I built my freelance business on trust. After four weeks in my new position – which I got through the trust of former colleagues – I’ve remembered that a corporate job is no different. Relationships matter. Showing up matters. Following through matters. This is as important to my success as the quality and quantity of my output.
I work for a leading homeless services and shelter provider. Although we serve all types of homeless people, we have special skill in working with the chronically homeless, who’ve been outside for long periods of time and/or several times over the years. We have a group of staff dedicated to street outreach. Every day they put on backpacks full of snacks, socks, and hygiene items and they walk around the streets and encampments in San Jose. All of them were formerly homeless. All of them understand the lives they’re witnessing. And because of this, they’re trusted by the people they meet. This trust is the reason they’re successful in convincing people to come inside and start working their way back to stability and self-sufficiency. It can be a very tough sell, but they’re patient, resourceful, and determined.
These outreach workers are my new role models. I have to build trust like theirs in order to be successful with my team, the program staff, our vendors, and the board. This organization has had its ups and downs in marketing and communications over the years. Funding changes, staff changes, changes in priorities – it’s a common story in nonprofits. Much good work has been done but much more needs to be done to give this organization the attention and support it deserves. To do that, I need all my skills but I also need solid relationships.
The program staff will be the “lynch pins” in my communications work because they refer clients who will tell their stories. And we need many stories to fill our busy calendar of appeals, newsletters, and events. But before they’ll help, they have to know that I understand and really care. Like the outreach workers, I’ll start by showing up and becoming a familiar face. We have eight main sites in Santa Clara County, so you definitely won’t see me sitting at my desk all day.