My first day with CARA

The last 6 years I have spent essentially re-grouping. This month in 2014 I was diagnosed with cancer. In June that year, a month after surgery, I lost my job and as my life spiraled further out of control that summer and fall, culminating with my husband’s death in October, I vowed to create a new and better life for me and my daughter. It took me a little longer than I thought it would.

I explored new career options as I knew I didn’t want to continue on the same path. I moved to Chicago after my daughter graduated high school because I felt that we needed a major change of scenery. Initially, the changes weren’t producing the desired outcomes for me professionally. I had worked with a coach in developing a business plan for my coaching business that I barely followed once I got out here.

I did a lot of networking, but felt in many cases I was self-sabotaging opportunities that network produced. Although I kept saying the retail sales job was temporary, I kept taking on more hours. I simply loved being part of the running community, engaging with runners, and having a platform from which I could be a bigger ambassador of the sport.

Running is my passion. That’s not a secret. When I coach clients, even before we get specific about goals, we talk about values. Values are the things that are most important to us, that make us who we are. Being aware of our values, helps us to make good choices – about how we’re spending our time, and with whom. When we honor our values we are happiest and at our best.

Since moving to Chicago almost 21 months ago, I have worked part-time for Let Me Run, Fleet Feet, and at my own coaching business. I’ve volunteered coaching members of Gilda’s Club Chicago to run their first 5k. And I throughly enjoyed those endeavors while I looked for a full-time position.

One of my co-workers at Fleet Feet observed, “You don’t really want a full-time job.” It wasn’t that I didn’t want a full-time job, I just didn’t want to go back to doing what I had been doing. I didn’t want the stress that went along with the 6-figure income and 8-figure fundraising goals. Making that kind of money just wasn’t as important – or motivating – to me anymore.

I had this vision of what I wanted my professional life to look like. In some ways it looked like the best of what I already had at some point in the past. So I knew it existed. I wanted to love my job, be appreciated for my contributions, work with people with similar values and make a difference. I thought maybe there might be a consulting or fundraising job that would meet that criteria and provide a slightly better income and benefits.

When I talked to my own coach I’d go back and forth about focusing on building my own business or going to work for someone else. I thought about when I was happiest. It when I was running. Or coaching runners. Or talking to runners about running. Or organizing runs. Or fundraising though running. While I have raised millions for non-profit organizations in my professional roles, I probably got more satisfaction from my personal fundraising efforts. It was then I realized that while I raised closed to $100,000 for a variety of organizations through my personal cause-running efforts, “the cause” has always been running.

About a month ago I received an email from the executive director of the Chicago Area Runner’s Association (CARA). I first met him over a year ago when as part of my networking efforts I reached out to him and he agreed to meet with me. We stayed in touch and I often inquired about possible opportunities with his organization. How cool would it be to work for CARA, when it was New York Road Runners that sparked my interest in running originally? The email was about an opening there.

Today I start a full-time job with the CARA. This position marks my first full-time position promoting “running” as its mission. This will also mark my first non-profit job on the program side, rather than fundraising side, of the business. I am well aware however, from my close to 25 years of working in the non-profit sector, fundraising is everyone’s job. I see this job as the perfect blend of my non-profit experience and passion for running.

I’m official!

5 thoughts on “My first day with CARA

  • March 12, 2020 at 8:01 am

    Congratulations Mary! That’s fantastic… now you have the best of both worlds!

    • March 12, 2020 at 8:24 am

      Thank you, Carol!

  • March 12, 2020 at 8:19 am

    This seems to be a perfect fit: good for you, good for CARA and those whose lives you will touch through program development/management. Living a life “on purpose” is essential to physical, mental, emotional health. This is all coming together for you as you create a new path ahead. I am very happy for you, Mary, and wish you extraordinary satisfaction, fulfillment, and success. Go with the great Jersey Girl spirit!

  • March 12, 2020 at 8:26 am

    Thank you, Joan. I feel like I did when I started at United Way. Salary-wise it was a step back, but emotionally, it was a huge step forward and led to an amazing fulfilling career.

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