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!

read more

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.

read more

Related Posts

Share This

Everyone Must Step Up: A (Short) Manifesto on Nonprofit Leadership

Feb 5, 2013 by

Two articles and a recent staff retreat have got me thinking about the changing nature of leadership and mentorship in nonprofits.

Jack Marshall’s article over at Digiday titled “What Millennials Want: Mentorship” was actually written from the perspective of the for-profit sector, but it was incredibly relevant to us nonprofiteers as well. Jack discusses agencies that “talk a big game about appealing to young staffers, [but tend] to fall down on the most basic of requirements: training them and helping them along in their careers.” He offers two core reasons for this 1) that traditional sit-down-in-a-room-and-get-trained models of staff development are either not useful or barely even used anymore (because of companies cutting corners, etc.) and 2) that most managers are stretched so thin that they don’t have time to spend with junior employees providing guidance and feedback.step up

While business may have only started seeing this trend in the last few years, nonprofits have been seeing it for decades. In the interest of saving donors’ money, serving more people and getting a high ‘efficiency’ score on all those nonprofit rating lists (most of which are bullshit IMHO – but we’ll save that for another post), nonprofits have consistently cut – or in some cases never even offered – training to their staff. And as a ‘middle manager’ myself, I can testify to being stretched too thin to spend as much time as I want with those I supervise.

At my organization’s recent mid-year staff retreat, we had some extensive discussions about professional development, staff evaluations and knowledge-sharing. And if I may be frank, we were able to come to very few clear conclusions. Why? Not because we didn’t try or because people aren’t interested, but because each individual within the organization has different needs and desires in terms of his or her professional development. I’d go a step further and suggest that the many of the younger staff members have an all together different view from the senior management of what professional and leadership development should look like.

Enter Trish Tchume, the National Director of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. Her fantastic article on HuffPo titled “A Field Guide for Recognizing Millennial Leadership” was exactly what I was looking for in terms of a way to focus on solutions to the challenges presented above. In her post, Trish identifies transformational millennial leaders that are breaking down traditional notions of what a nonprofit leader looks like (both physically and reputationally). And they are doing it by doing what millennials do best: networking with others, crowd-sourcing solutions, ignoring ‘turf’ or toes that can be stepped on and understanding that great ideas can come from anyone, no matter whether or not they are ‘known’ in the sector.

We all must take part in being the change we want to see. Here what we can do make it happen:

  • Nonprofit organizations and senior leaders:
    • First, acknowledge the truth: the more you ignore and fail to develop your staff, the more they will put on their walking shoes and leave your organization behind. Not only does this significantly erode your nonprofit’s ability to execute its mission, but the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UC Berkley suggests that staff turnover often costs 150 percent of that person’s salary (translation: if that person makes $60K, you’re paying $90K to replace him or her). If the nonprofit efficiency ratings took those costs into account, they might actually be more helpful.
    • Second: institute training programs, even if its mostly staff training each other or attending very cheap local events. Even a couple each quarter can make a difference in terms of your staff’s productivity, knowledge and happiness.
    • Third: make staff development and mentorship part of your organizational culture – make sure both your managers and employees know that taking time for mentoring conversations is acceptable and even encouraged; mentor staff yourself; share your network with your employees and be open to suggestions for improvement from EVERYONE in the organization from interns to senior staff.
  • Managers
    • Push back when your time is assigned 100% to projects/programs and none to all to the other important work, including staff development. No one can realistically spend 100% of their day just on programmatic work (even eating lunch takes away from it), so make sure you don’t just accept when organizational leadership tries to do that.
    • Even when things are incredibly busy, do whatever you need to in order to prioritize staff development. Take time out for lunch with junior staff. Save time in meetings for non-programmatic topics. Go get coffee or a drink after work with your staff. Sit next to them on the airplane during travel and take some time to talk about their goals instead of just burying your head in your laptop. The list goes on.
  • Junior staff/millennials
    • Push for those training opportunities and then take them when they come. They may not be exactly what you need or want, but every one is an opportunity for growth or at least networking with your peers.
    • Ask for feedback constantly – Not just on the report you drafted or the email template you just built, but on your performance as a whole. Be proactive in telling your managers about your longer-term goals and aspirations. Ask lots of questions and ask for connections to others who can help. (After a while, you’ll train your managers to offer this without even soliciting it, so start now!)
    • Remember that things are changing and while you may be on the leading edge, everyone else is not. While you’re working on getting mentorship, training and feedback at the workplace, don’t forget about your personal/alumni/social networks. Volunteer or serve on a board with your peers (YNPN local chapters are a great option) and offer them constructive suggestions and feedback about their work – and ask for the same on yours.

Of course, these ideas just scratch the surface on what can and should be done to move the state of nonprofit leadership forward. What else do you want to see to bring the sector and its employees truly into the 21st century of leadership?

****
Photo credit

read more

Related Posts

Share This

Peace: My Preview of 2013

Jan 14, 2013 by

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a review post of 2012, based on Rosetta Thurman’s excellent guide. Today, I’m looking forward with a preview of 2013, also with the help of her suggestions.

After thinking through these questions (a lot – it took me over a week to finish this post), I’ve decided that my guiding principle for 2013 is PEACE. Peace in mind, body and spirit. While my work and travel schedule shows no signs of lightening anytime soon, my internal world needs to lighten up quite a bit. I’m going to work on remaining focused but also taking it easy on myself in 2013. Happy New Year!

 

What I Want to Bring Into My Life in 2013

What do you deserve more of next year? What do you deserve less of next year?

I deserve fun and some adventure this year. My nose has been to the proverbial grindstone for a long time and that has led to a lot of sitting around on my butt when I have down time or visiting the same old places (i.e., lack of motivation to explore). This year, I want to expand my horizons just a bit and eat at new restaurants, see some shows and visit new places.

I deserve less stress this year. I deserve less self-imposed stress and less stress placed on me by others (whether intentionally or not). I don’t deserve it and I’m going to stop owning it.peace

What personal milestone(s) do you most want to reach in your relationships, health, family, finances, education and/or lifestyle?

I want our house to be ‘done’ – even though I’m not quite sure how to define that. I figure that it’s like Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography: I can’t define it, but I’ll know it when I see it. We’ve been painting, renovating, decorating, hanging pictures, etc. for so long that it feels like it will never be done. But it will. Oh yes, it will.

What professional accomplishments (at work or in your business) do you want to see for yourself next year?

I want to build and grow my career coaching business significantly this year. I want to work with more clients, do more speaking engagements and make more money. If you read this blog regularly, you won’t be surprised that I’ve already developed a plan to grow it and the next step is to implement that plan.

What do you want to learn in 2013?

I want to learn the best, most efficient ways to earn money through my side business; essentially, what is the most lucrative line of work I can do and still help the most people? Part of my business plan is to test various methods out to identify the top earners.

What do you want to cross off of your bucket list in 2013?

While I won’t quite be able to knock it off my bucket list in 2013, I’m already aiming to visit Europe in 2014 (which is a bucket list item). My husband and I have already starting thinking about general dates and locations and by the summer of 2014, we will have crossed it off our list!

 

What I Want My Life to Look Like in 2013

What part of your life do you want to pay more attention to in 2013?

My internal, emotional life. I want to pay more attention to what is happening internally and why. I seem to spend a lot of energy expressing, suppressing, thinking about, talking about and worrying about my own responses to things, but not necessarily in a productive way. This year, I want to spend time consciously interrogating my own emotions with the goal of learning how to move through them in a way that acknowledges them but doesn’t allow them to constantly dominate my thinking.

Who do you want to spend more time with in 2013?

My good friends, especially those whose time is more limited (largely because they have young kids). While I certainly have important time commitments, my time is still more flexible than those with young children. I want to spend more time with them in a way that is comfortable to them/for them.

Who do you want to spend less time with in 2013?

Toxic people who are so-called ‘friends’. I’ve already started the process of separating myself from these people, but in 2013 want to disengage entirely. I’m done wasting my time with people who aren’t fun and just bring me down.

Which activities, habits or behaviors, if any, do you want to stop doing in 2013 because they no longer serve you?

I want to stop talking about/gossiping about/complaining about people so much. While I won’t try to pretend that I’m going to stop completely, I want to continue to reduce the amount of time I spend being vocally negative. I started working on that in 2012 and I found that trying harder to be positive had a effect on my emotional state overall (in a good way). I want to keep up that work in 2013.

Which activities do you want to start and/or continue doing in 2013?

I want to schedule – and stick to the schedule – of working on my business regularly in 2013. I did this sporadically throughout 2012, but lots of other things got in the way. This year, I want to be realistic about my time, stay focused and use the time as effectively as possible to grow my business.

What will your ideal day look like next year?

I will wake up, work out, eat a healthy breakfast and head to my full-time job. Then I’ll work a highly productive 8 hour day and come home. Once I get home I’ll make/eat dinner with my husband and then either spend a couple of hours on my business or spend time with him. I’ll then go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep. I’m excited already!

*********

Photo credit

 

read more

Related Posts

Share This

Faster than the speed of light: my review of 2012

Dec 31, 2012 by

My good friend and life coach extraordinaire Rosetta Thurman of Happy Black Woman recently posted some incredibly helpful questions to help guide her readers through a review of 2012. I’ve used these questions to take a look back at 2012. Coming up soon, I’ll be borrowing her questions to take a look forward at 2013.

Balboa Peninsula at sunset. - November 18, 2012 at 08:42PM

Balboa Peninsula at sunset.

This review was really helpful for me, partly because it just forced me to sit down and think back on what has been an incredibly fast, busy, crazy, stressful, but ultimately satisfying year. I encourage you to give a try too, even if you just write it down for yourself. (And my photo year in review sprinkled throughout the post – courtesy of Instagram)!

 

What I Want to Remember About 2012

What was the most valuable lesson you learned this year?

What I learned is really something that I already knew (or should have known), but needed to have reinforced: that I’m extremely privileged in many ways, but that I still don’t know everything. In fact, I know almost nothing. Knowing and owning that was the only way for me to move forward through some of the most difficult challenges of my life.

What was the biggest personal milestone you reached this year in your relationships, health, finances, education and/or lifestyle?

My husband and I bought a house! Obviously this has lots of financial, personal and lifestyle implications and so far I’m really happy with the decision. While I don’t believe in the necessity of ‘checking the boxes’ to get to grown-up-ness, it does feel good for both of us to attain a mutual financial and life goal.

What professional accomplishments (at work or in your business) were you most proud of this year?

Long Beach harbor, as seen from the Queen Mary. - November 20, 2012 at 09:21PM

Long Beach harbor, as seen from the Queen Mary.

I’m most proud about developing, almost from scratch, a brand new set of trainings for folks around the country doing planning, land use, transportation and urban design work. This year, I’ve spent almost 80% of my time (at my full-time job) working with these folks and the opportunity to build and deliver trainings that are useful to them has been really satisfying for me.

What was your favorite family/friends moment from 2012?

I have two favorites this year: First would be my family’s ‘Christmas in July’ camping trip earlier this year. Though my sister couldn’t attend due to a last minute work issue, we still had a great time. My mom brought a small Christmas tree that she fully decorated and also wrapped up a bunch of presents for us. And of course we did our usual family camping activities: sitting in front of the fire, eating, drinking (lots of) alcohol, playing lawn games and occasionally taking a short walk (we’re a lazy bunch, as you can tell). It was great!

Second was the Team Awesome Reunion of YNPNdc Communications Committee members, hosted by my good friend Emily and her husband Neil at their lovely house. We had been working together for two years but rarely spent any social time together and so we had a long, leisurely barbecue and just talked. There is almost nothing that I love more than spending time with friends so this particular party was ideal.

What was the best book/blog/song/movie/restaurant/city/country/etc. you discovered this year?

This is a tough one. I read voraciously, watch lots of movies and travel all of the time so I’m constantly discovering cool new things and places. Here are a couple highlights:

  • I read the Hunger Games series (3 books) at the beginning of the year and they really shook me to the core. With the most complicated, frustrating, amazing protagonist, beautiful writing style and diverse, devastating thematic elements I’ve read in a long time, they are definitely at the top of the list.
  • The City of Portland, ME – A couple of colleagues and I visited there for a training and we were completely charmed. Granted, we stayed in the most tourist friendly area, Old Port, but I was still impressed by how picturesque everything was. Plus, there are plenty of direct flights there, tons of amazing restaurants everywhere and plenty of cute shops for me to spend my tourist dollar in (I always try to support locally owned businesses when traveling). My husband and I now have it on our list as a vacation spot in the future.

    Beautiful flowers from my sweet husband on our first anniversary. I'm the luckiest woman in the world!

    Beautiful flowers from my sweet husband on our first anniversary. I’m the luckiest woman in the world!

 

What I Want to Leave Behind As I Enter 2013

Which personal development area(s) did you make the LEAST progress on this year: health, finances, education, relationships, family, work and/or lifestyle?

Education. While I did some things in the course of my work that were challenging and required me to learn, I did not spend as much time on it as I wanted. And to be honest, I’m not sure where to go next in terms of my education – barring grad school which I can’t afford for the next couple of years.

What promises (to yourself or others) did you break in 2012?

I repeatedly broke my promise to myself to let go of things more. Out of all my flaws, holding grudges/obsessing over things long over is one of my worst.

What arguments/gossip/hurtful comments, if any, did you participate in or make this year that you wish you could take back and/or apologize for?

Too many to count. My husband and I argued about the house a LOT (far more than we’ve ever argued over anything else in our 7 years together). I gossiped a lot about friends, family, co-workers and others and much of that gossip was judgmental in nature. While I don’t feel the need to apologize for all of it (I don’t think gossip per se is a bad thing but it can easily turn bad), there is a lot I regret.

What opportunities, if any, did you miss out on in 2012 because of fear or procrastination?

This is our kitchen at the moment.

This is our kitchen at the moment.

I missed out on some guest blogging opportunities as well as some opportunities to speak at conferences or meetings due to procrastination.

What did you do in 2012, if anything, that was out of alignment with your values?

I didn’t always pitch in at work when it was needed. I really believe in everyone working together to get a job done, but I let my frustration at specific events obscure that value.

______________

A few more pictures:

Smart growth; Charlottesville pedestrian mall edition

Shenandoah Valley dreaming.

A view of our new neighborhood from our new front door.

Christmas spirit in the office!

 

 

 

read more