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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New and Improved!

Apr 8, 2013 by

It’s taken several weeks of work, but I’m excited to finally reveal a new site design to go along with my beautiful new header, created for me by Merely Blog Design!

In addition to the new design, I’ve also updated lots of information on the site, especially in terms of career coaching work for which you can hire me. This is all part of my 2013 strategic plan to build up my coaching and career consulting work.

Check out my updated “Hire Me” page to learn more about resume or cover letter review, interview prep and other coaching and training options I offer for individuals and organizations.

You can also learn more about me, check out some of most popular posts on the blog or subscribe to receive updates when new posts are published.

As always, thanks so much to all of you that read regularly (and those that are here for the first time)! If you have any suggestions or thoughts, please don’t hesitate to email or tweet me.

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And…we’re back!

Apr 20, 2012 by

If you’ve been following my Tweet stream, you may know that I recently had some website issues. Apparently, my website theme got ‘corrupted’ somehow, which meant I couldn’t log in to change, edit or post anything for almost a week. After much searching, trying to read through incomprehensible ‘help’ pages and asking friends and strangers for help, I finally broke down and called Bluehost, my website hosting company, for help. And they were great! They figured out the issue and fixed it for me so I could get on with my website life.

Though it was a huge pain in my ass to deal with all of this, I decided to view it as an opportunity to change the theme and look of my website. Soon, I’ll have a new header/banner too and a new name for the site will be revealed. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few lessons I learned when my website crashed and burned:

  1. Good work is never doneThis is a lesson I’ve already learned a few times, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still valuable. A couple of years ago, I made the decision to create this website through WordPress and pay for hosting it at Bluehost rather than using an easier, free but less flexible blogging tool. It took lots of work to get it set up and that work just keeps right on.
  2. When they tell you to update it, update it – I had gotten a few notifications that my theme needed to be updated, but I didn’t pay attention. When I had updated it in the past, it had usually broken one or more of my plugins and I didn’t feel like dealing with it. Well instead, I had to deal with an even bigger problem. Next time, I will update it.
  3. Stop whining and ask for help – I tried and tried to figure out how to fix it on my own. I searched and searched through WordPress’ less-than-helpful ‘help’ pages (that’s another lesson: WordPress isn’t always that helpful) with the hopes of figuring out what was going on. I struggled to try and implement some of the solutions they provided – all to no avail. After nearly a week, I finally gave in and called Bluehost. 10 minutes later, it was fixed! I could have saved myself so much time and frustration if I had just done that in the first place. Lesson learned.

Thanks for sticking with me through a lot of site maintenance. More posts will be forthcoming soon!

Flickr photo courtesy of user viviandnguyen_
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In case you missed them: the most popular posts of the year

Dec 30, 2011 by

I’ve been inspired by a couple of other bloggers to share some of my top posts of the year. I want to thank all you who have been reading and I hope you’ll stick with me in the new year – I hope to bring you even more good stuff!

  1. 7 Skills for Supervision Success – No matter who you supervise, I think there are 7 core skills that you need to understand, practice and think about all the time. Read more…
  2. There is no such thing as “work/life balance” – There, I said it. Work/life balance is a mythical concept. Much like the fabled unicorn, it is a creature that is much sought after, but can never be captured – because it DOES NOT EXIST. Read more….
  3. How to get the money you deserve – Women seem afraid to negotiate, they don’t tend ask for what they need and deserve when they actually do negotiate and then they end up with less money than men over the course of a life time. Read more…
  4. Planning a wedding is like looking for a job – no, really – Let’s be honest: no matter how much the wedding is about you and your partner making a lifetime commitment to love and honor each other, its also just as much about bringing together friends and family and appeasing their need to see something they expect from you. In that way, its exactly like a job search. Read more…
  5. 7 Habits of Highly Successful Managers – A couple of months ago, I was asked to present a training on leadership and management. I was told that I had 3 hours and about 15 interns to work with in the session. And that was it. It was intimidating to say the least. I mean how do you talk about leadership and management in a way that gets across some useful lessons in 3 hours? It seems like both too much and too little time. Read more…
Flickr photo courtesy of user iuniquefx
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Linking things up – September edition

Sep 13, 2011 by

Every couple of months, I like to pull together a list of some of the best blog posts, opinion pieces and otherwise cool stuff I find on the interwebs and share it with you. Here’s September’s edition: Enjoy!

  • The New Abnormal from the Stanford Social Innovation ReviewThis excellent, passionate post by David La Piana explores the increasingly grim outlook for nonprofits and the people they serve. To whit: “Nonprofits are caught in this downward spiral of ideological extremism and cynical self-interest. The people they serve need more help than ever, but society provides less and less support to meet those needs.” It may not be pretty, but its so very important that each of us understand the bigger societal issues at play right now.
  • A Twist on Guy Kawasaki’s Advice: How to be an Enchanting Employee from A Journeyful LifeThis great post by Nikita Mitchell offers 10 quick tips on how to be a great employee in an easy-to-digest format. By the way, if you haven’t yet subscribed to Nikita’s blog, you should go do that. Now.
  • 6 Tips for Acing a Phone Interview from the Blog – I like this blog because they provide a lot of very practical career advice. This post is no different. Phone interviews can be awkward and difficult and these tips are really helpful to help get you through them.
  • The 3 Worst “Best” Tools for Moving the Nonprofit Sector Forward from Know Your Own Bone – As usual, Colleen Dilenschneider has put together a great – and wonderfully snarky! – post that all nonprofiteers can learn from.
  • Don’t Let Conventional Measurement Wisdom Fragment Your Impact from the Stanford Social Innovation Review – The SSIR always has great articles and think pieces (which is why I featured them twice in this edition of “Linking Things Up”) and this one is no exception. In this piece, Matthew Forti cautions us about missing the forest for the trees when it comes to evaluation and nonprofit metrics.
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