By Amy Haile
While I think we can all agree that pretty much no one has a lifelong goal of becoming an advancement professional – I don’t see many trick-or-treaters dressed up as major gift officers or alumni relations professionals in MY neighborhood – I think there are some good predictors of who ends up here. In my case, it’s my love of stories. I have always loved to read. I was an English major, and I am a sucker for those Love What Matters stories that pop up on my Facebook feed that cause my eyes to sweat in the middle of the work day. In our work, stories describe the impact of giving or perhaps the journey that inspired a donor to make their gift. Reunions are filled with stories of what has happened to alumni after they left campus, how they have changed – and how they haven’t – when they return. It’s this good stuff that keeps me coming back year after year.
When I am interviewing for a new staff member, I am ready to hear a new story. I want to hear how someone got to be sitting in this room, because it’s never a straight line. How did you pick up the bits and pieces of experience that made you realize this would be work you would be good at, work that you enjoy? Tell me about a challenge you faced and how it changed you. What have you done that you are proud of? Describe a job that you knew was NOT right for you?
Everyone has a story worth hearing if it is told well. When an applicant can’t tell their own story in a way that makes me curious to know more, it makes me wonder how they will be able to share the story of our institution in a way that will excite a prospect. Will they recognize a compelling story of a student that demonstrates the importance of philanthropic support? Will they know how to listen to a donor or prospect to hear what is truly motivating them to give – or not give? And it’s not just the frontline fundraisers and engagement officers that have to know a good story. Will this applicant be able to hear how a colleague is struggling to pull a report out of the database and explain how to help?
So, the next time you are sitting at that interview table surrounded by strangers, tell them a good story. Your story. I know they want to hear it.
Amy Nadzo Haile is the Assistant Vice President for Institutional Advancement at University of New England