Career Paths: The Road Less Traveled

I may have driven my parents crazy with all my questions when I was a little girl. Okay, I did drive my parents crazy will all my questions.  Maybe you did too. Or maybe you’re raising a someone who questions everything. 


When I started school, my questions changed from “why is the sky blue” and “how do my eyes know when I’m sad” to “why do I have to go to school,” or “do you like me, yes or no.” That last one took the form of a small paper note, passed to a boy in my third-grade class.  


Alas, dear reader, I did not marry him…


Some of my greatest pleasures and more painful moments have come in the last 10 years or so when I began to question everything again. No, that didn’t mean I toddled up to strangers in airports and asked how the sky changed colors—no one wants that, least of all me.  As an introvert, talking to strangers in public is not my happy place.


After more than 20 years in the nonprofit sector, primarily in grant seeking and fundraising, my questions at first took a very practical turn as I evaluated becoming a grant consultant.  That’s what I thought the next step was, building a large consulting business. And because I didn’t step back and ask myself what the best way for me was to do that, I wasted a lot of time quietly freaking out about launching a website, building an email list, hiring staff and/or contractors, and all the other roadmaps to success that have worked for so many. 


For the record, I’m not implying that there is anything wrong with this business model, or even that moving from employee to consultant is the only way to further your career.  Becoming a consultant seemed to be the next logical step for me. 


I’m embarrassed to say how old I actually was when I asked myself the biggest and best question of all:  do I have to build my business that way?  Lunch with my wonderful friend Amanda Day helped me answer that question in a most unexpected way.  Over a delicious mountain range of onion rings, she asked me if I would start a podcast with her. 


Reader, I said yes.


That question opened up a whole new way of combining creative work within the grants and fundraising profession—the road less traveled. In the latest episode of the Fundraising HayDay podcast (Season 3, Episode 13 to be exact), we each share our stories of how we took more non-traditional paths to career growth in the field we both love. 


Last week during the annual Grant Professionals Association Conference, I lost count of how many different jobs, career paths, specialties, and organizations were represented by the 1,000 plus virtual attendees.  It opened my eyes to other possibilities and connections. And during these strange new times I am asking myself and others more questions now than ever before. 

All this exploration and questioning has taught me one extremely important lesson: things don’t have to be the way they’ve always been, whether in your career, your community, or your life in general. So, raise your hand, quirk an eyebrow, take whatever time you can to ask yourself if things have to be a certain way.  Chances are some roads less traveled are waiting for you beyond the next bend.


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 3 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on season 1 & 2 and stay up to date on the new season here.

Don’t let grants stress you out, check out the helpful grant writing services our team has to offer here.

1 Comment

  1. Linda November 20, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    Thank you Diane – needed that.


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