You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Let's talk about the conference mentorship program

You don’t know what you don’t know. That’s what I tell myself when I start feeling like I understand something pretty well. But it only takes a brief conversation with someone who sees it at a higher level than me, and a window is opened to a whole layer that I didn’t realize existed.

You know the feeling. You’re sitting in a meeting with your colleagues, discussing a project. You present your thoughts. You’re feeling pretty confident. And then someone provides some nugget of insight that makes you say, “Wait. What?” Window opened.

I have learned that one of the best ways to advance in a career is to let as many people as possible open windows that allow me to have a greater understanding or see another angle.

And it requires a level of humility and vulnerability to admit that you don’t know what you don’t know. To say, “I might be missing something here, and I would really appreciate your insight.” Humility is sometimes hard, but arrogance does us no favors.

It dawned on me recently that in my pursuit of colleagues who could open windows for me, I forgot that I could be opening some windows for other people as well! If I had to learn something at one point, that means there are plenty of other people who probably have not yet learned the same thing! And how can I pass along that knowledge to others? As we advance in our careers, we may naturally seek out mentors. But let’s not forget to seek out mentees as well.

Some people are really great at this. They are the ones throwing out nuggets of wisdom like they’re bread crumbs. We subscribe to those people’s blogs and newsletters. Am I right? We may not feel like we are at their level, but we probably have a lot more to offer than we think we do.

At this year’s ADRP Conference in St. Louis, we have the perfect opportunity to pass along our knowledge to others who are eager to receive it. If you are in a supervisory role or if you have around seven years of experience in a donor relations field, you will make a great mentor.

Consider signing up for the Mentor Program when you register for the conference. Forgot to sign up when you registered, but think you have some nuggets of wisdom to share with a mentee? Email the ADRP office at [email protected] and let them know!

Amanda Barbeau
Associate Director of Stewardship
Washington University in St. Louis

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