel isolated, depressed, or burned out.

All of the above examples will meet different needs at different times, and when you mix and match a few of them together, you’ll be unstoppable. You’ll have the community you need to champion your cause, do your important work, reach your goals, and struggle less in the process. I want that for you, so I hope this post will help you take the next step.

As I mentioned, I was at Tribe Conference this weekend, and I can’t tell you how awesome it was. Well, I could, but we’d be here a lot longer! That event was the inspiration for this post because it definitely gave me the inspiration and motivation I needed to finish the year strong.

So, before you start taking those next steps, I wanted to leave you with some of the words of wisdom that meant a lot to me this weekend. I think they’ll do the same for you.

“You cannot avoid rejection and do your greatest work.” - Jeff Goins

"If you do work that is different, you’re doing something dangerous and worthwhile. People will question your differences now, and celebrate them when you succeed." - Todd Henry

"Other people see your work for what it is. You see your work for what it isn’t." - Melissa Dinwiddie

“Be relevant, authentic, and advocate for your brand.” - Amy Landino

"Community will help you succeed." - Chase Jarvis

"Dream big. Start small. Keep moving." - Charles Lee

“Lead with acceptance. Become a better listener. Don’t fear failure.” - Dave Delaney (Check out this guest post I did for him last year!)

"If you keep waiting for your dream to feel easy, you’ll never stop waiting." - Ali Worthington

"Don’t wait for permission to create your work." - Nicole Gulotta

"Marketing isn’t about closing a sale, it’s about opening a relationship." - Mike Kim

"We need to say out loud what our souls are silently screaming, because it may give someone else the courage to do the same." - Tim Grahl

“Know who your audience is. You can even have a less than perfect product or service depending on who your audience is and what they’ll pay for. They may just be waiting on you to create something.” - Joseph Michael

“Get okay with being uncomfortable.” - Heather Teysko

"Tell the stories people want to hear, not the stories you want to share." - Janet Murray

"Failure doesn’t ruin your story. Failure helps you write it." - Paul Angone

“You need to take responsibility for your own success.” - Joe Bunting

"It's easy to think about the things you haven't done or success you haven't attainted. But remember that there was a time when where you are sitting now was out of reach." - Ken Davis



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What’s the answer to combating fatigue and burnout? Community.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Three Simple Steps in the Quest to Find Your Ideal Intern

Last week, you heard from my intern, Megan, on four reasons why interns are motivated to help you. Are you convinced? I sure was! (And if you haven't check it out yet—yes, she does address the question of money!)

This week, you're getting the follow-up by my second intern, Michael. We've talked about the WHY, and now we'll hit you with the HOW. I'm not sure which of those two questions resonates with you when you're thinking about an intern, but hopefully, we'll provide you with the answers needed to take that next step.

I've only had Megan and Michael for about a month, and am already so thankful for them. So, do yourself a favor and go get an intern (or two). Not sure how? Just keep reading!

Three Simple Steps in the Quest to Find Your Ideal Intern

It’s the end of February and the New Year has already gifted us all with a handsomely exhaustive list of responsibilities…

Social media drafts are long overdue, email updates stack a mile high, and blog posts eagerly await an obligatory glimpse. Somewhere in the sewage of this chaos, you also discover that your most urgent and time-sensitive tasks are often the very ones which you’ve neglected.

But, SUDDENLY, you have an epiphany—you don’t have to do this all on your own! What if you had a helping hand? After all, for every Batman exists a Robin, for every Scooby a Shaggy, and for every Cher a respective Sonny.

What if . . . you had an intern?

You may not be able to offer your intern a salary, but you have compensation in the form of experience that they desperately desire. They can serve as more than a glorified coffee runner, and even play a crucial role in keeping your small business or nonprofit operating at optimum speed.

Finding an intern is actually less complicated than one might assume. There’s not one algorithm that will do the trick or one method superior to others, however, let’s explore three, overarching avenues that will aid your search.

Finding the right intern for your organization lies at the intersection of three avenues:

  1. An understanding of the qualifications for your intern role

  2. A correct and detailed intern position description

  3. An idea of where to find the best interns for your nonprofit or social enterprise

1. Outline your requirements for potential interns.

Think of the search for an intern as paving a yellow brick road that will steer the right candidates to the doors of your organization. If that’s the case, you should to be clear from both an academic and professional perspective so that the right person rings the doorbell.

This begins with you carefully outlining prerequisites including educational achievements (high school, GRE, undergraduate and graduate), portfolio samples you may want to see, and prior work experience. One company might be looking for tenured university seniors with previous agency experience, while others are looking for malleable minds that are eager to learn. The choice is yours, however, you cannot expect more, and receive less, without setting expectations. In turn, you might also discover that you have hired an intern whose skills and talents far exceed the amount of work you have to offer them.

Just remember that it’s okay to be selective. An internship needs to be the right fit for both parties.

 

2. Create a clearly defined intern job description, including the benefits they’ll receive.

No one likes to be exclusive, however, in terms of finding the perfect intern, a certain degree of exclusivity needs to be shown. And just so that we don’t parallel the clique from Mean Girls, let’s put it this way—it’s not them, it’s you.

Be open to students with skills and attributes that may be uncommon for your line of work, however, don’t be deceptive in a job description. If they are looking for a for-profit sales role and you work strictly in nonprofit fundraising, they might not be the right fit. Again . . . that’s okay!

So how do you ensure that your role or program is a right fit for the applicant? Before you begin soliciting resumes, clearly define and outline job standards and provide candidates with an overview of the program in which they’ll be participating. And if your internship provides certifications, credits, or payment, be sure to list these in the job description, too.

Finally, be specific in the language you use to describe the internship. Good candidates don’t often migrate toward listings that use generic language. Because internships can last a series of months (even entire semesters), potential interns want to know exactly what it is that they’ll be doing.

You may even want to look at other intern postings online to help you decide what to include.

 

3. Use the Internet and your existing network to help you find an intern.

Most of the individuals searching for an internship experience are students and young alumni. Because it’s likely that these individuals haven’t had extensive amounts of career experience, it’s easier to mold their talents and help them hone in on those they haven’t yet developed. And that should be exciting for both you and them.

To find your young Padawan, it’s essential to utilize the correct platforms. For now, we’ll focus on three outlets to aid your search: career centers, online postings, and personal networking.

Career Centers

The vast majority of large universities and colleges are outfitted with programs and facilities that provide their students with professional working opportunities. Some universities might call it a career centeror “services/development program. The jargon’s all a little different, but globally, the mission is the same—to find work experience, internships, and jobs for students and recent graduates.

Cast your eyes on the example of New York University, which operates the Wasserman Center for Career Development. This career center provides extensive lists of internship opportunities, jobs, and sound advice in the sojourn of career discovery.

My advice to you is to shoot for the stars! Contact every university career center in your respective city or state, and use those centers to network your way to great candidates. They can provide you with potential career fair dates, ensuring that you can speak with students in person, or potentially provide listings or direct links for your internship on their website.

As you build relationships with students and career centers, you’ll develop a steady stream of candidates through pre-existing relationships. And when students provide positive feedback about you to their career centers, you’re more likely to receive continuous and high-quality candidates. The other benefit of going through career centers is, of course, that they’ll often do the regular work of searching for your intern so that you don’t have to!

 

Online Postings

Remember, the interweb is a friend not a foe. This is an essential element to the success of finding your intern in the haystack.

To get even more specific, when looking for interns in university-level programs, go to the places they would go. Posting ads on Craigslist won’t likely aid you in the process of searching for an intern if the population you’re searching for isn’t using Craigslist.

Students and recent grads alike utilize a multitude of websites, some of the most popular being LinkedIn, Internships.com, and Handshake. LinkedIn proves to be a necessary networking tool for the duration of careers, as you probably already know. To ensure that you are fully utilizing LinkedIn, make sure to join groups with similar missions to promote your business and discover talent. I found this article particularly useful.

Additionally, in searching for interns, I’d insist on using websites like Handshake and Internships.com, which directly target college students and young alumni. Handshake specifically has access to over 8 million students and young adults, and more than 475 career centers. And Internships.com is the world’s largest student-focused internship marketplace, bringing students, employers, and higher education institutions together in one centralized location. Convenient, eh?

And should you wish to cast your net wider, many standard job posting sites like Idealist and Work For Good also allow for internship listings.

Personal Networks

Last but certainly not least, don’t underestimate the potential of your personal network. The people you already know may help you find your best interns.

It’s easiest to start with your friends and family. Put out the word that you’re looking for an intern, and see if they can help you fill the spot quickly. Just remember to include that clearly-defined intern job description, even when talking to people casually.

Next, post about the internship on your personal and professional social media outlets and in groups. This is a great, and fast, way to spread the word about your opportunity.

And a final example is the connections you have with clients or peers in the same field. More than often, students and young alumni are looking for more than one consecutive internship. One summer they might work for a for-profit manufacturer that produces burlap supplies for a local, nonprofit coffee shop. But next summer, that same intern wants to work at the coffee shop itself. So, reach out to your partners and colleagues for contacts.

With a little preparation and planning, you’ll find your dynamic duo. The Robin to your Batman. The Sonny to your Cher.

By the way, did you miss the first post on why an intern might want to help you? You can read it right here!


Michael Banks, Intern at Signify

Michael Griffith Banks is a fourth-year Public Relations Major at the University of Georgia with a minor in Spanish. He’s throughly involved with UGA’s Office of Admissions, most recently serving as an Orientation Leader for the University.



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Finding an intern can actually be less complicated than you might think.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.