So you’re not CEO (yet). And some days, your circle of influence at work might feel smaller than the Juancho E Yrausquin Airport runway. Frustration can set in as you dream of the things you’d do if you were put in charge.
We’ve all experienced thoughts like that at some point in our professional career and…that’s completely normal. But those thoughts can inspire you to do one of two things: curse the barriers that stand in front of you (inaction), or get busy building a ladder (action). And as legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said, “don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.”
Coach Wooden’s words of wisdom are especially relevant to the credit union industry today because it NEEDS active young professionals more than ever.
We’re facing a serious legislative issue that threatens credit unions’ ability to provide benefits to our members and communities. Banking trade groups continue to lobby to effectively erase credit unions from existence and as many of you may know, we still lack an overall awareness of credit unions among the general public (and especially among young adults).
So there’s lots of work to be done these days. And on the front lines of these efforts, we need informed young leaders who are willing to speak out and promote the social value of CUs. In addition, as our esteemed CU leaders of today retire in the coming years, we’ll need young leaders to step up and be ready to continue to advance our collective social mission. And that’s where you come in.
Regardless of where you currently are on the org chart, there are many things CU young professionals can start doing today to not only benefit your career path but also the greater good that exists within the credit union industry.
With that said, here are 7 things you can start doing today to develop your career and help CUs. You’ll likely want to let your manager know that you’re doing these things, but these items have little to no impact on your CU’s budget and likely could be accomplished over your lunch break or by putting a little time aside before or after work.
1.Get your read on – subscribe to industry news
Start learning about current trends within the industry. This will not only help you to drum up conversations when you’re networking but also give you an opportunity to ask your manager/CEO for greater context on important topics.
There are also some interesting and opinionated CU blogs out there and instead of linking to a huge list, I’d encourage you to start by signing up for the daily digest at CU Water Cooler, which will serve as a pretty good gateway to much of the content that’s out there.
2. Spend 90 seconds (or less) responding to political action alerts
Sign up to be an Activist (cost =$0) and if you’re able to do only one thing as an Activist, definitely get comfortable responding to action alerts. Once you plug in your information, you’re able to send an already-drafted letter to your lawmakers regarding whatever issue we need to write them on. The whole process is super fast and when we get enough people to send messages, lawmakers do notice.
You can check out our Grassroots Action Center without becoming an Activist….but if you sign up you’ll get alerts when new ones are created, along with event invites and other news via the League’s Government Affairs Dept. So I’d definitely recommend signing up.
3. Taking it back to the old school – know your credit union’s “love story”
Several of us were fortunate enough to meet Harriet May at our League Convention back in May. She’s an inspiring CU leader from Texas who talked about how every CU has their own “love story” — basically, early on in your CU’s history, there were a group of passionate employees/members who helped to grow the institution from the ground up. They weren’t in it for the money and truly had the greater good in mind. And they likely started with a cigar box for a ledger or maybe their headquarters were originally in someone’s basement.
Anyways, there are amazing details behind the history of each of our credit unions. Take the time to learn these inspiring stories — ask your manager or executive team for information on how your CU was originally formed. You’ll likely realize that even though your CU looks radically different compared to what it was years ago, the mission and principles it was founded on still hold true today.
4. Peeling the onion – understanding the worldwide CU system
Have you seen the Credit Union Onion before? It represents our international cooperative CU system. Each layer works to promote the growth and success of the others. I would HIGHLY recommend checking out the World Council of Credit Union’s website and reading about some of the worldwide development happening on other continents. There are also groups not represented on the egg (such as the National Credit Union Foundation and Filene Research Institute) that play important parts in our system and collaborate with CUs to do amazing things.
5. Practice “everyday leadership” at your CU
This is more of a mantra as opposed to an action item, but take 6 minutes to watch this TED Talks presentation by Drew Dudly called “Everyday Leadership”. Drew explains how our everyday actions can unknowingly have an impact on other people’s lives, and through this realization, we can develop our roles as leaders.
This concept has obvious application to member service, but within your CU, you also have an opportunity to be a leader among your coworkers. Considering all of the industry news, history and system information you’ll absorb thanks to steps 1-4 above, you could hone your leadership skills by sharing that info at staff meetings or by hosting a local YP meet-up to get to know some YPs outside of your branch.
6. Meet people, steal their brain power
There are plenty of really smart, experienced people in CU land who are happy to make time to chat and answer questions from young leaders. Reach out to the people you’ve met who you find inspiring or energizing. You might want to offer to buy coffee or lunch, but in any case, a conversation with an industry veteran can help you to gain valuable perspective that may help to shape your own career path. You might want to ask questions such as:
- How did you get where you are today?
- What do you see are upcoming trends in the industry?
- What do you like most about working in CUs?
- How do you manage work/life balance?
These conversations could also simply be with your coworkers to discuss different areas of the CU. You can offer snacks in exchange for an explanation of how the lending policy is determined, what the collections process entails or what all goes into a marketing strategy. Some might not find this to be an exciting step, but having an overall knowledge and basic understanding of CU operations can go a long way in your professional development. And minus snack cost, it’s free learning.
One more thing — make a habit of sending thank you’s who take time to speak with you and help you learn. It’s really elementary but it’s a lost art nowadays. A simple thank you card or even a quick email can really make you stand out in the eyes of others.
7. Join the club – plug in to the YP Network
This is an obvious one and hopefully if you’re checking out this blog post, you’ve already signed up. If not, take 10 seconds to do it! That way, you’ll be kept up to date on the latest YP news and events in Wisconsin. Also, make sure to join our Facebook group and take part in our conversations.
As part of a future blog post, I’ll be covering different professional groups you might consider joining.
When we can’t move forward, we need to look laterally for opportunities to develop ourselves and others.
What other opportunities would include on this list?