I spent some time this weekend weeding the garden. We have two vegetable gardens in different parts of the yard and they were both quite overgrown. Between rainy weekends and high temperatures I haven’t even been able to get the grass cut every weekend, let alone weed the gardens. This weekend I decided I had to take action since the weeds were getting bigger than the plants. I’m not done yet, but clearing the sections that I have so far has been very satisfying. It is not unlike rescuing the living room from the detrius left behind by children who move from one game to another and leave the remnants of their previous activity behind them. In both cases you see the space as it is supposed to be emerge from the mess.
I have recently also gone through this experience in my own mind, thanks to several job interviews. When I went to university I knew that I wanted to work in non-profit management. I focused my studies on learning how people work together and how organizations function. I had the opportunity to take on some management roles in university and immediately after graduation. After a few years I quit my job before having something new – a valuable learning opportunity to be sure – and spent 18 months doing a mix of temp work, contracts and employment insurance before I found something new. The something new was an amazing opportunity and an interesting job in an unexpected environment. It wasn’t management though. I stayed there for a few years before we returned to Ottawa. Then I landed another interesting opportunity, but again not management.
My career had taken off in an unexpected direction and while I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the work I do and the opportunities I have to make a difference, I have realized that it is not the path I want to be on. About a month ago I was contacted by a search firm about a senior management role in a local charity. It was the first time I have had such a call and given the nature of the position it was a pretty solid confidence boost. The job didn’t pan out, but going through the process has been very positive and useful for me.
I knew I was an underdog for the position since my management experience was not current and a couple of years short of what they were seeking. Since I knew that I worked hard to prepare myself for the interview. For the first time in a long time I looked at my career and the skills I had developed and what I really accomplished in each role. I looked for the threads and thought about how my experience was applicable to this opportunity. I found a great podcast series that has been very helpful in this process. I have listened to the Manager Tools podcast for a few years now and while it is not always applicable to me, I have learned many useful things that have helped me to be more efficient and effective in my work. I discovered that they also have a Career Tools cast, including a whole series on job searching and preparing for an interview. Part of that preparation is being able to answer the question “what do you want to do.” That is a question that I have struggled with in the past.
Through this process I was reminded how much I enjoy nonprofit management. I love working with people and teams to accomplish common goals. I am always looking for opportunities to make a difference in my community. The size and shape of that community has changed over time depending on the work I am doing. Being able to make a tangible difference has long been a guiding principle for me. Now I also have the focus on where I where I want to go.
This search firm process has helped me to clear the weeds that have clogged my thinking about future direction and goals. So even though I didn’t get the job I am excited to begin the process of finding my way to my next opportunity with a clear objective in my mind. Who knows where I will land, but I will get there with a clear head and sense of purpose.
Hopefully by the time I get there I will have also finished weeding the garden!