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Emerging Leader Commonly Asked Questions with Chelsea Rudisill, CFRE

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Chelsea Rudisill

In this Voices of Emerging Leaders Spotlight, we asked Chelsea, a millennial fundraiser, to share her answers to some commonly asked questions from young professionals on topics like job hopping, salary negotiations, and speaking up in meetings.  

Q: Can you introduce yourself, tell us briefly how you got into fundraising, and where you currently are in your career?

A: Hi! I’m Chelsea Rudisill, and I’m a millennial fundraiser based in Greenville, SC. I got into fundraising through my interest in the arts and arts administration. I loved connecting with others who shared that passion, and I found that development and fundraising allowed me that opportunity and fit with many of my professional skills. After about six years progressing through entry and mid-level roles, I accepted a new role last year as the development director at Greenville Center for Creative Arts, a nonprofit art center and gallery space.

Q: When you’re first getting started in your career, is there a length of time that you should stay at a job? Is it more acceptable now to “job hop” early in your career, where twenty years ago that may have had negative connotations for potential employers?

A: While there’s no prescribed length of time for a job to run its course, I would recommend trying to stay in a new role for at least a year. I find that in a development job, it takes about that long to really understand the organization and its fundraising cycle. It’s also helpful to stay long enough to be able to report on major accomplishments, such as a project you completed or meeting or exceeding revenue goals. As long as you are thoughtful and intentional about why you are leaving a job or seeking a new opportunity, I haven’t seen shorter job stints raising red flags for hiring managers, especially when people are early in their career. 

Q: What advice do you have for people who may be intimidated about sharing their ideas when they’re the most junior position in the room?

A: I strongly identify with not wanting to speak up in a group situation. If you know you are having a meeting on a particular topic, I would suggest discussing your ideas with a colleague or supervisor first. That way, when you get into the meeting, you can either know you already have an ally in the room or that person may even be able to help make an opening for you to share. I think it’s also important to get comfortable with offering ideas and being able to accept if they don’t rise to the top of the pile. 
Q: Are there any myths or stereotypes that you want to dispel about young professionals and the millennial or Gen Z generation that you think persist in the workplace?

A: I think there have been a lot of toxic workplace practices and a tendency toward martyrdom, especially in the nonprofit world. There can still be a lot of fear and guilt around work-life balance, and I have found that some later-career professionals can be put off by younger workers’ sense that work is not necessarily the most important thing. Wanting to be paid fairly and have decent benefits and working hours should not be seen as entitlement or laziness but rather a desire to make our sector better for everyone. 
Q: How do you make your resume stand out when you don’t have an extensive amount of previous experience?

A: I would definitely suggest focusing your resume on accomplishments rather than job tasks. There are also alternative resume formats you can explore that put emphasis on skills or projects rather than previous positions held. Beyond the resume, I often think a cover letter is the most effective part of an application package. That’s where you can be very specific about your skills and how you will bring value to the organization.
Q: Have you ever had to negotiate on your salary or job title and how did you make the case for your value to your organization?

A: ALWAYS negotiate your salary and/or other benefits when accepting a new position. Every raise or promotion you receive in that job will be pegged to that salary, so make sure to start yourself off in a strong position. I have also negotiated a new title and salary increase from within an organization. I wrote up a document detailing my accomplishments, almost like a resume since I had been working there, and focused especially on any new or increased revenue that could be attributed to my work.   
Q: What’s the most important factor to you when deciding where to work, or whether or not to stay at a current position?
A: There are two things that I really consider. First, I think about if there is opportunity for me to learn and grow professionally. Whether that’s new skill areas I can explore, professional development that will be available to me, or pathways for advancement, all of those are things that may draw me to a position. Secondly, I think about if this job is offering me personally what I need to be successful. Those considerations can include hard factors like salary and benefits, but they may also be less quantifiable, like the rapport you have with coworkers or what kind of support you receive from your supervisor. I would also never apply to or take a job if I didn’t feel passionate about the mission. This work can be hard, so I have to have a strong “why” to keep me motivated.

Q: If you’re trying to transition into a role that would require you to manage other employees, but you’ve never had direct reports before, how do you make up for that lack of experience? Are there other traits or experiences that you should point to when asked about this in the interview?
A: This is something I have run into in the past and can be a difficult hurdle. One thing I have done is point to other leadership roles I have held and talk about how I managed those teams or projects. For example, through my grant writing roles, I have led a number of cross-functional teams, including colleagues in marketing, finance, and program roles, even though I didn’t necessarily have a direct report. Many development professionals are also tasked with managing committees for fundraising or events. I would focus on finding examples of how you managed and motivated people and led them to accomplishing a particular goal.

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