Updated: Nov 5, 2020
A year ago, I liked my job but was uncertain where I'd take my career next. Now I'm starting a new chapter that I'm confident is the right fit for me, and I wouldn't have gotten here without the Career Design Fellowship.
I had spent the past four years in a role helping to grow and manage a social impact incubator at the University of Michigan. It was an awesome place to work; I led a small team, and had control of my schedule and responsibilities. The people were wonderful and I could see the impact of what I was doing day-to-day.
I could have kept doing the same thing for a while, finding ways to make the work more exciting, but I was really craving something new. I could tell I was at an inflection point, and I had an idea of where I wanted to grow personally and the skills I wanted to build professionally. But I tried to imagine myself reaching toward these goals in the same position at this time next year, and I couldn’t see it.
I knew I was looking for an exit from the higher education world where I’d spent the past decade as a student and young professional. My gut told me I wanted to do something vaguely science-related, in a growing but not massive organization, but that’s really all I had to go off of at that point. I spent a lot of time thinking myself in circles about what the ideal environment would be for me, but I didn’t know what the right next steps to get there could look like, nor if that utopian workplace really existed. I got bummed out hearing mentors and friends say how difficult it would be to find something on par with the work I was doing at the time. Daydreaming about what I might do next wasn’t getting me anywhere.
That’s when I heard about the Career Design Fellowship. I knew signing up for a 4-week, low stakes program wouldn’t be a waste of time. I thought it would be a good way to get a head start in clarifying my thinking about the next phase of my professional life. To be clear, I wasn’t ready to jump ship immediately – I still had things I wanted to accomplish in my role at the time. But I lacked a good understanding of how to start looking elsewhere, and what it might take to make a big change without leaving me regretful about leaving a good thing behind.
The Fellowship began.
I had never really been forced to vocalize the story of my career up until then, but the small group meetings gave me the space and support to be vulnerable. Having a group of talented people to brainstorm with who were in a similar situation made a huge difference in getting me going, and boosted my confidence that I’d be able to figure out a better way forward. The video lessons, tools, and assignments helped me get out of my own head and start to see new possibilities.
In a matter of weeks, I had connected with more than a dozen people in the cohort who each gave me a lens into a variety of fields, sharing direct experiences with me and offering actionable tips to figure out what was out there. My peers suggested things that I would never have thought of and they saw a couple of strengths in me that I didn’t know I had. I’m someone who finds it hard to focus on me, so I loved being able to contribute to other people’s career growth too. It was not only empowering, but made me feel more useful and invested in my own career development.
In the year following the Fellowship, I continued making the most of my previous role until I decided to leave so I could pursue the next chapter of my career. I leaned heavily on the tools that the Fellowship had provided, which demystified my search process, saving me precious time and effort. They encouraged me to reach out, build relationships with people who I wanted to work with and find creative ways to demonstrate what type of value I could provide through projects. I was able to network, get referrals, prepare for interviews, tell my story and get a couple of offers. Within a month of the start of my search, I had two attractive options on the table and I accepted the one that I thought would provide the best opport