Every so often, a news story will come out about executive or politician having to step down from their position in disgrace. When the individual was hired or elected, it was because they indicated on their resume that they graduated from some prestigious university, held a previous position of importance or served in some military unit that they really did not. When information like that comes to light, the individual is terminated or resigns, embarrassed by the truth.
A while back, I answered a question for a poll on Linked In about whether it was ethical to embellish something on your resume’. While the majority of the respondents said that it was never acceptable to do so, there was a large minority that indicated that it was okay to do so. I found that disappointing.
If you look at my resume’, you’ll see a list of the skills I have acquired through experience and subjects I have knowledge of through extensive training, as well as transferable skills and knowledge from other jobs. You will find a list of some of the accomplishments from over my long career in varying fields and through practical but unpaid experience as a long time volunteer and Board member for several organizations.
However, one thing you will not find on my current resume’ is the title “Grant Writer.” I do have grant writing skills, and it is mentioned in the skills section, as I have extensive grant writing training. I have also had the opportunity to review and rate grants for a funding agency, and that has provided some valuable insight. But, I have not written a grant request.
I was initially taught the craft by a professional grant writer when serving a nonprofit in Portland, and I researched potential funders for the project the group was planning, but before I could write the grant request, the Board changed its collective mind and canceled the project. I received more training by attending numerous workshops held by other groups, including the Foundation Center and Portland State University, but never got the opportunity to write any proposals. At one organization I served, the Board President wrote a grant request without seeking any feedback from me or any of the other members, and was unsuccessful. After looking at the finished work after the fact, I saw a number of things that I would have done differently, but by that time, it was too late. If you read my previous post, “Pay Me a Wage or a Salary, Not a Percentage,” you will know I had the opportunity to write a grant, but because the employer was unable to pay me a fee for my work and wanted to pay a percentage of the money raised by the grant, I was ethically bound to pass on the job. So, even though I have the knowledge, training and skills to write a successful grant request, I have yet to do so. Therefore, I cannot ethically call myself a grant writer.
Another term I don’t believe I will ever use on my resume is the term “expert.” While I do have extensive knowledge and a great deal of experience in other aspects of nonprofit development, I know that I will always be increasing my knowledge in the field and learning more and more over the years. I have attended dozens of training opportunities and workshops led by “experts” over the years, and often the information they shared was something that I already knew. Sometimes, it even felt as I knew more than the leaders. I often wondered if they gave themselves the “expert” label to get the speaking engagement, or if the sponsoring organizations used the term to get more people to attend their programs. As a fundraising colleague once told me, those so-called “experts” were only called that because they were outside their home regions. As long as I have more to learn, I don’t feel I will ever truly be an expert.
The AFP Code of Ethical Principles and Standards states “Members recognize their individual boundaries of competence and are forthcoming and truthful about their professional experience and qualifications.” When I share my resume with an organization or interview for a position I have applied for, I will not portray myself as an expert nor claim that I have done something I have not. I will not take full credit for the success of a project when others added to its success. Another thing I will not do is say I haven’t done something that I have done. I am proud of my education and accomplishments, so why would I deny them? I have been advised to do so by well meaning people in the past, but It is dishonest and unethical to do so, at least in my opinion.
Eventually, I will write that first of many grant requests for one or more organizations, Until that time, you will not find “Grant Writer” on my resume.