Volunteer To Grow Your Career, with Anneliese Davis

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Find Your Dream Job, Bonus Episode:

Volunteer To Grow Your Career, with Anneliese Davis

Airdate: April 8, 2019

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, find the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps professionals find fulfilling careers.

One of the best ways to get good at job hunting is to talk to people who do it well.

That’s why, once a month, I interview a Mac’s List reader who found a dream job.

Today I’m talking to Anneliese Davis.

She’s the executive director of Rahab’s Sisters. It’s a nonprofit in Portland that creates community by providing radical hospitality to marginalized women.

Anneliese Davis knows how hard it can be to return to full-time work after a long break. And she also knows the difference volunteer experience can make in a career.

In a story you can find on the Mac’s List website, Anneliese describes how volunteering helped her get relevant experience, connect with a mission she cared about, and led to her dream job.

She joins us today in person at the Mac’s List studio in Portland, Oregon.

Anneliese, welcome to the show.

Anneliese Davis:

Thank you, Mac. I’m excited to be here.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s a pleasure to have you. Now, you’re the executive director of Rahab’s Sisters. Tell me, Annaliese, why do you love your job?

Anneliese Davis:

Oh my gosh, I love my job because I have this incredible opportunity to create this space for a community of women to develop. This was an organization that had been around for 15 years before they hired their first staff person.

It’s a deeply organic community that already existed and I get to come and get to meet all of these amazing community members every Friday night in our space and watch that community continue to grow and create the space for it to continue to grow.

Mac Prichard:

Well, tell our listeners, what happens on a Friday night and the rest of the week at Rahab’s Sisters?

Anneliese Davis:

We’re open Fridays from 5 to 10. We open our doors to anyone who identifies as a woman or whose gender identity makes them vulnerable and we share a community meal together served restaurant style at beautiful tables.

We offer hygiene supplies, the basic necessities for dignity and survival for folks who are in need, but the real story of who we are is the community that we create together. We have different activities that go on every Friday night, from haircuts to movie nights to yoga.

We are really deeply rooted in relationships with one another. Some of our folks have been coming for upwards of 10 years.

Mac Prichard:

What kind of difference do those services make in the lives of the people that you meet in your work?

Anneliese Davis:

I think as humans we are all seeking community and connection, even when we don’t necessarily know that we are. I said to one of our guests the other night, we were chatting and I said, “You know, we’re all here for the same reason. All of our guest and volunteers are here because we’re looking for connection.”

And she said, “I’m not looking for connection, I just come because I like to talk to you. Oh, wait.”

Mac Prichard:

There is a connection there.

Anneliese Davis:

Mhm.

Mac Prichard:

Well, you’ve been in the job now for almost 2 years. Why is this a good fit for you?

Anneliese Davis:

It’s been an incredible growth opportunity for me. I’ve been in the nonprofit world my whole career. I’ve never been on the frontlines in a very tiny, tiny nonprofit in this way.

It has allowed me to bring the skills that I have built up over 20 years of working and volunteering in the nonprofit community along with the opportunity for me to just learn extraordinarily new things and skills that I would have told you I had no ability with before.

It’s given me the chance to really see Portland and our country from a different angle.

Mac Prichard:

How did you find the job, Anneliese?

Anneliese Davis:

Well, it was thanks to you all.

I had been thinking about going back to work, I had been staying home with my daughter since we had moved to Portland, and I found, somebody had told me about Mac’s List and I just subscribed to it and I kept checking it even when I wasn’t actively looking because I felt like it was a good way to get a sense of what was going on in Portland.

Especially for me in the nonprofit community and just what organizations were out there and places I might want to get involved.

There was this job posting that came up that had these words, “Radical Hospitality” in it, and I clicked and I read through the job listing and then I closed it, I kind of went on with my day, and those words just stuck with me.

They stuck with me and after a weekend I thought, “I’m just going to apply for this job and see what happens. I have no idea what this thing is that they’re talking about or what this organization is.” But it really captured my attention.

Mac Prichard:

It’s a memorable phrase, “Radical Hospitality.” What would you say to listeners who are pondering that right now or trying to understand what that means?

Anneliese Davis:

To me, radical hospitality is being open to and welcoming of everybody as they are and that’s what we do at Rahab’s Sisters on Friday night.

We come with no judgment and everyone is welcome in our space. Our only rule is that you have to be able to be safe within our space and keep it a safe community but we don’t judge you for coming with whatever it is that you’re carrying that night and it’s an incredibly freeing philosophy that I found I apply a lot more to people I encounter in other parts of my life as well.

Mac Prichard:

In your article on our website, Anneliese, you said that highlighting your volunteer experience, both on your resume and on your LinkedIn page, made a difference in your search. Tell us more about that.

Anneliese Davis:

Well, I moved up to Portland from Texas about 5 years ago and we knew nobody up here. I was staying home with my daughter and I decided I wanted to get to know Portland, to get to know the community and so I started volunteering.

Pretty much, with different organizations until I found the right fit for something. It gave me a chance to get to know Oregon, overall, it gave me a chance to meet people in the community who were interested in things I was interested in, and to be able to continue to use my skills.

I was able to continue to grow professionally just by virtue of showing up and volunteering in organizations for causes I cared about.

Mac Prichard:

What difference do you think that made, being able to highlight those volunteer experiences on your application materials?

Anneliese Davis:

I think it showed that I did create connections. I did have an understanding of the nonprofit landscape in Portland to a certain extent, and that I had continued to keep skills sharp even when I wasn’t actively getting paid for the work that I did.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned that you had several different volunteer experiences. Did you also have a chance by working as a volunteer to try out different roles and maybe decide that was a direction that you didn’t want to go in?

Anneliese Davis:

Oh yes, I did a lot of volunteer work that was similar to what the professional work that I had done in Houston before I had come here and while I loved being able to bring some of my past experience and skills to that, it also made me realize I was a little tired of doing some of those things and pushed me into thinking differently about what it was that I wanted to do.

I was fortunate to be volunteering in an organization that gave me a chance to, as you said, to test out something different. To step into roles that were not immediately natural to me and made me a little uncomfortable but that I learned from and I brought that experience to my new job as well.

Mac Prichard:

Did you have an expectation, Anneliese, that volunteering might lead to a job or were you looking to acquire skills?

Anneliese Davis:

I think I was largely looking to not be isolated in my house with a toddler.

Mac Prichard:

That’s a good goal, too.

Anneliese Davis:

Yeah, I mean, I’m an extrovert. I like to be around other people and I like to be involved in social justice or organizations and this was a fun way to do that and in all of my volunteer jobs, I took my daughter with me to all of them. That was really fun too that she had that experience.

Mac Prichard:

She was a toddler in those years.

Anneliese Davis:

She was a toddler and a preschooler. She went to so many city club research board meetings that they actually gave her her own nameplate that she could put in front of her at the meetings.

Mac Prichard:

That’s a powerful experience. I remember riding with my mom as she would deliver Meals on Wheels.

Anneliese Davis:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

Parents provide all kinds of experiences for their kids like that but it’ll make a great impression on her one day, don’t you think?

Anneliese Davis:

I think so. You know, I was just saying it had been a long time since she and I had been to Salem for any lobbying so we’re going to work that into our schedule this year so she can be back in the capital again. It’s great to be able to do that.

That volunteering gave me a chance to grow both professionally and it was also just a fun parenting/teaching opportunity for my daughter.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s talk more about your job search. What made the biggest difference, do you think, in your success?

Anneliese Davis:

I think it was coming to the job search and the job interview with a lot more curiosity and interest in trying something different than what I had done before and that meant asking a lot of questions because I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into.

Also, and I talked about this a little bit in the story that I shared on the website, I put myself out there in a way that I had never done before professionally. After I had visited Rahab’s later in the interview process and I just really knew that that was the place that I wanted to be, I wrote a letter to the board that was a lot more vulnerable and heartfelt than I probably would have done 5 years ago and let them know how much this community had impacted me in the short time that I had been able to experience it and how much I wanted to continue to be a part of that.

Mac Prichard:

Talk more about writing that letter and sharing that vulnerability. Was that hard for you to do?

Anneliese Davis:

For me, extraordinarily hard.

Mac Prichard:

Okay.

Anneliese Davis:

Because it’s a big risk…for me it always, when you go out for a job interview, then you’re taking a risk and you’ve got that fear of rejection and it felt like it was compounding it to be able to just be so open about, this is something that really, deeply connects with me emotionally and I want to be a part of it.

I knew that if I didn’t get the job that it was going to sting a little bit more because I had really opened up about it.

Mac Prichard:

How did you know it was the right thing to do? To be that vulnerable and take that risk?

Anneliese Davis:

Partly because that’s what I saw when I was in that space when I was there that night. I thought, “This is a community of people who are being vulnerable together on a regular basis.”

And also, I just knew in my heart that was where I wanted to be. It was the next step for me because it was so completely different from anything I had done before.

Mac Prichard:

What didn’t work in your job search?

Anneliese Davis:

What didn’t work in my job search, I think, was not being clear for myself. When I’d first started thinking about going back to work, it just seemed to make sense to me that I would continue to do the same things that I had done in my past jobs.

Mac Prichard:

And you had a background as an administrator of nonprofits.

Anneliese Davis:

Yeah, I had been a chief development officer and worked in board governance for a long, long time and so that seemed like an easy…

Mac Prichard:

And these were sort of medium and large-sized nonprofits, very different from the one you’re with today.

Anneliese Davis:

Very different. They were much more institutional organizations with large staffs and large budgets. Doing great work in the world but looking very different and that was where I immediately started looking and while I could get my resume open to the door and to the interview, I would get in the interview and think, “Wow, this is not exciting to me.” And that certainly came across.

Mac Prichard:

You could tell.

Anneliese Davis:

In the process, I remember one particular, I think I had gone to the second round of interviews and we were all kind of sitting there, I think we all had this realization at the moment of, “Why is this person here right now? Because she doesn’t seem that enthusiastic about what we’re talking about.”

Mac Prichard:

Well, finally, what is your number 1 job hunting tip for our listeners?

Anneliese Davis:

I think that my number 1 tip is you’ve got to be clear about…the more you can find out about the culture of the organization that you’re going into.

I think that job descriptions can look amazing and can be a perfect match with your skills and it’s hard to find that cultural fit and I’ve learned that over a long period and, of course, the mistakes that you make when you see, you think, “This is going to be an amazing dream job for me and I can overlook these little red flags that I see in the organization.”

For me, I asked directly about concerns that I had about the culture of the organization. I would say, at a different point in my career, when it’s harder to ask those questions directly than I wish that I had asked questions in the interviewing process about what I observed in the building when I came in.

“Oh, I noticed everybody was eating their lunch at their desk.” Or just things that would tell me a little bit more about what it was really like to be in that organization.

Mac Prichard:

Well, terrific.

Well, thank you, Annaliese, for sharing your story today. You can learn more about Annaliese Davis’ job search by visiting macslist.org/stories.

Check out the Mac’s List website for dozens of other success stories. Every Friday, we add a new interview with a Mac’s List reader who’s found a dream job.

Go to macslist.org/stories.

In the meantime, thank you for listening to today’s bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job.

If you’re returning to work after a long break, you need to prepare long before you start looking for that perfect job. Volunteering in your community is a great way to grow professionally while maintaining your skill set. You also have a chance to meet others who share your interests and values. Find Your Dream Job guest Anneliese Davis shares how she used volunteer work to not only keep her skills sharp but to decide what type of career she wanted. Anneliese tells us that approaching her job search with curiosity allowed her to switch careers and find a job she loves. Learn more about Anneliese’s career history below in this installment of our Success Stories series.


What do you do for a career? Who do you work for?

I’m the part-time executive director (and first staff member!) for Rahab’s Sisters, a 14-year-old organization providing radical hospitality to marginalized women every Friday night on SE 82nd. We offer a homemade meal and hygiene supplies, but the real story of Rahab’s Sisters is the community our guests and volunteers build together.

How long did it take you to find this job?

My daughter started kindergarten in 2016, so I began to think about going back into the workforce. I kept an eye on what was out there, talked to a few folks, applied for a job or two, but couldn’t seem to get excited about anything until I saw the Rahab’s Sisters posting in April; I started in June.

How did you find your job? What resources did you use? What tool or tactic helped the most?

I can honestly say I always skim Mac’s List, even when I’m not actively looking for a job. It has given me a good overview of Portland’s nonprofit sector and I learn about a lot of different organizations. This is the first time I have ever found a position from a job posting and not via my network, so it was different to introduce myself to people who knew nothing about me. I spent a lot of time on my resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile, though, I felt like I was able to accurately represent my skills, experience and values.

What was the most difficult part of your job search? How did you overcome this challenge?

I moved to Portland in 2013 and decided to be a full-time parent, so the last paid job on my resume was a few years back and in another city. I had been doing a lot of volunteer work here, though, and I decided to list my volunteer leadership roles on my resume in the same way as all my paid positions under the heading “Experience” with dates, key responsibilities and accomplishments. I made it clear I was a volunteer, of course, but it demonstrated that I was an active part of the Portland community.

What is the single best piece of advice you would offer other job seekers?

After I spent an evening volunteering with Rahab’s Sisters, I knew I really wanted this job. So the next day, I wrote a letter to the board sharing what that experience had been like for me and how much I wanted to be part of this work. It felt vulnerable to put myself out there like that and after I hit “send” I wondered how I would be perceived. But I knew if I wasn’t selected for the job, my disappointment would be compounded if I didn’t feel I had given it my all. What have you got to lose if you really go for it?

Why do you love your job?

I knew I would enjoy the intellectual challenge of building out an organization that has been doing good work for a long time. But the real joy and learning for me has been coming to know our community of mainstream and marginalized women. My heart is broken open a million times a night, and I am in awe of our guests’ resilience and our volunteers’ love and dedication.