Getting it back

Jul 28, 2016 by

Three years. That’s how long it’s been since I posted in this space. A lot has happened since then; more than I ever could or would care to recount. And after avoiding it for so long, I’m finally back, at least for a little while. I find that the longer it’s been since you last posted, the harder it is to start again. But the only person making it hard is me and I can deal with her.

As of my last post, I had just gotten a new job – the job I thought was THE job for me. And, like so many other times in the past, I was wrong. That job swallowed my life, my confidence, my time whole and spit them back out without mercy. I had been burnt out in the past, but what I felt after leaving that job can’t even be covered by the term burnt out. I once described it as being broken down, piece by piece. But I think maybe ground down is more descriptive in this instance.

Have you ever watched a coffee or spice grinder work? It cycles around and around and around, breaking up the large chunks into a fine powder. In the case of coffee, that makes it useful to us. In the case of people, it can destroy. All those pieces of you that you know and like, being pulverized and spread to the wind. All the pieces of you that you don’t like, spread out everywhere for the world to see. Dramatic, I know. But when you’re lying awake on Sunday night because of your anxiety about going back into work on Monday, you think about these things.

There were a lot of things that were frustrating and upsetting about that job, but one of the most frustrating was that it didn’t allow time or head space for me to write. Thankfully, I finally have that time back, and I don’t intend to lose it again. Maybe no one is reading this, and that is fine. It’s enough for me to be able to put it out there.

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The next big thing

Jun 17, 2013 by

Four years. That’s how long I worked at Smart Growth America (SGA). That’s twice as long as I’ve been at any job before (hell, that’s longer than most political terms of office or a Hollywood marriage). The last four years have also included some of the most profound personal, professional and business-related milestones I’ve ever experienced in my life: getting married, buying a house, starting my career coaching side hustle, serving as a YNPNdc leadership team member, being appointed to serve on the Arlington County Transportation Commission and probably dozens of other things I can’t even remember.

My experience at SGA, combined with all of these other experiences, have led to me to where I am today: accepting a job with Rescue Social Change Group (Rescue SCG) as their Youth Engagement Director. This new position is quite a departure from the work I was doing on smart growth, community development, land use and transportation to a focus solidly on social change among youth, with a particular focus on health issues – especially anti-tobacco use and anti-obesity. I wasn’t particularly looking for this opportunity (or any other job for that matter), which seems to make it even more serendipitous.

But here’s the thing: it’s exactly where I need, want and PLANNED to be, right from the beginning.

Remember how I was going to change the world? My method for doing that was to organize, outreach, advocate and create social change by training and teaching others to do it effectively. Several years ago, I decided that my goal was to lead the field department of a major national nonprofit. Now, Rescue SCG isn’t a nonprofit – it’s actually a for-profit so this will be my first foray into that sector – and they don’t technically have a ‘field’ department, but I will be managing a team of staff on the ground, working with youth to do targeted campaigns to reduce tobacco use and obesity among their peers. In other words: I get to do almost exactly what I set out to do over 10 years ago when I started this journey known as my career. Awesome!

After my last big job search, I wrote a series of posts sharing a bunch of tips and resources for job searching (here, here, here, here and here). While I’m still completely on-board with those tips, I thought I’d write a little bit about the different type of job search inherent in a director-level job.

Here are three things I think were a big part of my success in landing this new job:

  1. While I was asked to apply for this new job, I wasn’t 100% qualified for it – and I knew that. Taking over a large team scattered all around the country when I have only supervised a few associates, fellows and interns based in a central office? Managing multiple client relationships simultaneously when I’ve only ever managed one or two at a time? I didn’t have everything I needed for this job. But what I did have was lots of different kinds of experiences in management, client relationships, etc., a willingness to learn, grow and get better and a fire in my belly to take this next step in my career. In fact, I was actually told that this fire was part of the reason I was hired. That fire and the drive to succeed can and will be recognized by those hiring for senior level managers.
  2. Again, even though I wasn’t actively searching for a job, I was prepared if an opportunity came up (you know how I feel about being prepared, especially as a job seeker). When I got asked to apply, it only took me a few days to pull together my application materials; my resume was already updated and I had writing samples ready and waiting. The only thing I needed to write was the cover letter. Maybe more importantly, I had a storehouse of good, recent examples demonstrating my management skills, budget experience, campaign knowledge, etc. The ability to answer some of those difficult questions with relevant examples certainly made interviewing easier for me and likely helpful for my new employer in making their decision.
  3. Finally, I interviewed them as much as they interviewed me. I must have asked at least 15 to 20 questions in each interview I did and of course did a ton of research on their website, did Google searches and checked out LinkedIn profiles. When accepting a senior level position with a lot of responsibility, I think that its only fair to have a really complete picture of what you’ll be expected to do as well as when, how and what types of serious organizational decision making you’ll be asked (or required) to do. Even if your goal is to gain that decision-making authority, transitioning from a role where you don’t have much of it to one where you may have all of it is pretty daunting and you need to know where you stand before you say ‘yes’.

With all of this in mind and the promise of a very busy schedule for the foreseeable future, I’m going to take a hiatus from writing in this space for the next few months. I want (and need!) to be able to get a handle on everything before I can reasonably split my attention again. But don’t worry: with my new role, new responsibilities and new challenges will come lots of great fodder for the blog. In the interim, you can of course connect with me on Twitter and I’ll still be offering career coaching services, especially resume and cover letter review.

Thanks so much and wish me luck!

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Crazy: A Review of April

May 16, 2013 by

April was…crazy. Personally, professionally, in all ways absolutely crazy. It seems like every month this year has been crazy, which makes it doubly hard to focus on maintaining peace in mind. Nevertheless I’ll continue working on it.

April’s review

Here are a few key things that happened this month:

  • I went out eating, dancing and drinking with a couple of my best girlfriends on a weekend when Dan was out of town. We ended up closing down a bar at 2:30am which hasn’t happened in a long time. Even though I was really tired the next day it was so much fun! I really love to dance and often forget how important it is to me.My_neighborhood_in_bloom.
  • Dan’s birthday was this month so I took him out for a Caps game and a night on the town. Again, we had so much fun. Hockey is absolutely my favorite sport to watch in person and it was a great game. As always, spending dedicated time with my hubs was the best part of this trip.
  • I presented at a conference on supervisory skills (and then wrote a blog post about it). I haven’t presented to this audience before, so it was a great opportunity to get to know some new people and continue building my business.
  • We hosted our housewarming party – finally! It was great to see so many old friends and meet/play with their little ones. There are more and more kids among my group of friends so our parties have changed quite a bit since the old days 🙂
  • I attended and participated in several meetings for my usual transportation groups and commissions as well as the short-term parking group I’m on.

All in all, it was an exhausting month, especially because work was very busy as well. The biggest personal milestone that happened this month was the housewarming party and finally “opening” the house up for visitors. Several people hadn’t seen our place yet, so it was great to show off the new kitchen and all the work that went into making the house ours.Farragut_Square__dreaming_in_the_sun_while__zachsmith_101_and_I_grab_lunch_at_the_food_trucks.

The biggest business milestone I accomplished was to get my new website design and header launched (after far more hours of work than I originally intended to put into it). Getting that launched was sometimes an exhausting and frustrating process, so you can bet I won’t be doing it again soon! But it did allow me a chance to more clearly highlight the coaching work I can do with people (you maybe?) and the great content already on the blog.

The most valuable lesson I learned this month is that I need to take advantage of mental downtime whenever and where ever I can. There were, quite literally, almost no hours of any day in April when I wasn’t working, traveling somewhere, reading in preparation for something, cleaning, cooking or any number of other things. So when I had a chance to walk slowly home a couple of times through the beautiful spring foliage in my neighborhood or just stare out the window during my bus ride instead of doing work, it was a real balm to my mind and soul.

Next month

For the rest of May, I’m going to focus on taking time to relax whenever I can. I’m also going to work on trying to parcel out my time carefully so that I can try to preserve some of it for relaxation while still getting my work done.

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