On the anniversary of Legally Blonde’s release, look to purveyor of pink and bubbly feminist icon Elle Woods for inspiration. Although her unlikely pursuit of Harvard Law is very different than a day in the life of a fundraiser, these quotable moments show that Elle’s enduring confidence, generous spirit, and signature style can teach us a lot.
#1. Celebrate your personal brand.
With her pop-of-color ensembles and pint-sized sidekick, Elle stood out among her sweater-clad peers. But rather than paring down her look and tempering her enthusiasm, Elle approached her challenging assignments and stuffy school socials the way she would anything else – as her true and authentic self.
Of course, there are protocols and expectations in the nonprofit world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the qualities that make you unique to enhance the work you do at your organization’s office or in the field. Your personal brand is a blend of your skills and expertise paired with the special way that you implement them. Just like Elle, you can make your mark by producing quality work in a style that’s all your own.
#2. Don’t let bad vibes make you break your stride.
From her “bonehead” ex Warner to creepy Professor Callahan, Elle had plenty of people who doubted her abilities and shaded her path forward. Rather than allow their negativity and insecurities to break her, she responded with confidence and personal brand on point.
When you’re faced with someone who’s unsupportive or just downright mean, let that stand as a reflection of their character, not of you or your work. Responding to put-downs with positivity can disarm a toxic person in an instant, so shake it off and keep that head high.
#3. Your past experience is more valuable than you think.
Despite all of the time she spent poring over textbooks, it was Elle’s in-depth knowledge of curl care that enabled her to win the first case of her budding career.
Instead of reserving what you love for time spent off-the-clock, consider how it can translate into workday inspiration. Your hobbies, interests, and experience from former studies and jobs can give you a leg up in projects, promotions, and career pursuits. Creative off-duty activities, exposure to different cultures and communities, and periodic Pinterest projects could be the starting point for your next big idea at your organization.
#4. Help others grow by sharing what you know.
When her nail tech turned BFF Paulette couldn’t find a way to connect with the delivery man, Elle shared a tried-and-true trick she had been using for years: the no-fail “Bend and Snap”.
If you’re collaborating with coworkers on a project that involves skills you’re well-versed in, follow Elle’s lead and show them how it’s done in a way that will help them now and in the future. Not only will you feel good about helping your colleague succeed, they’ll remember your kindness and return the favor the next time you need a hand.
#5. Surround yourself with people who lift you up.
While trying to win back Warner, Elle unknowingly started on a path of self discovery that taught her to believe in herself and invest in relationships with people who are worthy of her kind heart, generous spirit, and wonderful company. When Warner saw her success and wanted to be with her again, Elle could see his self-interest instantly and told him it would never happen.
Your job is hard work and the emotional toll of seeing the challenges faced by your constituents doesn’t go away when you head home at the end of the day. That’s why it’s important to spend time off the clock with people who listen to you, encourage you, and surprise you with your favorite treat on days when you need it most. The lesson? Don’t waste your time with a Warner. Only accept the very best, because that’s what you deserve.
#6. Never forget that you’re meant to be doing this.
Just like Elle Woods, the most successful people have unlikely beginnings marked by false starts and awkward flubs that would cause most people to consider their work a failure. What set her apart was her willingness to learn, her courage to try, and her determination to do everything as her true self.
In the same way, your cause isn’t a career, it’s a calling. As a nonprofit professional, you dedicate your skills and experience to creating positive change in the world. It’s not easy and it’s certainly not always fun, but your work is crucial to your constituents and to society as a whole. Your cause chose you as you are, so don’t ever doubt the importance of your role and be proud of the special qualities that only you can bring to your work every day.