From the Foundation Team

Everyone’s Professional Journey Can Add Value to a Team

– by Jenna Hanauer

October 31st, 2022

When I accepted my position at the Jim Joseph Foundation earlier this summer, I was beyond excited, proud, and, to be honest, a little bit nervous. I am new-ish to San Francisco and moved between three States last year. This is my first in-person hybrid office role in over two years and the first role in which I focus exclusively on grantmaking.

I am still navigating many parts of what is new and feel very fortunate that I am surrounded by people who want to teach me, support me, and assure me that it is ok to be vulnerable. At the same time, those very same people also want to learn from me. This gives me a sense of pride and confidence as I continue to find my footing. Whether sharing how I approached experiential program design for the Seattle Jewish community or how I navigated building positive workplace cultures across multiple sectors and countries, I can bring helpful insights to the practice of trust-based Jewish philanthropy. This collaborative workplace framework—in which professional team members are simultaneously students and teachers—aligns beautifully with hitlamdoot, the Jim Joseph Foundation staff value of ongoing learning.

As I reflect on what helped lead me to this role at the Foundation, certain experiences, traits, and practices stand out as particularly formative and have served me well. Everyone has their own list of formative moments that evolves and grows over their professional journey. The Foundation believes that the best grantmakers have rich experience working in other settings and can bring direct field experience to their roles. In this regard, any organization looking to add new professional team members can keep in mind the array of candidate experiences and backgrounds that might add value to their professional team. Cultivated at different stages of my academic and professional career, here are some of the ways I approach my work and look to elevate the new professional team around me:

  1. Leading with Empathy – I was not surprised that my recent CliftonStrengths assessment identified empathy as my number one strength. I have always been a people person who feels most complete when I know I am connecting with others and advancing positive change. Though not always common practice in the corporate sector, I approached my work in entertainment and luxury marketing with this mindset and tried to help foster systemic change by modeling empathic behavior. Whether working in the for-profit or non-profit sector, I have learned that empathy is an essential trait, especially during challenging moments. As I begin to interact with grantee-partners, I try to first gain an understanding and relate to the challenges they encounter in the field, which helps me support them in the best way possible to succeed.
  2. Practicing Cultural Competence – This concept is one of my favorite take-aways from my Master of Science in Social Work degree program. At its core, cultural competence is about having awareness and open-mindedness across differences, which is necessary when working with and supporting diverse groups of people. In practice, cultural competence is all about being curious and respectful, especially as I develop new relationships and partnerships with colleagues both in and outside of the Jewish community.
  3. Finding Leadership Opportunities at All Levels and for All Team Members – Throughout my career, no matter where I sat within an organization, I always found opportunities to be a leader. From mentoring early-career colleagues to find their leadership voice, to taking on assignments outside of my job description, these leadership opportunities helped  me develop authentic connections with colleagues throughout an organization. This, in turn, helped me feel heard when I later brought recommendations to executive leadership about the direction of the organization moving forward.
  4. Approaching Time with Intention – Time is one of our most precious commodities. When I was a community engagement professional juggling so many competing priorities, I learned quickly that I had to be very thoughtful with how I structured my schedule. For this reason, I am a big fan of labeling blocks of time on my calendar so I (and my colleagues) can visualize how I am going to be productive between independent projects, meetings, and self-care (yes, it is ok to block time for a walk too!). Also, when it comes to designing program experiences or even 1:1 meetings–whether with colleagues, grantee-partners, or peer funders–I find it helpful to outline the purpose and include time at the end to review what is happening next. If you are not already familiar with Priya Parker’s work, she is the go-to expert on The Art of Gathering.

My experiences over many years shaped the professional I am today and how I show up in the world. Some of my Foundation team members share these experiences and traits. In other instances, I am bringing something entirely new to the team. As organizations hire new team members, candidates’ backgrounds, experiences, and practices can both add something new and reinforce how a professional team approaches its work. Different perspectives from different team members help to make a better team. Recognizing the value of different kinds of experiences will help our field bring new voices from a variety of career paths into the mix, ultimately expanding the field’s pipeline and strengthening our collective impact. I am grateful for this opportunity where I can continue learning, leading, and creating change alongside an incredible community of colleagues.

Jenna Hanauer is a Program Officer at the Jim Joseph Foundation.