I’ll never forget that first retreat with the Fellowship in the fall of 2012. As we all sat down in JumpStart’s conference room in midtown Manhattan, we introduced ourselves and the mission of our host organizations. I do remember those introductions to my new-found colleagues well, but perhaps what struck me the most about this first meeting—believe it or not—was the décor of the conference room. Surrounding JumpStart’s walls were huge posters that stated its values: learning, connection, joy, and determination were among them.
As we traveled from Philadelphia to New York City and Boston, I saw how other excellent, youth-serving organizations articulated their core values and lived them out well beyond the classroom walls. In their cubicles they crafted impactful narratives for funding, and in meetings they discussed how their specific projects reflected the nature of the organization’s mission. Each organization provided living proof that core values matter for all people at all positions. They were the guiding force for the organization’s culture.
If successful non-profit organizations take the time to craft its core values and make every effort to live out these values within each facet of their work, then surely as a Fellow it was important for me to consider the guiding principles of my own career trajectory. Many of us have a sense of the driving factors that motivate our decisions, but have you taken the time to intentionally write them down? Have you reflected upon them in the light of your professional decisions? Doing so can help you not only to live more fully into your own life, but can also help you to clearly see why your specific function within your organization matters. Here are a few guiding questions to help you craft your own core values:
- What have been the most life-giving projects of the past year?
- What are the strengths that your teammates consistently call out in your work?
- What are the areas of your job that give you life?
- What led you to pursue a job at your organization?
- What are the challenges your organization is facing?
Once you’ve jotted down a few answers to these questions, it’s time to start connecting the dots. What are the common threads between your answers? How might your strengths meet the greatest needs in your organization? By mulling over such questions during the Fellowship, I am now able to articulate my own core values—leadership, togetherness, empathy, and hope—that guide me in my pursuits for equity and justice. More specifically, my own core values have led me to Princeton Theological Seminary where I am strengthening my theological and organizational skills to lead within faith-based organizations.
The opportunity to see myriad strong non-profit organizations intentionally live into their core values helped me to refine my own and thoughtfully consider the guiding principles of my career. The moments of reflection we give ourselves throughout our career can tremendously help us to be the best version of ourselves so that we can better serve those around us. I have the Fellowship to thank for that valuable lesson!
Kayla Peck is a Masters of Divinity student at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ. She enjoys studying the intersection of spirituality and social justice. This coming year, she will serve at a local episcopal church as they seek to be a good neighbor within their community. More specifically, she will help with a variety of community outreach opportunities, including representing the church on the city’s affordable housing committee. When she isn’t studying, she is planning her upcoming wedding, learning how to knit, and hiking in the Adirondacks. Kayla was a 2012-14 Fellow at Strong Women, Strong Girls in Boston. She occasionally tweets glimpses of her journey at @kaylajpeck.