Successfully completing two degrees couldn’t save me from the realities of unemployment. Neither could mid-range experience or knowing the right people. But during my year-long gap between jobs, there were two things that kept me going – exercise and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).
Immediately after I was suddenly let go one day, I felt the stages of grief set in. There was definitely a mourning period, but I kept it short. Then I had to give myself time. A planned vacation was coming up, that wasn’t going to change. I needed to enjoy it. Then I would get back to figuring something out.
First step: setting the budget.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you see it, I come from a long line of public servants and also married one. So, financial buffer? Let’s just say it was minimal. Cuts were made. But not on the chopping block were my AFP and fitness memberships. Those were the things I coveted in that time and letting them go was not an option. AFP provided community. Exercise kept me on track.
Second step: staying positive.
I told myself, “It’s not a matter of if, but when.” While fully immersed in a routine of fitness classes, researching and applying for jobs, networking and escalating my volunteer involvement with AFP, I was unknowingly building a foundation for success. My goal was to stay the course and wade it out until I found exactly what I was looking for.
When unemployment ran out three months later, I could’ve decided to be less picky with my full-time options, but I’d done that before, and it hadn’t necessarily worked out in my favor. So, with pride, I walked through the doors of my favorite grocery chain and asked if they were hiring. An online submission, a solid interview and a few days later I was hired on the front-end team. AKA retrieving carts, bagging groceries and ringing people up. It was something that could get me by, and I ended up really enjoying it.
Not too long after that, I went for a temp job in higher education. That particular role ended up going to someone else, but the team and I connected. A month went by. It was a pleasant surprise when I got a call one day. They’d remembered me as a candidate and were recommending me for another temp opening. After going through the application process, I was called a few weeks later with an offer. Once again, I was focused on the opportunities ahead. Contributing what I had to offer, being part of a talented team and highly-respected organization, and learning.
For the next six months, I’d work two part-time jobs, actively apply and participate in searches, exercise and stay connected and involved with AFP. My job search could’ve quickly become humiliating and exhausting if I would’ve let it. But I didn’t. There were times where I recognized committee members from other searches. I quickly learned to see the humor in this and awkwardly shrug it off with a, “Hey… great to see you again.”
Then that spring I was recognized as a Chamberlain Scholar which allowed me to attend the International AFP Conference on scholarship. I headed to San Francisco and took on any additional costs out-of-pocket without question. The quality of that conference was exceptional. It was the best conference I’d ever experienced. I contributed to the profession through my AFP membership and involvement, and they’d now increased their beliefs and investments in me.
Come June, I decided to give my grocery gig up. I was more engaged in my temp job and helped exceed their year-end goals, and the local conference I was co-planning was that summer. At that month’s AFP breakfast, one of the attendees heard me say I was currently job searching. After the breakfast, she came up to me and introduced herself. She explained that her organization was hiring, and if I was interested, we could talk more.
A coffee was coordinated, happened and my interest was piqued. She would connect me with the manager hiring, then he and I would meet. After submitting an application, some interviews and a tour, I was hooked. This was exactly where I wanted to be.
The feeling was mutual, and I was offered the job where as of this week, I celebrate my one-year anniversary and couldn’t be happier or more fulfilled. It took 12 months for it to happen, but I found my match in every way possible. I wouldn’t change that time for anything (my husband might), but it was a good year, despite the professional gap. It brought me to where I am today.
To me, it was AFP that made the difference.
If it wasn’t for my volunteer work, I might not have been taken as seriously as a candidate. Attending a world-renowned conference wouldn’t have been made possible for me. Being noticed by the person who could connect me with the opportunity I’d been waiting for might never have happened if we hadn’t both been at the same breakfast that day.
Today I can confidently say I’ve not only found my match professionally but also my voice. AFP has given me an outlet to advocate, connect and collaborate with others just as passionate about making positive and much-needed improvements to the nonprofit sector.
As incoming president of this incredible organization, I’m looking forward to using my time and energy to continue making the charitable space a better place. For all of us.
For more information about AFP Triangle visit their website here.
– Alyson Stoffer, Development Officer at Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities and AFP President Elect