Rethinking my professional strategy…going back to my roots

If I had one piece of advice to give someone who wants to move to a new city, it would be “find a job first.” When I came out to Chicago over two years ago knowing only two people here, I had secured only a (very) part-time position, and planned to build my business with the rest of my time. It never occurred to me that two people probably wasn’t a sufficient network to do that.

Both my small coaching business and the ten hours a week I was putting in as a one-person team trying to build up the presence of a fledgling non-profit, had me working from home. Not a good thing when you need to be making friends and building a network. When I look at my close to 1500 connections on LinkedIn, a very large majority are people I met in and through the places I worked.

My work experience and skills can certainly translate to a lot of jobs here, but community needs and non-profit response could be different here than it was in New Jersey. Just because I knew how to create an event in New Jersey didn’t mean I could sit right down and run one here.

At first I was very discouraged because reflecting on my career, I saw not years, but decades, of building a knowledge base through a variety of positions and experiences. Honestly, I’m about 10 years from retirement now. How do I re-learn a lot of that as it relates to my new city and state?

Looking at my professional experiences since arriving here, one might think “job hopping” but it was all a little more strategic than that. In my time working on building Let Me Run here, I learned my way around and a little about area school districts. My 15 months at Fleet Feet connected me to the running community (I also made some really nice friends that share my passion for running). 

I took temporary work with Chicago Special Events Management last summer where I learned about navigating city agencies and the park district, street closures, permits, and the structure of government. This year, while I hoped to stay longer, my time at CARA proved to be a learning experience as well. 

Becoming way more equipped to work with non-profit clients (in additional to individual coaching clients) will hopefully make my business more viable. Although my education continues.

This week, I started a new part-time, temporary assignment as an “Ambassador” for United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. This move takes me back to my non-profit roots. I started that part of my career at Bergen County’s United Way, doing pretty much the same job.  As our orientation started this week, it kind of got me thinking that I am learning in a short period of time what it took me decades to learn in Northern New Jersey. Speed Networking if you will.

While I’m hoping this all leads to big things, I’m pretty content to be doing what I’m doing at this moment. The close to eight years that I spent at Bergen County’s United Way was when I was the happiest. I loved the mission. And based on what I’ve learned so far, UWMC is doing some fabulous things for neighborhoods in need here. 

Back in my (original) United Way days with the late Toshika d’Elia (world record holder!) and BCUW President, Tom Toronto. BCUW’s Teterboro Airport 5k. July 2001.

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