In order to find a career you love, you have to know what you want. Great careers don’t just happen; they’re formed by taking advantage of opportunities, setting goals, and making connections with the people who can help you get the job you want. On this episode of Find Your Dream Job, Alisyn Maggiora and I discuss how setting clear goals, developing her personal network, and pursuing informational interviews allowed her to get her dream job, even in an industry that she had no experience in. Learn more about Alisyn’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 am an administrative professional with a focus on the non-profit energy industry. I work for the NW Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA).
How long did it take you to find this job?
How did you find your job? What resources did you use? What tool or tactic helped the most?
I first found my job on Mac’s List and ultimately, networked my way into the position. I volunteered at a few conferences and events in the industry I was looking to transition into. I networked at those events and followed up with people to learn more about their work and possible opportunities. Eventually, paths started to cross and I received a pivotal recommendation for the position and company I was most excited about.
What was the most difficult part of your job search? How did you overcome this challenge?
Maintaining resilience and confidence when opportunities didn’t pan out. I kept the faith that the right opportunity would come along and continued to find ways to connect with people in the industry and discern what I was most interested in. I thought of it as both relationship building and a learning opportunity.
What is the single best piece of advice you would offer other job-seekers?
Get really clear about the kind of work you want to focus on AND the environment/culture in which you want to do it. Put your greatest effort into the types of opportunities that align most with the direction you want to go (applications, volunteering, etc.); don’t just plaster your resume all over the place and expect that to get you something you’ll be really happy with.
Network and volunteer for activities that are related to the work you want to do; have conversations with people – build a web. If you’re clear in expressing what you want and stay curious throughout the process, people will usually reciprocate interest in you.
Why do you love your job?
The size of the organization, culture, and mission support the environment I thrive in. I get to work on projects that interest me and I work with smart, passionate people that have similar personal and professional interests.
Find Your Dream Job, Bonus Episode:36
Clarify Your Career Goals, with Alisyn Maggiora
Airdate: January 4, 2021
Hi, this is Mac Prichard.
I had a cycling accident recently and broke several bones. While I recover, I need to take a short break from podcasting.
So through March 3, we’re sharing some of our most popular interviews from the last five years.
I hope you enjoy them and thank you for being a listener.
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 Alisyn Maggiora.
She’s a portfolio coordinator at the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, a collaboration of 140 utilities and efficiency organizations, headquartered here in Portland, Oregon.
Alisyn Maggiora knows that you can’t get a career you can love by happenstance.
Instead, you must know what you want. And then, you need to find the opportunities that will help get you there.
In a story you can find on the Mac’s List website, Alisyn says that a clear goal and the connections she made during her search led to the job she loves.
She joins us today in person at the Mac’s List studio in Portland, Oregon.
Alisyn, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Mac.
Well, it’s a pleasure to have you.
You’re a portfolio coordinator for the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. Tell me, Alisyn, why do you love your job?
I love my job because I love the company that I work for, and a lot of that has to do with the culture there, and the people, and the support I’ve received to grow and develop my career there.
Okay, well, you’ve been with the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance for more than 2 years now; why is this such a good fit for you?
Again, that comes back to my answer from question number one, the culture, but more importantly, it’s the mission. Our focus is on bringing more energy efficient products to market more quickly and energy efficiency is a really important facet of our demand for energy and that all ties into climate change.
That’s what drives my love for being there.
How did you find your job, Alisyn?
I definitely found it on Mac’s List.
Okay, and when you saw the listing, what happened next?
At that point, I had been doing some networking and started talking to a couple of people about the position and just digging in to see if anybody knew anybody at the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and how I might be able to connect further, find a little bit more about the company, beyond just what you might read on their website…get a little insight into culture.
You did all that before you sent in your application, didn’t you?
What would you say to listeners who might see a listing and they know they should probably reach out to people inside an organization or maybe in the field, how did you go about that?
Did you know someone inside the Alliance offices or did you know people in the field? Tell us about that.
At that point, once I found the job listing, I had been, as I said earlier, I had been networking a bit, volunteering for a couple of different conferences that were in the energy field and just trying to build a web of networked people that I could, not only converse about the industry but try to build additional connections.
There was one person in particular that I had connected with around the time that I had started working on my application for this position, and just asked her for coffee and found out that she had a lot more influence in our company than I had even ever thought.
Some of it was a little bit of magic, but a good portion of that was just spending a lot of dedicated time building that network web.
You knew that you wanted to work in the energy efficiency world, you volunteered at several conferences, that helped you meet people in the same sector. What else did you do to grow your network inside the field you wanted to be in?
Informational interviews. So, I kind of think of that as part of the networking process but through building that web, connecting with people, I would do informational interviews. Not just with people from the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance but other related organizations that may either have touchpoints with them or know a little bit about them and I found the informational interview process to be critical.
It’s amazing what comes out of a conversation. Far more than just an email, and I got some really good tips and tricks about certain things I should read to get more up to speed on what the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance deals with, and then, out of every informational interview, I always asked at the end, “Who else should I talk to?” And so, again, you’re just reinforcing that web building.
What would you to listeners who might think, “If I ask that question, people are going to say, ‘I don’t know’ or they’ll be reluctant to share names.” What was your experience?
Sure, I was not ever met with reluctance. I think maybe I got a, “I’m not sure. Let me think about that and get back to you.”
You know, if people are reluctant that’s fine. They’re not going to give it to you, but I found probably 98, 99% of the time, no issue. You’re asking that at the end of a conversation and during that conversation, my intention was to glean more about that person as well, it wasn’t all about me.
Showing up as someone who’s interested in what in they do, it’s sort of that “tit-for-tat, value add” approach. When you’ve given people an opportunity to share about themselves, which everyone loves to talk about themselves, you’re sort of vindicating, “Okay, you’ve had your share, now can I get a share?”
I think just in that value exchange, it was never a problem. I didn’t experience it and my advice would be, keep at it, try it. If someone gives you the decline, fine, respect that. If they say, “Maybe, let me follow up with you.” Be sure to follow up with them. They may be busy and they may forget. It doesn’t mean that they don’t want to follow up with you.
Let’s step back, when you were doing a search and, I’m inferring that the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance was on your list. Was that the only place you were looking or were you looking for opportunities in the field?
I was looking for opportunities in the field.
They were one of many on the list that I was working through as potential companies in this realm of nonprofit energy work and the right opportunity, the right job position came up that fit well with my past experience and so then the next task was to really convince them that, even though I didn’t have any energy industry experience, that I was worth the hire.
Okay, I want to talk about that because a lot of people want to change sectors and they struggle with that. But let’s step back, one more step, which is your goal. You had a clear goal, didn’t you?
Yeah, I did.
What was the goal and how did you settle on that? Because we all have multiple interests. I know you do as well. What was your goal and how did you pick it?
My goal was…I’m trying to make this succinct. I had done my undergrad in environmental economics, and then in the subsequent 10’ish years, I had found myself doing admin work and I knew that when I was about to graduate with my MBA, that I wanted to pivot my career and come back to something environmentally related.
I had done several research projects around energy, Tesla, that kind of stuff, and I thought, “Wow, this could be the perfect next step.”
I knew I wanted to get into energy. I didn’t know exactly how.
I knew I wanted to pivot my career and capitalize on my admin experience but I wasn’t sure how exactly I was going to approach that. What I did was say, “Ok, energy industry is a sector, but what I want is to find an organization that is nimble enough or supports the needs for filling gaps.”
And in the nonprofit sector, that is by and large the case because there is always more work to be done than there are people to do it. Being really thoughtful about, what are the kinds of organizations that will facilitate where you want to go or the kind of work you want to do and the culture that supports that, I think is just as critical as wanting to work in the technology industry or the energy industry. Whatever it might be.
How did you get to that point, Alisyn? I mean, it’s very clear, what kind of steps did you take? Did you do self-assessment? Did you work with a coach? Did you talk to colleagues?
I had a special circumstance because the final course in my MBA program, this was partly my project, but I think there are some really good tips and tricks I got out of that that can be applicable to anybody. You don’t need to go through an MBA program to do that.
Some key things – One, get really clear.
If you’re not sure exactly what you want to do. Get really clear about your mission, about your purpose, your vision, your value. Highly recommend, I’m going to do a plug and I don’t get any royalties for this, there is a small workbook called, “Brand You.”
It’s a purple book and it has a thumbprint on the front, I couldn’t tell you the author’s name, but it is a workbook that allows you to walk through all these exercises and get really get serious and clear about that.
That enabled me to get really clear and get serious about my mission, my purpose, my elevator pitch, so when I was chatting with people over coffee and networking, I was very succinct, composed, I knew exactly what I wanted, and that in itself, I think has a really big impact on how you show up with people and they respect that and they see you as serious about what you want to do. I did this work on the side to figure out, what do I really want to do?
Then, I had to create a list of 30 different companies that I wanted to work for and why.
This was an exercise in the book?
That was not an exercise in the book; it was an exercise for my class. But these 2 things were foundational and you don’t need a class to do that.
They were foundational in me getting really clear about what I wanted and the kinds of organizations that would facilitate what I was after.
Knowing I needed to pivot my career, wanting to build on my past admin experience, wanting to get into the energy industry, knowing I wanted to start growing what I was doing into more of a facilitation and leadership coaching role, but not having any skill set around that, and wanting to serve a greater mission purpose of being environmentally connected.
You had a very clear goal, you had a finite list of companies where you wanted to work, how did you make that pivot, Alisyn? Because you were talking to people in an industry where you didn’t have experience. What did you do that was persuasive?
In terms of being persuasive, I would say that being clear, again, coming back to those… getting clear about what you want, what you’re after, where you want to go, that was the piece that was persuasive.
The connections, the networking piece, I think was vital to me pivoting and actually getting this position, because I was way overqualified for the job that I came in at. My boss has told me, we’ve had conversations about it, she was not going to consider me and it is because I networked and connected with several different people and found this gal that had a lot of significant influence in our organization unbeknownst to me…she was retired.
Anyway, she gave me a recommendation, put in a good word for me with 2 primary people in our company, I did informational interviews with them, and I wrote my boss an email in addition to trying to make a very persuasive argument in my cover letter of, here’s my skill set, here’s where I want to go, here’s what I’m really passionate about. Even though you may think I’m crazy for wanting to apply for an admin assistant job with an MBA, here’s why I want to do it. I want to grow with your company.
That was the compelling argument.
Okay, that’s terrific. Now, tell me, what didn’t work in your search?
You know, Mac, I spent some time thinking about this.
I hope this doesn’t come off as cheesy, or a pass-over but there really wasn’t anything that didn’t work. That’s not to say that I didn’t have struggles, but there wasn’t anything that didn’t work because I just kept at what I knew I wanted.
Again, filtering all these different opportunities that I would come across through the lens of, “Would this match my goal?” And that saved me a lot of time and energy and stress.
Because you weren’t applying for positions that might have interested you or you could’ve done, but you had a crystal clear focus of where you wanted to be.
You were recently promoted to a new position, and I can imagine listeners out there thinking, “Okay, you went to graduate school, you probably spent a lot of money, maybe took out loans, we don’t have to talk about that…but then you took a job as an administrative assistant.”
I’m inferring from our conversation that was with the goal of getting your foot in the door.
Now, are you seeing the benefits of this approach?
Tell us more about that.
I’d say really, some of the benefits I’m reaping from this are…I guess, how I’m getting to that point is, I’m still very intentional about what I want to do and in September, I started voicing to colleagues that I was really interested in building facilitation skills and recognizing the need for that within our organization.
I spent the first year and a half in that role building a foundation, an understanding of how we really operate, building friendships, relationships, making myself credible within the organization, and then starting to capitalize on where those gaps were.
Just having conversations, expressing that intentioned, and it came out of a side way that I had no idea was going to come, but it did, and, again, I think that’s why I reinforce, I think so many things happen for a reason as a result of conversations. You just have to put that intention out there.
Well, Alisyn, what’s your number 1 job hunting tip?
I would say get really clear, first and foremost, about what you want to do as it relates to your mission, your value, your vision, and then think really thoughtfully about what kind of organizations are going to support that.
The culture, too, is really important but that’s kind of a…you can’t quite grasp that until you’re actually in an organization. Sometimes you can, maybe you know someone, maybe you have some history with that…but really, you have to just test it out for yourself and sometimes that’s a gamble.
Get clear about what you want and where you think you can do it and give it a try.
Well, thank you for sharing your story, Alisyn.
It’s my pleasure.
To learn more about Alisyn Maggiora’s job search, visit macslist.org/stories.
And 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 has 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.
This is Mac Prichard again. I hope you enjoyed this interview from our archives.
Please join us next week as we share through March 3 some of our most popular interviews from the last five years.
And thank you for being a listener.