This has been a long time in the making, but I'm about to start my dream job.
Back in 2015, I mentioned at the end of the year that I had envisioned my nearish-term dream job. I talked about it with a few close colleagues of mine, and then got up the guts to tell the person whose buy-in was absolutely essential to make it happen. We talked about it some, but there wasn't much to be done at that point except talk about it hypothetically.
Over the next two years, we kept talking. Before leaving my job at Exciting Non-Profit (ENP), we talked about a lot of organizational strategy, and I pushed with my questions until I realized that I hit the limits of their thinking and planning. I saw directions that I thought they needed to go, but I didn't know how to help them get there.
When I changed jobs in 2016, I shifted focus considerably, away from direct involvement in the type of work I had been doing at ENP and wanted to return to later. The new job had a specific emphasis on professional development, so I told my boss about my career aspirations. I was super nervous about choosing such a specific job at which to target my skills development, but she was amazingly supportive. I started talking with other people about it, and giving that dream a voice. I wrote about it when those feelings were fresh, just when I was starting to commit to the dream in some sense.
I feel like I should take a moment here to write about what a cool experience the last year and a half has been. I haven't written about my work nearly as much as I did in my job at ENP. I think it's mostly because it has been much less stressful! I haven't had looming anxiety about getting laid off (this job has always been a short-term thing) and I haven't suffered under leadership decision paralysis (well, not too much). I managed to keep a foot in my previous work on the side while exploring this new area.
Even though I've had a very specific job in mind, this experience has radically broadened my perception of what I can do with my career.
I've learned how to be effective in a totally new professional space with new organizations and new key players. I got to work with some incredibly talented people and definitely felt many times like I was punching above my weight. I was flattered that my work had their attention at all. I watched some great leadership in action, and I started taking notes. Seriously, I started writing down things they did. I watched many awesome women diplomatically negotiate difficult, influential personalities. One woman did a remarkable job of leading a group by laying out the social contract for their deliberations and inviting everyone's feedback and buy-in. I had great working relationships with my closest colleagues. And on top of all that, my job had awesome travel opportunities...almost too many. I traveled to seven different countries and four different states in 18 months (10 trips in all).
Once I got the hang of the new field of work (about 6 months in!), I could imagine myself continuing in that career. I see plenty of opportunities to make an impact and I honed some of the knowledge and skills to make a difference. There are exciting things happening, and I am sad to be stepping out just as many things are taking off.
But I never wavered much from the dream job I first articulated in 2015. I went to all of these meetings and professional development sessions with two minds: one on applications to my current position, and one on applications to my dream job. Many times my mind was buzzing with ideas for the latter. It's like everything that I absorbed was filtered through "how can I use this for my dream job?" I observed every meeting and workshop not only for content, but for process. How did they organize the committees? What tools are they using?
Over many months of conversations, my ideas about what I would want to work on evolved. I realized more and more that I had a unique skill set and perspective to bring to the team I wanted to work with. I thought I was going to have to find the funding to make this happen, but then an opportunity came up a bit sooner than I was prepared for. After deliberating with many people about the timing, I decided to go for it.
That person who I anxiously told about my ambitions in 2015 is about to become my boss. This is happening!