Of the majority of professions that immediately come to mind, few rely on one’s need for self-awareness as much as working in the nonprofit field. Without exaggeration, you have to be aware of every move you make and every word you say (cue fade-in of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”), because the audience with whom you work will absorb all of it. Much like a teacher or a salesperson has, there will naturally be days when it may simply be harder to store the energy to convey everything that you are trying to. For example, I am an introvert by nature; I’ve simply had a lot of time to practice the manner in which I communicate with Podium youth. However, even after I’ve had four years of honing such a skill, the act of consistently taking on a persona appropriate for one’s respective environment can still be downright exhausting.
On these days you must become a performer, a trapeze artist struggling to balance your internal monologue with your external dialogue as you move forward across a wire.
In my experience, there is only one real path to finding such balance: providing youth, or whomever the demographic is one might serve, with leadership opportunities. As I’ve written before, one of the most liberating components of working in this field is that you have the privilege of not forcing the entirety of your program’s structure perfectly into the mold of current doctrines. This freedom means that you have much more wiggle room when it comes to serving your client population: utilize it. Ask what they want to see, what they want to do, and how you as a service provider can best relate to them. Of course, there will occasionally be instances when individuals will not be able to verbalize their feelings about a particular activity or feature your organization provides. Generally, however, most people you may serve, young and old, have both the capacity and desire to be heard. It is your obligation to give them a podium from which to speak.