Friday, September 30, 2011

Wild West

                Here at Vanderbilt, our research shop finds itself amidst a round of hiring for new members of our research team.  This is an exciting time.  It is a chance to meet incredible folks, and to learn from the outside-in how one finds interest in this unique career.  It’s rare that we have candidates with prior prospect research experience (though we welcome such applications).  More often, we meet businessmen and businesswomen looking for a new career chapter.  Others will sometimes have a history in smaller not-for-profit shops where they completed research as a small part of their work – and have a hunch they’d like to do more of this kind of thing.
                During the time I share with a candidate, it is important for me to note that I try to view my position in partnership with the front-line development offices.  I don’t think of myself as subservient to field work.  I also note that although I complete many reports and documents, my work is not clerical.  
                In the few minutes I share with an interviewee, I often explain that our work of prospect research is an industry unto itself.  We have our own national association, APRA, and in my case (here in Tennessee), we also have a multi-state local chapter, APRA-MidSouth.  Linking in with other prospect researchers to discuss best work practices, analytics or modeling projects, research products, research shop design and workflow, and other concerns these give stature, distinction, and professionalism to the work that I complete each day.
                I also mention that our jobs as prospect researchers are as exciting as the evolution of the Internet (which I find pretty much amazing).  We are charged with information collection and analyzation, which the Internet (via software, blogs, products/services, and beyond) continues to develop in ways no one really can predict.  Sometimes I say it’s a “Wild West” of information, up for grabs for the best of us to settle, analyze, and make profitable to our organization’s goals.
                I rarely have an interview where the interviewee isn’t excited by the potential of the prospect research position for which they are interviewing.  Our industry continues to grow in size and promise.  We suggest enormous opportunities for creativity and business acumen.  Charged with our organization’s mission, we are navigating an amazing frontier of information and ideas to bring about more strategic philanthropy, and create a better world.
Geoff Little, APRA-MidSouth Director-at-Large

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