Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Finding my Calling

Similar to Isabel, growing up I had a long list of things I wanted to be when I got older. One of the first professions I can remember selecting was a chef. This is somewhat ironic when you review the number of posts I’ve had discussing how I don’t cook. But when I was little, cooking was fun. “Cooking,” mind you, usually consisted of stirring ingredients that my mom or grandmother put together. I specifically remember when I decided I wanted to be a chef. I was pretty little – probably not more than 5. I was “helping” my mom make scrambled eggs. She must have set up a stool for me to stand on because I have a vivid memory of looking at the stove top (which would have been above my head at that point) and stirring the eggs in the pan. I must have had an excellent stirring experience because I remember that was the experience that convinced me I would be an exceptional chef. I maintained this interest for a year or two, but then got distracted by other interests.

Once I got a bit older, I had a sustained interest in a science-related profession. In elementary school, science typically consisted of the physical sciences. I remember learning about forces and electricity and other things that did not hold my interest. While I was a good student, I always struggled with these lessons. I was devastated once when my teacher chastised me for not paying attention in class because I couldn’t answer a question related to the lesson. It’s not that I wasn’t paying attention – I just didn’t get it. Things finally changed in middle school when I had a life sciences class. Now this was interesting! Plants and animals and cell biology just clicked with me. I could totally get on board with this.  I think what really inspired me to pursue a career in science was a television show I saw about a zoo that had a polar bear that gave birth to two cubs. I believe the mother rejected the cubs so the zoo’s staff hand-raised the cubs. THIS is what I wanted to do. I would be a zoologist so I could play with baby animals all day long. Of course, once I realized that zoology would require many, many years of schooling and I would have to pay my dues doing un-fun things like cleaning out cages, as opposed to cuddling cute baby animals, I lost my interest. Still, throughout high school I explored being a biologist, a geneticist and finally a physical therapist.  I briefly talked about my stint as a physical therapist wannabe here

The stumbling block to all of these science-related careers was that I couldn’t just take biology in college. When exploring majors, I discovered I would have to take high level chemistry, physics and math classes, which were never my strong points. I realized that it would be incredibly difficult for me to succeed in any of these classes, and that I didn’t have a strong enough passion for these fields that would see me through these classes.

What I’ve always been good at, and what I’ve always enjoyed, is helping people and creating programs or organizing events to solve their problems. Once I realized that, transitioning to the nonprofit field was easy. I majored in business because the supervisor of my internship majored in business, and it seemed as good a field as any to prepare me for the nonprofit world. So, for nearly the last 7 years I’ve been working in the nonprofit sector. As I mentioned in a recent post, I just accepted a new position at NYU. While I will still technically be working for a nonprofit, my new clients will be businesses and universities and I will be helping them with business challenges they face. It will be a different industry with new challenges, but at the end of the day, I’m still going to be helping people with problems. I’m becoming pretty confident that’s my life’s calling, and I’m pretty ok with that.

Even at two, I was ready to enter the high-powered corporate world!

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Turning Over a New Leaf…

Today (or yesterday, as you’re reading this) was a momentous today. I turned in my resignation letter. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll recall that I haven’t been thrilled with my current job. I suppose I’ve been looking for a new job on and off for the past 5 years or so. I was a very bad job-seeker. As I got frustrated with my job from time to time, I would throw a few resumes out into the world and hope something would come of it. I didn’t often follow-up and I didn’t do much to actively expand my network. All in all, if it was a good job-seeker practice, it’s likely I didn’t do it.

So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when the HR department for the School of Business at New York University called me. They had a few Assistant Director positions open and my resume came to their attention. I’m still not entirely sure how this happened. I attended grad school at NYU and also applied for another job there in recent months. I guess somehow my resume floated in front of the right person. My first interview was 4 hours long and I spoke to 9 different people about 4 separate jobs. It was a bit intense. Fortunately, one of the jobs I liked the best of the 4 was interested in speaking with me again. I had a second interview, this time with 6 people over the course of 3 hours. I thought it had gone well but that feeling was confirmed when HR called me around 6:30 that same night to ask if they could start calling my references. I received the offer letter the next day and after taking the weekend to think about it, I signed the offer letter this afternoon and turned in my resignation letter. I will soon be the new Assistant Director of Custom Programs at NYU Stern, and I’m pretty excited about it.

Just the same, it’s a bit surreal. I’ve thought about leaving for so long, but now that it’s here, I’m a bit overwhelmed. My next two and a half weeks will be spent giving our Staff Assistant a crash course on my job. It’s a bit tricky because I’m the only one working on my program. It’s not like I can just hand the reigns over to someone else in the department, because the department is me. I just hope I don’t do my current clients a disservice. Despite my frustrations with my job, I’ve always wanted them to succeed in creating their own independent, vibrant nonprofit organizations. My fear is that I’ll forget something and leave one of them in a huge lurch. Or that I’ll not train my replacement on some critical, but easily forgettable, component of my job and my clients will be the ones to feel the impact. I’m making my lists and I’ll leave my contact information with my co-workers so if things get really bad they can get a hold of me, but I’m still a bit anxious. Guess I’m going to have to let go and trust that I’ve done all I can to put my clients in a good position to succeed….and get excited for my new job!

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No Day but Today

This week, we’re talking about regrets, which is somewhat difficult for me. You see, I don’t do regrets; I don’t believe in them. I think they’re the worst form of baggage a person can carry. Regrets hold you back; they can make you overly timid about trying new things and they force you to relive, over and over again, events which you would like to put to rest. Am I meaning to suggest I don’t make mistakes? Certainly not. Have I made poor decisions? Of course, and sometimes I do feel badly about what I have done or how I have behaved for a bit. But I don’t let these things linger with me for too long. I try to find a lesson to be learned from the experience and then put it to bed.

Take my Masters degree, for instance. I jumped right in and enrolled in a private school because the subject sounded interesting and the school was convenient. I didn’t really think about the level of debt I would incur to go to this school (thanks a lot, NYU!) or how long it would take me to pay it off, and what else I could be doing with that money, like buying a new, pretty house. I also just assumed that receiving a Masters degree would increase my pay and provide me with a wealth of job opportunities. Well, as I’ve discussed before, none of that came to pass. Sure, it was a dumb decision, but I can’t say I regret it all that much. At some point, I’m sure it will finally make financial sense, and I really did enjoy learning about global affairs and I feel I am a much better informed person now. This experience has also taught me to think through major decisions more thoroughly, and discuss big ideas I have with someone else (of course, getting married helped with that too).

Another example occurred when I was just a kid. My sister and I were attending a craft fair at school. It was set up to help kids make presents for their parents and grandparents and whatnot for Christmas. Anyway, the place was pretty mobbed and the volunteers were a bit overwhelmed (of course, in my young, self-centered mind this did not occur to me). My sister kept getting passed up time and time again for getting her project started. I got mad and made a rude comment to one of the parent volunteers. I felt I was justified at the time, but really, I was just a snot-nosed kid getting uppity with a parent who was volunteering her time to the school. I felt badly about it for quite some time, but the experience taught me to be more patient. It also forced me to bite my tongue and keep my gut reaction to myself and assess what actually is going on before I make a rude remark. I still have a temper and sometimes this lesson doesn’t always shine through, but I certainly think I’m better than how I used to be.

I’ve made my share of blunders in life, perhaps more than my share, but I’ve never seen the point of dwelling on them. To me, it’s just wasted energy that could be much better spent doing something else. Learn from the mistake and move on is my motto, or as one of my favorite musicals puts it so much better, “Forget regret, or life is yours to miss./No other road/No other way/No day but today.”

(clip from the very ending of RENT, the movie, which probably won’t make much sense if you’re not familiar with the show, but it’s a good song.)

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The Worst Idea I Ever Had….For Now.

Idealism. It gets me into trouble every time.

When I started working, I was exposed to myriad nonprofit organizations around the world doing amazing things in the most desperate of situations. As I became exposed to more organizations, I realized I actually knew very little about how the world worked and how most people on this planet lived. Sure, I had been exposed to images of famine and war from remote locations, but I didn’t really understand how any of these situations developed and how they could be interrelated. This ignorance bothered me more and more to the point where I decided that I needed to understand all of these issues.

So, how does this all relate to this week’s money theme? I’m getting there. Despite swearing off any possibility of grad school, within a year of finishing my undergraduate degree, I was looking at schools in the NYC metro area that offered some kind of international studies degree. I knew I was going to work full-time and go to school part-time, so the program had to be able to accommodate that kind of schedule. I came up with 3 schools: Columbia, New York University and Rutgers.

I was immediately turned off of Columbia, for really no good or logical reason. It seemed snooty and pretentious to me. Rutgers didn’t have much information on their program. Being the mature adult that I am, rather than make an appointment to talk with someone, I just decided not to go there either (now, in actuality, I’m not regretting that decision. The campus I would be attending is based in downtown Newark – not necessarily a pretty place to be hanging out late at night). So, that left NYU.

Washington Square arch (image from nyu.edu)

I got busy working on my application, gathering recommendation letters and requesting a copy of my official transcript. Within a few months, I was accepted and slated to begin in January 2006.

In all the hubbub of researching schools, filling out FAFSAs and putting together an application, I seemed to forget to consider what a Masters degree would actually do for me. What career options would I have (ok, I thought I had a pretty good sense of that)? What kind of experience, in addition to a Masters degree, would I need? What kind of salary could I expect after graduating? And perhaps most importantly, what would all of this cost me, and would the benefits outweigh the costs? Seems simple enough, right? And I’m sure in my own way, I thought I had considered all of these options fully.

Fast forward a few years and I’m in the same job I had when I started grad school but have the added fun of some pretty decent student loans from attending a swanky private school. Well, that worked out well, didn’t it?

So, grad school turned out not to be my best financial move. But, if there is a silver lining to this expensive life experience, (see that idealism creeping in again?) it’s that it’s taught me to think a lot more now before making a big decision, financial or otherwise. I try to think more long-term when making a decision, and really weigh the pros and cons, rather than adjust the pros and cons to support a decision I’ve already made. It’s a work in progress, but I’m getting there.

And, just to end this post on a more positive note, I still think my Masters degree will come in handy at some point. I’ve found some interesting opportunities that I’m in the process of applying to that I wouldn’t be qualified for unless I had a Masters degree. One of these days, hopefully sooner rather than later, my worst idea will become my best idea. Hopefully, I just keep in mind the lessons I learned in the process.

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Meet Amanda! (is that too vain??)

Hello, world, and welcome to my first foray into blogging! I represent the NY metro region in this blog. I work in NYC but live in NJ with my husband. I got married just over a year ago, but I still like to consider myself a newlywed. It all seems more exciting and romantic that way.

I work at a nonprofit foundation (please don’t ask me how to get grants. I can’t help you.) where I help emerging nonprofits become independent organizations fulfilling a vital need in their community. It’s rewarding and frustrating all at once (more about that in a future post I’m sure).

I’ve been in NJ for about 6 years now. I moved here to be with my boyfriend (now husband) after graduating from Penn State. Despite swearing that I would never go back to school after finishing my undergrad, 2 years later I was back in school, this time at NYU where I studied Global Affairs. I received my graduate degree in 2008 (while working fulltime – not fun) and now I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. Most people would have tried to figure that out in advance. Me? I guess I just like to keep things spontaneous.

I try to keep busy – I like being outdoors and I just became a certified scuba diver. Other than that, I enjoy hiking, camping, kayaking and wine-festing (it’s an outdoor sport!). I have big plans, but less follow-through (I swear, one of these days I WILL start going to the gym regularly) and sometimes I seem to still struggle with basic functions of being an adult….like cooking meals. It’ll all come together though and I try to enjoy the ride in the meantime. More next week!

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