The theme of the 2019 Net Impact Conference was “Widening The Lens”, and it sure was a conference to be remembered! True impact leaders, who weren’t afraid to stand up for what they felt was right — and who are heroes in their own right for starting movements for social justice — lined the keynote stage one after the next. From Detroit’s own Jessica Care Moore, to ServiceSpace founder Nipun Mehta, to The Empowerment Plan’s founder Veronika Scott, to the Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts, to singer-songwriter MILCK and creator of The Pussyhat Project, Krista Suh, each one of these individuals has truly sparked a movement that has changed countless lives. Where do you fit in? Would you do the same if you so desired?
As a former financial services executive myself attending my first Net Impact event, the Most Meaningful Careers You Never Thought to Consider session was one I was determined to join. I was quite curious how people are truly making an impact in their daily lives and seemingly average jobs, and to better understand what it was that drove these three session panelists to their chosen professions in the first place. How are they really aligning their calling, or their purpose, with their present careers? I’m now exploring this question on my own career journey.
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The panelists were:
- Doug Adolph, Senior Vice President at CCS Fundraising
- Aimee Hood, Regulatory and Scientific Engagement Lead at Bayer Crop Science
- Marijo Upshaw, Lecturer on Social Entrepreneurship at Wayne State University
Although the three speakers came from different backgrounds, they seemed to share a number of common threads including being committed to serving the global community.
Why did they enter their chosen careers? They were all driven by passion and a history of helping others.
For Doug, he was brought up in a household that routinely volunteered in service to others, and he continued to do so after graduating from college. Although he initially intended to pursue a career in advertising, his volunteer work led to a full-time opportunity with the American Cancer Society at the age of 22.
Aimee followed in her father’s footsteps and went to work at Monsanto after completing a degree in chemical engineering (the company was later acquired by Bayer). She held positions at the company in manufacturing and quality assurance, but in her current role finds herself bridging the gap between the science community and the public, explaining why and how her company can contribute to sustainability, and how agricultural technology can be a positive force for society.
Marijo, who earned her MBA and MSW, is now advancing into her third career, where she teaches social entrepreneurship, impact investing, and leadership. Her worldview was shaped by her mother who was also a social worker, and often brought her clients to her home when Marijo was a child.
How do you go about pursuing a career in social impact? Was there a plan?
In all cases the answer was essentially the same: No.
Marijo’s first career move was in starting up a staffing firm for social workers, with her mother as her co-founder. It helped her learn about owning a small business, but she wanted more of a challenge and moved on to work at Goodwill. From there she realized she wanted to help shape the next generation of leaders and ended up in her current role, a joint position between the social work and business schools at Wayne State.
Doug started out in development roles at the American Cancer Society and the Alzheimer’s Association, both causes near and dear to him. Now at CCS Fundraising, he helps nonprofits raise funds and make a bigger impact through campaign and development strategy — locally, nationally, and globally.
Aimee, on the other hand, has been at Monsanto for over twenty years. Five years ago her boss tapped her to take on her current communications role. Initially she was suspect of the position, as it didn’t fit her life plan or her perceived skill set but she now finds it to be the best job she has ever had!
How can find the best mentors?
Another theme arose from all three speakers – the good ole fashioned ‘Network, network, network’. Some thoughts on this:
- Expand your LinkedIn network and seek out networking opportunities.
- Find people in the community that inspire you or have the skill set you want to obtain.
- Ask your ideal mentors to coffee and learn from them.
- Like a board of directors, have your own personal board – everyone should have a cheerleader and one person who will always tell you the truth.
The key is to be strategic about it and know they won’t come to you. You need to be proactive — and no one else can do that but you!
How do I set myself up for success while following my passion?
All three panelists agreed, you might not find your dream job initially. Sometimes finding it takes luck, as well as hard work. Find a space to get that experience. Work on projects that fuel your passion.
They also suggested surrounding yourself with people that inspire you that you can learn from and leverage to develop your ever-growing network. Always keep your options open. For instance, if the organization you work for doesn’t have a group that matters to you, then develop your own.
Some final words of wisdom offered by the panel
- Never be the smartest person in the room. Find that person to learn from. But remember, to someone else, you may be that person.
- Invest in areas outside work or the classroom that helped to grow you as a person.
- Become comfortable with being uncomfortable, and never be afraid to ask for help.
- You can always re-imagine yourself – so don’t feel stuck where you are.
- Be a life-long learner!
And lastly, but most important for me as a career changer:
Trust your journey, as success looks different for everyone.
For customized careers advice and development of your personal brand, get in touch.