Identifying Your Career Motivations, with Roxanne Myslewski

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Find Your Dream Job, Bonus Episode 26:

Identifying Your Career Motivations, with Roxanne Myslewski

Airdate: February 10, 2020

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have 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 you find a fulfilling career.

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 job they love.

Our guest today is Roxanne Myslewski. She’s the regional philanthropy officer at the American Red Cross in Portland, Oregon.

For Roxanne Myslewski, the trick to finding her dream job was examining her own career motivations.

In a story you can find on the Mac’s List website, Roxanne said she asked herself what mattered most: was it a collaborative culture, a larger mission, or learning new solutions?

When Roxane identified her priorities for her next job, the pieces started to fall into place.

Roxanne, you’re the regional philanthropy officer at the American Red Cross here in Portland. Why do you love your job?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

I feel really lucky to have landed at the Red Cross for a number of reasons. It’s a national organization, the American Red Cross, but we have chapters all across the country. We have a really interesting structure in the way that we work, in terms of our fundraising structure is really different, and I really enjoy the collaborative culture. I really enjoy the opportunities that we have to grow our relationships and our portfolios in terms of the nuts and bolts of the work but it really comes down to relationship building. And the team that I have is really supportive, and brilliant, and cares very much about the work of the Red Cross and each other, so I feel quite lucky to have landed.

Mac Prichard:

How did your goals that led to this position? I mean, did you know you wanted to work at the Red Cross, Roxanne, or did you define the kind of organization you wanted?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

That’s an interesting question. I wanted to work for a national organization. I’ve been in small-shop, nonprofit for the majority of my career, and after graduating with my MBA in early 2019, I wanted to take some of the learnings and apply them more broadly in terms of, how does a national nonprofit function? How do we do this well?

You know, so much of good fundraising is person to person, organization to organization, relationship building, and the channel design that the Red Cross has implemented over the last decade or so has been quite successful. And I’ve been fascinated to learn how that’s all worked and the trajectory that we’ve really grown into and the strategies that we’ve put in place.

My goals were really around…being really interested in joining a national nonprofit with my fundraising background, and the Red Cross really ticked all the boxes for me in terms of my background in humanitarian services work, and so it was a really natural fit.

Mac Prichard:

Did you wait for an opening to appear on the Red Cross website or did you take other action to find the opportunity before it was advertised?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

Oh, well, I feel quite lucky. I was contacted by a recruiter for the Red Cross here in Portland, letting me know that this regional philanthropy officer position was open and had been open for a couple of months and they were really looking for the right fit. Being contacted by a recruiter, it’s an interesting spot to find yourself because it’s, you feel quite lucky in a way. I had this opportunity, I want to pursue it, but you’re not sure what their job search history has looked like, what kind of candidates they have seen already, am I the right fit for what they’re looking for?

Yeah, being contacted by a recruiter was an interesting way to start this process in particular.

Mac Prichard:

Did you have a relationship with that recruiter before you received that call?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

No, no, I didn’t, not at all. And it was interesting because I had been on Mac’s List for a number of months before that, really looking for the right positions to come across my bow, and I had interviewed at a couple of places before the recruiter contacted me, and it was an easy sort of month and a half long process after that.

Mac Prichard:

Did the recruiter share how they discovered you?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

That’s an interesting question. I don’t believe I ever asked. I assume, and again, who knows? But there’s a little box you can fill on your LinkedIn profile that says, “Make yourself available to recruiters, should they be interested in contacting you.” You know, I ticked that box and I assumed that it was that way but I’m not sure.

Mac Prichard:

I imagine you were one of several candidates that the recruiter or perhaps other recruiters presented to the American Red Cross. What was it like working with a recruiter and how did you position yourself once you decided that this was a job you wanted to be successful?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

The recruiter was an interesting go-between. And I should say that this was the first time I had worked with a recruiter before, so I was fairly green to the process. She was very kind, very helpful, she kept in touch with me throughout the entire process. But what I learned as I went into the interview process with the Red Cross was that the recruiter didn’t necessarily know all the nuts and bolts of how the organization’s fundraising department really worked.

So, the questions that I was asking her, she would say, “You know, your supervisor will be a better person to ask that question.”

For jobseekers to understand that recruiters, they may not know every detail that you are really seeking at the time, but to kind of flag that and to make note that, “Oh, they may not know the ins and outs of your 401K program.” But make a note to ask the HR team about that.

Mac Prichard:

You didn’t expect the recruiter to have all the answers about the organization’s culture or the needs of the employer, did you?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

Well, you know, because this was the first time that I ever experienced working with a recruiter, I did, and I think I assumed that she worked closely with the team but, she’s working on a national level, this woman is working across the division, meaning the whole West Coast, and likely for other chapters as well.

Mac Prichard:

Once you discovered that, Roxanne, how did you prepare for your conversations with the American Red Cross with the hiring managers?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

I went into my interviews with the Red Cross just really open-eyed. I wanted to learn as much as I could. There were a couple of times where I said, “Cindy told me x, y, and z,”

Mac Prichard:

Cindy was the recruiter?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

Yeah, her name was Cindy, lovely woman, really, really kind and very helpful in all the ways that it is, as you’re pursuing your job, the kinds of boxes that you need to tick in order to get in front of the hiring manager. But you know, I would say, I asked Cindy these cultural questions of how the office works and she wasn’t able to answer, and that’s totally understandable now that I understand how this relationship actually works, and my hiring manager was able to talk me through that.

Mac Prichard:

Talk more about how a recruiter…his relationship is with a candidate because we’ve certainly had many recruiters on the show. But I often find job seekers have one idea of how a recruiter might work with them and the reality is something different.

What were your expectations, Roxanne, when you were contacted by Cindy? And it sounds like it was a very positive relationship but it was different than perhaps you expected, wasn’t it?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

Yeah, that’s very interesting. Yeah, again, I expected her to really know everything about the department for which I was joining. And through no fault of her own, I mean, she’s doing all this work across many, many different chapters, that wasn’t the case, and that’s totally okay but, again, the first time I’d ever worked with a recruiter before.

My hope and my expectation was, when she first recruited me or reached out and said, “This might be an opportunity that you would be interested in,” was that she would continue to communicate with me about…even if I didn’t have questions, that two weeks later, she would follow up with me and say, “Hey, here’s where we’re at in the process.”

I think, for job seekers, the world over, the most frustrating part of the process is not knowing. You know, you’re putting yourself out there and you’re sending these cover letters and you’re really reaching out, and even when you happen to work with a recruiter and you happen to fall off their radar and you can feel really alone in that process.

What I think I really admired is that when working with Cindy and when working with the first few weeks of this process with the Red Cross was the amount of touches. Which was frankly a really good sign for fundraising, you know, for joining a fundraising team, communication being paramount and relationship building.

Mac Prichard:

Then, you mentioned Cindy didn’t have a detailed knowledge of the organizational culture and the challenges that the Red Cross might have. How did you fill that gap? What kind of homework did you do when preparing for conversations with people inside the Red Cross so that you would understand their needs and talk about what you might do for them?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

Yeah, I don’t want to misrepresent and say that Cindy didn’t know about the culture at the Red Cross. She’s been working there for a long time and she really did have a good sense of what I was going to be walking into. But she was very good about saying, “You know, that question might be…Dave, your chief development officer, will have a better sense of that. He’ll be able to answer that question in more detail.” Which was very helpful for me. That way I could go to Dave and say, “What is the working culture like here? How collaborative are you? Is it an open door policy?” Et cetera, et cetera.

I think, the best part of the recruitment process in terms of these conversations that I’m having with Cindy, or was, “Here’s what I know. Here’s where we’re going to go from here, and here’s what I don’t know, necessarily, and here’s where you can follow up.” She kind of helped shape those first few conversations when I was getting to know the organization.

Mac Prichard:

What advice would you have for a listener who is about to work with a recruiter for the first time?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

Well, I would say, be open. I mean, that sounds a little bit trite but ask the questions that are at the forefront of your mind early. Again, the recruiter may not have a working knowledge of how the inter-office culture functions, but they will know about other things that might be of importance to you. Your salary, and your benefits, your timeline, your time off, the amount of hours that you’re expected to put in, how the office might work with an in-out policy, can I work from coffee shops? That kind of thing.

When you’re working with a recruiter, especially when they contact you, it’s helpful to ask questions like,  “What about me did you see in my LinkedIn profile, whatever’s out there, that would help you understand that I would be a good fit for this job?”

And they’ll help you understand they’re looking for, you know, Dave, the hiring manager, whomever at whatever organization that you’re reaching out to, they’re looking for somebody with this experience, with this kind of a background, with this kind of a history with organizations or individuals. I mean, I’m speaking from a fundraising background so it’s a little bit specific but it’s really helpful to start a conversation, to build a rapport, and a relationship because a recruiter is a human being, and they’re really doing the work on behalf of the organization but on behalf of you as well. They want to make sure that it’s a good fit.

Mac Prichard:

Any other challenges that you want to share about this process and moving to your next job?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

Challenges. Well, I mean, as all job hunters, seekers, as we all understand, it’s an incredibly vulnerable process.

We’re putting ourselves out there, we’re really writing in our cover letters and in our informational interviews and in our networking, not only is it incredibly time-consuming, but it’s really vulnerable. You have to open yourself up to failure, to rejection, to this possibility, you know, especially as it concerns being forgotten about in the process, you can put your heart and soul into an interview or 5, and then, “We’re sorry, it’s just not a good fit.”

That’s really heart-breaking, it can feel…you can start to cycle about “What did I do wrong? What about me did they not like? If they continue to call me back, who was the better fit? What did they have that I didn’t have?”

All of these sorts of things that we can sort of cycle on. So, I think one of the biggest challenges for me in this process, again, I was contacted by a recruiter and for the Red Cross, for the job that I am currently in and that went forward, and I went through a few rounds of interviews with them, but before that, I was hitting the pavement along with all of us. All the kinds of work that we have to do to put ourselves out there.

Mac Prichard:

You were networking and you were applying for other positions, and just the phone didn’t ring one day and magically produce this offer.

Roxanne Myslewsi:

No.

Mac Prichard:

You were in the middle of a search.

Roxanne Myslewsi:

No, no, it’s incredibly important to update your networking tools. I mean, I think job seekers hear this kind of thing all the time, but to have a clean statement of, I’m putting my air quotations up, but “brand statements.” Your personal brand statement on your LinkedIn profile so that people understand what your interests are, what you do well, and what you’re seeking to do in the future. Identifying your values, what will continue to keep you going forward every day.

I know, as I mentioned earlier, identifying your motivations, I think, is absolutely key. And so, the challenge that I really faced was just feeling a little bit sad sometimes, I think, that I hadn’t found the perfect job yet and that it hadn’t fallen into my lap, and you just kind of have to keep doing the work.

Mac Prichard:

Roxanne, do you think that work that you did do, your personal brand, you talked about pounding the pavement, doing some networking; did that help position you for success when the phone did magically ring one day and there was a recruiter wanting to have a conversation with you about a job that interested you very much?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

That’s a great question. The short answer is, absolutely. The more comfortable we get with our kind of personal brand statements, meaning, what is that you actually do? What is it that actually gets you out of bed in the morning and drives you to go to work?

The more that you can understand that and practice that, the more natural it is when you’re having a conversation with a recruiter or an informational interview, or even when you’re in the door for your first interview. We ought to practice. That’s the only way to build that experience.

Mac Prichard:

Do you think you might not have been as successful as you were if you hadn’t done that work?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

Oh, I’m certain. I mean, I think that’s why I wasn’t successful prior to securing this position at the Red Cross. That sounds so clinical, “securing the position.” Having the opportunity to work for the Red Cross, it’s…yeah, you have to practice.

I had to really get comfortable with why I was doing this in the first place. Why I was moving from my previous organization, which was a lovely group of people, which was a really important mission, and which was difficult to leave, you know? I cried when I left my past organization but it was time for me to go. It was time for me to move up and move on.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a great conversation, Roxanne. Now, tell us, what’s your number one job hunting tip?

Roxanne Myslewsi:

Know thyself. I really believe that you, in order to get the job you really want, you have got to be comfortable with putting yourself out there. You’ve got to understand that it is vulnerable, it’s a vulnerable position to be in, and in order for you to secure that next step forward, you know, putting in the work, getting that experience of the difficult conversations, and really identifying your motivations.

What’s going to keep you going to this job? Before you say yes to the next job, is it providing you with what you need? Is it nourishing your values? Is your motivation a really high salary? Is it mission-driven? Is it creative collaborations? Is it strong team-work? The more that you can suss out from your interview process, and the more honest you can be in those conversations, you’ll be successful.

Mac Prichard:

Roxanne, thanks for sharing your story.

You can learn more about Roxanne’s job search by visiting macslist.org/stories.

And check out the Mac’s List website for dozens of other success stories like Roxanne’s.

On the second Friday of every month, we add a new interview with a Mac’s List reader who has found a dream job.

Go to macslist.org/stories.

Thank you for joining us for this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job.

When you’re searching for your next job, it’s vitally important that you go into the search with some key pieces of information. You need to understand what motivates you, what values you hold, and why you feel the need to move toward a new position. On this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, Roxanne Myslewski and I discuss how digging deep into her career motivations led to her job at the American Red Cross. Roxanne also shares what it was like working with a recruiter and the importance of keeping your online “brand” up to date. Learn more about Roxanne’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 a fundraiser for the American Red Cross. I build and steward relationships, connect giving interests and priorities, and design campaigns and strategic plans in service to a life-saving mission. I work to ensure we meet our goals by creating and leveraging the power of relationships to sustain and grow programming in blood services, disaster response, service to the armed forces, and beyond.

How long did it take you to find this job?

I was lucky to be recruited for this position. While I was employed at my previous organization, I was looking to transfer my experience to a new organization with more career growth potential for about six months before a Red Cross recruiter contacted me in May 2019.

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

A recruiter found me via LinkedIn – so the best advice I can offer here is update your networking tools. Make sure you’re all up to date and you have that little box ticked so recruiters can find you. But I was browsing job boards like Mac’s List and interviewing for several months before I was contacted. In terms of tactics, people say this all the time—so much so that it makes me cringe to repeat it. But, here goes: activate your network! What has proven unfailingly true over the years as I’ve grown my career here in Oregon is that people want to help each other succeed. Ask people you admire for advice. Buy them lunch. Be generous, appreciate their time, and ask specific questions to help you advance toward your goals. The more you’ve done your homework, the better your network can help you move forward. And word of your interests and competency will travel.

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

Without question, the most difficult part of job-searching is the vulnerability we feel. But over time I’ve learned the hard way to be kind to my instincts and to trust my gut. We’ve all experienced that feeling of “something here doesn’t feel right.” Often, we suppress this. Better the devil we know, right? Change is scary, time-consuming, and can feel exposing. But eventually, that feeling continues to build, resentment can grow, the work can suffer, and you’re still stagnant. Sometimes we can boil over, or anxiety and depression can set in. Trusting our guts is a practice. When these scary feelings arise, we need to listen generously, get curious, and ask questions to help ourselves get specific. Is now a good time to look elsewhere? What are my goals? Am I prepared for a job or career change? Am I dealing with the “Should” or “Enough” language that can hold me back? (I’m not smart enough for that job – or – I should really be farther along by now.) Often, the most difficult part of any job search, aside from the time it takes, is the vulnerability we feel.

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

You already know the usual: an attractive, error-free resume and practiced, confident interviewing skills. But just as important is knowing what motivates you. We job-seekers are not looking for the next rung on the ladder, but rather the opportunity to grow, learn, engage, and find fulfillment. How can we determine if the job(s) we’re looking at will be the right fit if we’re not clear on what motivates us to come into work every day? Is it service? Money? Security? Creative collaboration? Innovation? Before we start looking for a new job, we must start by probing our motivations. This helps guide the entire process.

Why do you love your job?

I’m lucky because I have my motivation trifecta: a strong, intelligent team, career growth opportunities, and I can see a direct through-line from my work to people in need receiving help.