I gave a presentation on a report I wrote last year. I was asked to speak as long as I needed and then to facilitate an open discussion between professionals from different disciplines. The whole event lasted close to three hours.
People were enthusiastic about the topic, excited about my research findings, and engaged in my presentation. They wanted to know what follow-up work I was doing; what I was doing to advocate for the recommendations contained in my report; and what strategies they could use to tackle the issues discussed. I came out of this meeting feeling re-energized; remembering why I thought this work was important and remembering why I have been working so hard to find funding for further work in this field. But most importantly, I came out of this meeting remembering who I am and what I am capable of.
One of the hard things about being out of work is that we forget what we are capable of; we lose sight of our abilities; we forget that we have natural gifts and talents. This is particularly true of our “soft skills”; the ones for which we have no certificates or degrees. Job hunting in this day and age is a humbling experience. I am competing against young people straight out of university with specialized training that never existed when I went to school. They are familiar with the latest in methodologies; they know the latest in organizational jargon; and they are young, energetic and hungry. Fund raising is even tougher. Funders don’t really care who you are or how good your ideas are; they want to know about your funding record and your organization’s experience in a particular field. For the last seven months, I have been beaten down by funding agencies and job hunting.
So this presentation was good for me; it reminded me of how much I know. Not just content-wise, but about the sector I work for; about grounding new ideas in practical ways; about bringing about changes in public policy; and inspiring people to action. It reminded me of all that I am; about what I bring of my Self to my work. The day after my presentation I received a note from the meeting organizer saying: “…you have a great knack for engaging your audience, presenting your observations without excluding specific groups, and seeing opportunities instead of barriers…” Those words were like rain on parched ground.
In the days leading up to the meeting, I was berating myself for agreeing to do this meeting, knowing that I would not be paid for my preparation time, my travel time, or my time in the meeting. But when I got this note, I realized that I got something much more valuable out of this meeting than money. I got the chance to remember who I am. And I got affirmation from my peers for the abilities that I have; for the work that I do; and for the passion with which I do it. And that is something that I have been sorely needing!