For today’s blog, I’ve invited Paul Towne to share his story with you with the hope that it might inspire you as you think about either moving into a new position or, if you are a non-profit manager or leader, creating a space that is more welcoming and inviting that will attract good talent to your organization.
In the past two and a half years, everything has changed. For many of us, our relationships with work have fundamentally shifted.
For me, I’ve focused time and energy in identifying the core strengths I can bring to my work that give me the greatest sense of fulfillment. I’ve prioritized opportunities that align with my values and allow – and even encourage – my authenticity.
Let me give you a quick timeline of my own story of professional reinvention:
- March 2020. COVID-19 is declared a global pandemic.
- March 2021. My “stable position” at one of America’s largest charities was eliminated.
- March 2021. I rebounded by taking a sales position at an inspiring tech-for-good startup company.
- December 2021. I received the company’s top recognition and resigned the following week because I didn’t feel the work was aligned with my professional vision of myself.
- January 2022. I shifted my career from fundraising / sales to non-profit executive recruitment to better align with my “connector” superpower.
The first part of my story is not uncommon. The resignation trend led Anthony Klotz, a business school professor, to coin the term “The Great Resignation,” where he described how the pandemic forced many of us to reevaluate our priorities and various aspects of our lives. I don’t know about you, but when my role was eliminated during the pandemic, I was not in a position to simply call it quits. The term never really resonated with me.
Then, in November of 2021, Deloitte’s Human Capital Group released a report entitled “From Great Resignation to Great Reimagination.” It recommended that leaders shift their thinking on talent and the very nature of work itself by helping employees connect with their purpose and see how each role and process serves organizations and the forces at play.
“The Great Reimagination” is something I can get behind! How often do we have an opportunity to take a step back and think about our priorities, purpose, and sense of fulfillment? If ever there was a time, that time is now.
Now, in my current role as an executive recruiter for non-profits, I use this term regularly with both candidates and hiring managers to help them reframe their experiences and expectations. Candidates are seeking a greater sense of purpose; employers must demonstrate how their job opportunity will provide this.
Why is this so important? A July 2022 study by McKinsey showed that 40% of employees are thinking about leaving their job in the next three to six months. The top two reasons employees are looking to leave are a lack of career advancement and poor management. This is something organizational leaders must solve.
Unfortunately for the non-profit sector, these are the top two complaints that non-profit employees have expressed for years, without any change. Inadequate pay adds insult to injury. But there is a bright spot for the sector. Non-profits have a unique opportunity to attract employees who are aligned with their organization’s values and want to make an impact.
How can non-profits attract talented professionals looking to reimagine their careers?
Philanthropy Digest suggests three distinct ways non-profits can meet this moment and I believe each aligns with principles of inclusion and belonging, which I’ve defined below.
- Inclusion is defined by a set of behaviors (culture) that encourages employees to feel valued for their unique qualities.
- Belonging is an employee’s sense that their uniqueness is accepted and even treasured by their organization and colleagues. Belonging enables a person to feel safe and bring their full, unique self to work.
- Demonstrate how a role at your organization will make a difference.
If you’re looking for a new position, ask questions about how the role will contribute to the organization’s overall impact. Ask about opportunities to build your skills and grow professionally so that you remain engaged and inspired while increasing your impact. If you’re at the stage in your career where you’re looking to take on additional responsibilities, inquire about potential career paths within the organization.
When looking to fill a position, include these details in the job description and be prepared to address this as part of the interview process. Keep in mind that potential employees want to know that they will be valued for their unique skillsets and experiences, without an expectation of becoming clones of the hiring manager.
- Flexibility is critical. Especially for women (who statistically take on a larger percentage of childcare responsibilities), other caregivers, and BIPOC community members (who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and racial injustice).
One-size does not fit all. As a candidate, I encourage you to consider organizations that allow remote or hybrid work arrangements and/or flexible work hours. Some jobs – particularly for organizations that provide place-based programs – require on-site employees. Avoid presenting your needs for flexibility as demands, as this will likely be a major turn-off to hiring managers. Embrace authenticity and allow this conversation to be organic.
For hiring managers, know your organization’s policies and share these clearly in job descriptions so that you don’t waste your – or your candidates’ – time.
- Engage your employees and volunteers in a meaningful way.
Organizational culture is key. For candidates, ask about how employees engage with each other outside of work assignments. Are there opportunities to engage socially (if that’s something that appeals to you)? Are there employee resource groups or affinity groups such as groups for parents, Black and Brown team members, or LGBTQ employees?
For employers, come prepared to showcase what makes your organization unique. Ask questions of candidates to understand what is meaningful to them and how they like to show up at work.
Regardless of whether you’re a candidate or a hiring manager, remember that thoughtful conversations and clear expectations are key elements to identifying a successful fit so you can truly embrace the “Great Reimagination” in your organization.
Paul Towne, MBA
Executive Search Consultant, Cooper Coleman LLC
Paul has devoted his 20-year career to advancing social good, splitting his time between raising funds for some of the world’s most impactful organizations and championing technology that promotes charitable giving and organizational effectiveness. As a result of his own “Great Reimagining,” Paul pivoted his career to executive search for non-profits and the social sector, helping organizations identify talented and passionate leaders to scale their impact to new heights.
Originally from northern New York State, Paul has lived in the Bay Area with his husband for more than ten years and serves on the alumni board of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.
Cooper Coleman is a full-service recruiting and consulting firm partnering exclusively with non-profit organizations, foundations, and research and academic institutions to drive meaningful growth. They move organizations forward by placing the right leaders in the right roles at the right time, and help to strengthen their management and fundraising capacity to amplify their mission and impact. They are an NGLCC Certified LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE) and were recently ranked as one of the top 60 non-profit executive search firms by Hunt Scanlon.