It was my first business trip as Associate Director for InterVarsity’s Emerging Scholars Network, and it was going great. I had visited a couple of my oldest friends, who soon became my first financial supporters. At their church, they had introduced me to a PhD candidate who immediately understood and appreciated the idea behind ESN. This job is going to be easy, I thought. Then the PhD candidate said, “There’s someone you’ve got to meet. She’s the associate dean for the largest university in the state, and she’s sitting right over there in the first pew.” Excellent! Another convert to the cause of ESN.
“Hi, my name is Mike, and I work with InterVarsity’s Emerging Scholars Network”
“Really?” Her eyebrow went up. “What do you do?”
“I help students who are trying to get their PhDs and become professors.”
“Oh? And do you have a PhD?”
I didn’t like where this was going. “No, I don’t.”
“Then how could you possibly help?”
The conversation went downhill from there. At one point, she even said, “I don’t see the point in trying to ‘help’ students trying to become professors. If they can’t make it on their own, they don’t deserve to make it at all.”
Here was the exact kind of person that I thought would support my work wholeheartedly, and instead she dismissed it as a complete waste of time. Continue reading When Others Dismiss Your Work →
Last week, I wrote about the first time that I left the perfect job. At the time, I left one perfect job for another one, to serve as Associate Director for InterVarsity’s Emerging Scholars Network. I began working for an organization that I loved, on a cause that I personally believed in, using skills that I both had and enjoyed using. On top of all that, I regularly met fascinating people – for an overly curious generalist like myself, getting to ask academics about their research on a daily basis was like heaven – and got to work with a fantastic team. What could possibly go wrong?
The problem: the position required me to raise the funding for my salary and expenses.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s no problem with fundraising. It’s an important part of nonprofit work, and raising funds from a broad base of support provides stability and demonstrates that people other than the founders believe in the mission. In a ministry context, personal support raising also serves as a test, not only to see whether the mission is worth supporting, but whether the specific individual is the right fit for that mission.
For me, however, fundraising was a constant struggle. I had some success – one year, I raised over $50,000 – but that success was overshadowed by the even larger amount needed to meet my budget — usually $70,000 to $90,000. My supervisors came up with generous and creative ways to supplement my fundraising efforts – matching grants, bridge grants, part time and short term positions that provided additional funding. In the end, though, none of it was quite enough. Continue reading Leaving the Perfect Job – The Second Time →
I left the perfect job – twice.
This is a scary post to write because it’s so personal, but it explains a lot about why this blog is so important to me. The first time I left the perfect job, it was because I thought there was a better plan waiting for me (and there was). The second time, I had no plan at all – I just knew I needed to leave. This week, I’m sharing the story of how I left the first perfect job.
Leaving the First Perfect Job
In 2006, I was working for the Cincinnati Better Business Bureau, leading an ethics program for local charities. And I loved it. The people were great, the work was both challenging and fulfilling, and, though I had only worked for the organization for a couple of years, I had received an important promotion that led to an increased role in the organization’s strategic development. It provided the right blend of conceptual (“What does it mean to be an ethical nonprofit?”) and pragmatic (“How can I get more people to participate in our program?”) challenges that I enjoy.
The longer I worked there, though, the more I began to feel there was something missing, something more that I could be doing with my particular skills and passions. At about this time, my wife gave me a copy of Bill Hybel’s Courageous Leadership. One part of the book has stuck with me (here I’m paraphrasing):
If you don’t think God has given you a vision, have you ever asked him for one?
So, for the next 6 months, that was my prayer: Lord, please give me a vision. At the end of that time, I received one. Continue reading Leaving the Perfect Job – The First Time →