It has been a crazy week at the office. I’ve been struggling to wake up on time or a bit earlier than usual, and working straight through until well after going-home-time in order to get some projects off my plate this week. Which is no different from many other weeks of the year for a vast number of people… but it means that writing falls a bit to the wayside. I need to come up with a way to keep my journal-writing habits healthy even when I get busy; I tend to become grumpy when I don’t set aside time to mess around with what’s in my head.
Asides about work aside, I haven’t written much about our “new jobs” other than to reference the stress and busy-ness that’s gone into getting used to them – and it’s time to spill the details before Emily and Nicole die of curiosity. Neither of the jobs are really “new” to us at this point, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there; the novelty is in the hearing of a story, as well as when the events that inspire it first happen.
Corrin was appointed to an Instructorship for the summer, designing a course for those students ambitious enough to learn during the summer. She had an assistant who graded the weekly assignments, but wrote up solutions and other study aids herself — along with the lecture prep, assignments themselves, and exam writing. She is quite proud of her students for their success with difficult material, and pleased with some new tools she created to gauge their engagement and response, as well. She’s teaching again for the Fall semester, so the next 10 days will be filled with research and reading for her own studies before she immerses herself in the classroom again after Labor Day. Being a teacher, she won’t allow me to write any more about her work in a public forum – so take it as given that I’m extremely proud of her, and am looking forward to a time when she might be given daytime classes to teach rather than evening ones.
I found the shift to my new job a bit more dramatic, but that’s because I lived it (whereas I observed her). I’m in a very different environment today from where I was three months ago, when I left the American Cancer Society on the last day of Spring to start a new career with a marketing agency on the first day of Summer. My new firm, SankyNet, is very much a boutique shop; we work exclusively for nonprofit organizations, developing marketing campaigns that are designed to drive and maximize fundraising. Unlike your typical retail outlet, nonprofit agencies have very small ad budgets (surprise, surprise). Every dollar has to provide a return, so there is very little margin for error — which should be incredibly stressful, but isn’t.
In actuality, the agency life is almost laid back when I compare it to life at the Society. The work is extremely fast-paced, and there is a lot of it; I’m accomplishing almost four times as much in a day now as I was when I started, and half-again as much as what I could churn out for ACS on my very best days a year ago. Yet with the number and variety of clients that we serve, an extraordinarily high level of output and productivity is normal — it’s not something to cry about or agonize over. You arrive to work in the morning with a game plan, you execute it at warp speed, and you juggle the knives that clients toss for you with grace and aplomb. There’s a typical level of workplace drama for a small company, but not enough to convince Aaron Sorkin that we’re story-worthy, by any means.
Personally, I’m managing the client-facing division of the company, overseeing the work of soon-to-be-six other staff who steward and shepherd our clients through development, while managing a portfolio of my own clients (and networking to secure new relationships). As you can imagine, there’s a vast quantity of information to synthesize on any given day — both in terms of industry knowledge and standards, but also in the specifics of nearly two dozen unique nonprofit organizations. But the real fun comes from knowing my place in the game.
As an agency, we essentially serve as the junior partner of every organization we serve. It’s our job to be the smart, slightly nerdy kid off to the side of the room suggesting outlandish things that no one else would be willing to say — to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. When we hit on the right combination of things (usually with a great deal of input from the senior partner — our bosses at the client organizations), they approve our ideas and we get to go to work being truly nerdy: figuring out how to execute all the brilliant stuff we were brainstorming. Could there be a better job for me, ever, than serving as the nerdy kid inserting hare-brained ideas into conversation at every opportunity and then figuring out how to make them work? Yeah, I don’t think so either!
On top of that conceptual picture, the day-to-day work that I do is amazing. As a firm, Sanky provides everything from website redesign to campaign development, online (and offline) support for donor relations work and Direct Mail outreach, and donor acquisition through search optimization and marketing – which means that as staff we get to test new tools all the time. On any given day I could:
- Pitch a strategy to a new client;
- Negotiate an advertising contract with a vendor;
- Review copy and design for a project-in-process;
- Timeline and execute the last hours of a new site launch;
- Research new CMS* platforms for our tech team;
- Attend in-house seminars on new Social Media tools that should be considered in our content sharing plans;
- Check-in with clients to review upcoming action steps;
- Course-correct campaigns that aren’t up to snuff and solve new problems on the fly (like a Hurricane that’s about to hit NYC!);
- Submit proposals for seminars, lectures, and papers to nonprofit tech and fundraising groups; and
- Field questions and ideas from my staff of specialists.
That’s actually a pretty accurate version of my Accomplished List for the last week – just toss in a few hours of administrative work like client billing, writing briefs for holiday plans (and working up an appetite for Christmas cookies!), and approving time sheets. It’s hectic and a little overwhelming when typed up in list format, but completely amazing to live every day.
Now to figure out how to live this awesome job while still having enough time for writing. And playing with friends. And reading the memoir of Reading Lolita in Tehran that I started in May. And knitting the sleeves for my fall Francis sweater, and crocheting my Ravissant sock, and baking fresh bread every morning…
* I was asked to define “CMS”, an abbreviation for Content Management System. This is essentially the back-end of a website, designed so that people who don’t know how to write in HTML, CSS, PHP, or Java can change content on a website (text, images, video, etc) without breaking anything. WordPress is a very inexpensive option that’s popular with nonprofit, while vendors like Convio and Blackbaud offer very comprehensive, higher-end tools.