By Sarah Waldbott
I recently attended the Advancing Jewish Professionals of NYC’s event, “Developing Tomorrow’s Jewish Professional Leaders” featuring Gali Cooks (Executive Director of Leading Edge), Sheila Katz (Vice President for Social Entrepreneurship at Hillel International) and Mark S. Young (Director of Alumni Engagement for the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at The Jewish Theological Seminary).
The discussion focused on cultivating individual and organizational transformation for the next generation of Jewish leaders. The presenters urged organizations to take on a more active role in helping their top performers to grow and advance, but also stressed the importance of emerging leaders taking the reins to advocate for their own success. I believe that this message needs to be accentuated throughout our field.
Our high-potential Jewish communal professionals, most of them currently of the millennial generation, remain hopeful that over time organizational leadership will recognize their achievements, which will ultimately lead to new and greater responsibilities. Many of the professionals at the event shared that they seek to learn and gain new skills as they aspire to executive roles in the coming years.
Tomorrow’s leaders can abet the process by taking initiative today and by developing meaningful and purposeful relationships with their managers, as well as identifying and working with multiple mentors. Mentors can help guide them through the multiple opportunities and challenges they’ll encounter on their career journey. Emerging leaders must also understand that their own actions, including seeking support from others, can help open the doors that lead to continuous career success.
If you seek to gain leadership and management skills, don’t shy away from speaking with your supervisor about how you can make that happen. Show up with more than just the desire to lead. Are there success metrics or accomplishments that you have made that demonstrate why you are an asset to your organization? Present an argument that explains why building your skills will not only help you, but the organization as well. In addition, investing in talent reduces an organization’s turnover costs, and by bringing work in-house to save on consulting costs, this leads to increased operational efficiency. These are all examples of the potential benefits that may come from an organization’s decision to invest in homegrown talent.
The exchange between an advancing Jewish professional and his or her manager can be productive if the manager recognizes the value in assisting and advancing their employees’ career trajectories. There is a lot of untapped talent in the sector that must be nurtured – otherwise organizations run the risk of losing them.
Each of the speakers is doing work that is influencing and shaping the field. Leading Edge is addressing the leadership pipeline and how we train promising talent. Mark S. Young’s recent ELI talk explored how we can better improve HR practices that positively impact employees. Sheila Katz is leading change at the organizational level at Hillel International through her work in the advancement of women and overall inclusion efforts. She shared her excitement about a new Hillel International program called, Springboard Fellowship, which will “train cohorts of young Jewish professionals in highly-valued skillsets” and place them at Hillels around the country for two years. Still, the development of tomorrow’s leaders isn’t solely the responsibility of organizations. All Jewish professionals must make a commitment to be proactive in their careers to bring their professional aspirations to fruition.
When organizations create environments that are supportive of the ambitions of their employees, they influence their success today. With adequate support and self-motivation, what the next generation of Jewish nonprofit professionals can achieve in their future careers is limitless.
Sarah Waldbott is an Associate Recruiter at DRG Executive Search. Advancing Jewish Professionals of NYC (AJP-NYC) works to strengthen, connect, and empower emerging professional leaders of the greater NYC Jewish community.