The last couple months I have taken on a couple projects that are completely out of the realm of what I’ve ever prepared for in my educational or professional experience. While obviously they deal with my role as CAP Utah’s Policy Analyst, they have challenged me quite a bit. The projects I’m referring to are the creation of the Family Investment Coalition’s website, and working with a Communications Intern from the University of Utah in developing a marketing proposal for CAP Utah’s photo project and poverty simulation. This website and marketing proposal serve CAP Utah’s goals in community relations and awareness, but they have had me working in some unfamiliar territory.
I’m sure a lot of professionals find themselves in this place at sometime in their career…at least I hope. I’m sure everyone has experienced those feelings of “Why the heck did my boss give this to me?” or “I don’t even know where to start on this project.” I’m sure…right?
Working on these projects really has humbled me to the professional worlds that aren’t policy analysis. I don’t think people say this enough, but WOW did I not know what I was talking about. Basic language was at a loss for me when I have been working on these projects. Things like navigating how to tell the designer what types of tools I’d like on the website to explaining to the intern the population I’d like to market to were so challenging. I really came to respect the work of these two fields of profession.
So I’m writing about this topic on one hand to show some humility, but also hopefully to calm other people’s nerves if they’re working on a project that seems foreign to them. While there have been some struggles, on the upside, I have learned so much through the execution of these projects. Not only have I learned about web development or market research, I have learned that a good helping of humility brings about a great learning experience.
Yes, you are right. I am going to relate these three items.
Let me first begin with Mexico, the first real vacation I have had since I started working at CAP Utah almost three years ago. The first lesson is don’t wait that long to take a vacation! The second is what happened while I was there. I got to Mexico and 2 days in I was checking my email (shame on me). I kept worrying and stressing about whether things were getting done, whether I left something unfinished, and what if families would suffer in the end. I had to realize that I was human and so were the people I worked with and the people we serve. So many times as professionals we forget that we are human. We want to design the perfect program, get the right outcomes, and change that person’s life. But I was left wondering – Shouldn’t we want to help each other as partners the way we want to help our clients? When we make mistakes shouldn’t we be there to support each other? When we have successes shouldn’t we also be there to celebrate? Me on the top of this pyramid thinks yes – and it was then that I realized everybody at home cared about the program just as much as me, and I was grateful for them.
To my second point – service. I was assisting a family with their taxes recently. (Yes, I volunteer for my own program – and you should too!) As I completed their return there was look of sadness, frustration, and a bit of exhaustion on this particular fathers face. I didn’t understand because they were getting a fairly large refund. In speaking with this family I learned hardship was upon them more than ever and they were expecting a much larger refund. I do want to add that this is the issue with so many families this year. I spent over 40 minutes with this family helping them understand why the refund was lower. We went back in forth with questions and confusion and the family was feeling no better. In the end the farther made the decision that he would go somewhere else, to someone else where the refund would be bigger. My heart sank knowing that this in the end would hurt the family. I have to admit I was frustrated because I was giving advice, service, and accurate help. But the thing about service that I realized was that sometimes the most in need may not leave us with warm fuzzies and may not appreciate what we do. However, I would argue that is when we are truly serving – when it isn’t about us, when it is about our community and sometimes there doesn’t seem to be anything to get warm fuzzies over.
So you can see how clearly this is leading to optimism. The thing about partnerships, hardships, and communities is that we are in it together. Even if one of us is in Mexico. That family may go somewhere else but I know that along the way they are going to get the help they need because those of us who serve are in it for the long haul, and that is something to be very optimistic about. Mexico, Service, and Optimism; told you I’d relate them all (sort of).
The Financial Fitness Fair 2012 - where we see the power of partnership and service. Frankie works for SL CAP working to give back to our community and she using her refund to take a well earned vacation. Now that's warm fuzzies!