Setting Clear Career Goals, with Becca McCulloch

Listen On:

Transcript

Find Your Dream Job, BONUS Episode:

Setting Clear Career Goals, with Becca McCulloch

Airdate: November 12, 2018

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 Mac Prichard, founder and publisher of Mac’s List.

To get your dream job you need clear goals, great skills, and a good network. You also have to know how to look for work.

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 shares how they did it and offers their best job search tips.

Our guest today is Becca McCulloch. She’s the membership coordinator at Portland Business Alliance.

Becca McColloch believes in being clear about your goals and in the power of personal relationships to help you land your dream job.

In an article you can find on the Mac’s List website, Becca says she had dead ends and disappointment during her search. But she stuck to her goals. She even turned down a job offer because it wasn’t a good fit.

Becca’s diligence paid off. She’s now the membership coordinator for Portland Business Alliance. And she’s been in the job for almost three years.

Today, she tells us why it’s important to be clear about what you want. It not only helps you find the most relevant jobs, says Becca. It also keeps you focused on your career goals.

Becca, welcome to the show.

Becca McCulloch:

Hi, thanks for having me.

Mac Prichard:

It’s a pleasure and you’re actually here in the studio in person.

Becca McCulloch:

I am.

Mac Prichard:

I appreciate you making the trip across town.

Now, you’re the membership coordinator at the Portland Business Alliance which is a cool job. Tell our listeners, why do you love that job?

Becca McCulloch:

I love my job for a number of reasons. First and foremost, is my coworkers. They welcomed me with open arms and a lot of them…I’ve really got great relationships with them. I even hang out with them outside of work. I didn’t really expect that, so that was, first and foremost my favorite part of my job.

Also, I am able to go all over the city to places I would have no reason to go otherwise. We do 150 events a year at the Alliance and because of that, I have been able to go everywhere from certain cafes to law firms to architecture firms and everywhere in between.

I will carry that with me from now on. I can just drive around the city and be like, “I’ve been there and there and there,” and I would have no cause to go there otherwise.

Mac Prichard:

I have to add that you and I met at an event.

Becca McCulloch:

That’s correct. We did.

Mac Prichard:

It was a classic Portland event. It was for the… let me scramble for the name of the company here. They are a member of the PBA here. I think it’s called Be Delivery; it’s a bicycle delivery service.

Becca McCulloch:

Right.

Mac Prichard:

The event was at the Red, which is a food warehouse for locally sourced foods that deliver in both the downtown and the eastside of Portland.

Becca McCulloch:

That’s correct. I remember that I introduced myself to you and said that I had found my current role on Mac’s List. That was for B Line and that was a fun event. That event is just an example of the kind of events we put on.

Mac Prichard:

I’m glad you said that the name of the company is B Line. I see their bicycles all across town.

Let’s talk about your job search, Becca. What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Becca McCulloch:

Well, I was kind of at a place where I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I knew my skill set. I knew that I loved people, I loved events, and I was not going to thrive at a nine to five desk job in a cube and I stand by that.

I just sort of started looking. I had worked a long time for Nordstrom, I had worked a long time for a winery, and I just, you know, I was some years out of college and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

I started hitting the usual suspects. Job boards and, of course, I had heard of Mac’s List as a really good source in Portland. I would look there from time to time. Some hits, some not, and that was kind of my jumping off point for my job search.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so you’re looking on job boards and you were looking for opportunities. What made the Portland Business Alliance stand out for you? I’m guessing you looked at a lot of opportunities.

Becca McCulloch:

Exactly. I did and that kind of was, to be honest, was quite random. At the point that I applied for the Alliance, I had gone on a number of interviews and applied for a number of positions. I almost always got at least an interview. Sometimes I would get no response, which was not fun. Sometimes I would go on an interview and leave knowing that it was not the right fit.

A time or two, I was even pursued by a company that I didn’t feel was the right fit. The Alliance, I applied, honestly, not even knowing what the Portland Business Alliance was. The job description fit kind of what I just described what I felt were my job skills. I thought, “What the heck? I’m going to apply for this,” and I did and I received an interview.

Mac Prichard:

You had that interview and as you had those conversations, this process was different than some of your other interviews wasn’t it?

Becca McCulloch:

It was. I went, still not having done due diligence and learned too much about the Alliance. I went in and I met the man who eventually became my direct supervisor and the HR director. They were funny, and kind, and just sort of… we totally hit it off like we were old friends. I left there thinking, “Okay. I still don’t know what the Alliance is but I really like these people and I could see myself spending my time with them.”

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so there was good chemistry in that interview. What happened next, Becca? What steps did you take to pursue your interest in the job?

Becca McCulloch:

I did the kind of typical write a quick thank you card to put it in the mail. I’m still a firm believer in the handwritten thank you card. I think before I could even get it in the mail, I had a phone call from the HR director asking me if I wanted the job.

It might have been a weekend in-between but I pretty much had to google Portland Business Alliance. I remember her telling me in the interview that it was the chamber. To me, the chamber is kind of an antiquated term. I wasn’t even totally familiar with that term, to be honest. I remember calling my mom and saying… you know she said, “It’s the chamber,” and she kind of explained it to me what that was.

I sort of blindly accepted the job.

Mac Prichard:

What made you say yes? Because as you mentioned you had interviewed for other positions and I know you had had another job offer. Why say yes to this one?

Becca McCulloch:

I did. This just felt right. Again, it goes back to the people and just sort of taking a chance and going with my gut and feeling as if I could do this. At least for a while.

Mac Prichard:

It’s actually been several years now, hasn’t it?

Becca McCulloch:

Yeah, and it’s been great. It’s not super jazzy but it’s so much fun. I really enjoy it.

Mac Prichard:

Good. When you reflect on that interview, and it sounds like you only had one before you received a job offer, what do you think you did well in that conversation that made them pick you? Because it was…clearly, you had competitors. What made you stand out?

Becca McCulloch:

I was just myself, and our senses of humor sort of lined up and our easy going…we just had a great rapport. We were, like I said, we felt like friends. I just went with that and thought, “If nothing comes of this, I met some really nice people and they liked me and I liked them.”

I left feeling that even if I didn’t get a job offer and even if I didn’t accept, that it was a really good experience. That can’t be said for all interviews.

Mac Prichard:

Did you get any feedback from your current colleagues now, in several months or maybe right after you started work, about what you did differently in that interview compared to your competitors?

Becca McCulloch:

I think that the woman who was interviewing me had mentioned that my resume lined up with the person who had had the position before me. That was why they initially brought me in but they also just loved my sense of humor. I think that’s what stood out.

Mac Prichard:

A lot of listeners, and I’ve been in this boat myself, you walk into a job interview and this happened to me many times when I was a candidate, you’re nervous. It’s hard to be yourself and it’s hard to be at ease. What’s your secret, Becca? How did you crack jokes and create that good chemistry?

Becca McCulloch:

Again, I think that it’s so different from interview to interview. I’m always nervous walking into an interview, of course. I think that that’s only natural and I think that a good interviewer helps put the interviewee at ease. That really happened in this situation and it was genuine.

I could feel that and so I responded in kind and my fight or flight system mellowed out and we just talked like we knew each other. Versus it being a very stiff and scary process. Which I have been through those as well. You leave there thinking, “I did not nail that and I wouldn’t want to work here anyway.”

Mac Prichard:

I think we’ve all been there once or twice, sometimes more, in our careers.

Becca McCulloch:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so you had a good resume, a good manner, and good chemistry in the interview, you sent the follow up thank you note, and kudos for you for with writing something out by hand. I think that’s almost always, in every case, even more effective.

You had another job offer and you said no to it. Tell us about that.

Becca McCulloch:

Yes. Well, I did and that was a tough one because that one was actually, it was on paper. It was a great opportunity. It was good money. It was, again, something I could see myself doing but in this particular case, it was in Minnesota. I accepted the offer and got my business cards and I was getting set to move and then I got more and more anxious and nervous and I was still looking at job boards in Portland. Then, something told me, “Why am I still looking at job boards in Portland when I have this great job offer unless there’s something holding me back?”

The big thing was, I didn’t want to leave Oregon.

Mac Prichard:

You had actually accepted the position?

Becca McCulloch:

I did and I was looking for a place to live and I just got more and more nervous and thought of more reasons why I should push my start date. I thought, “If I was really invested in this, I would I’d be excitedly anxious rather than just anxious.”

I’m really close to my family and friends here, I’m from here, and I really feel like I made the right decision.

Mac Prichard:

How did you communicate that to the employer?

Becca McCulloch:

It was not easy but I called and said, “You know I really appreciate you taking the time and taking a chance on me. I have rethought my “what’s most important to me” and I feel like I need to retract my acceptance of this offer.”

They graciously retracted the offer.

Mac Prichard:

It must have been a hard call to make.

Becca McCulloch:

It was. It was very hard and I second guessed it for a very long time. From time to time, I wonder what would be different if I had accepted it.

Mac Prichard:

I can’t speak to your case but I have seen other people in organizations earlier in my career who said yes to offers they had mixed feelings about and they almost never thrived and often left after three or four months because it wasn’t a good fit.

You listened to your gut there, didn’t you?

Becca McCulloch:

I did.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah.

Becca McCulloch:

I did and I can’t help but imagine that I probably would not have lasted in that situation.

Mac Prichard:

What did your gut tell you about Portland Business Alliance after you had that meeting and you got that phone call?

Becca McCulloch:

It told me to go with this but I knew that you can always walk away from things if it turned out that it wasn’t the right fit. Something told me, once I figure out what it is I’m working for and what it is I’m doing, I’m really going to like it here.

Mac Prichard:

Terrific. Well, we have to bring the conversation to a close. What is your number one job hunting tip for our listeners, Becca?

Becca McCulloch:

Just try not to get too defeated. Keep at it because it really is…nothing is just going to fall into your lap, unfortunately.

Do go with your gut and sometimes take a chance on something that seems random or off the wall and you might just end up in a great place.

Mac Prichard:

You took that chance and here you are 2.5 years later and you’re thriving there aren’t you?

Becca McCulloch:

Absolutely. I still love it.

Mac Prichard:

Thank you for sharing your story, Becca! You can learn more about Becca McCulloch’s job search by visiting 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 their dream job. See for yourself. Go to macslist.org/stories

In the meantime, thank you our listeners for downloading today’s bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job.

It can be discouraging to face dead ends and disappointment during your job search but knowing your skill set and setting clear career goals can take you all the way from defeat to your dream job. On this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, Becca McCulloch and I talk about how to build rapport during an interview, how trusting your instincts can help you know when a job is the right fit, and how learning to go with your gut can help you make difficult career decisions.

Learn more about Becca’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 the Membership Coordinator at the Portland Business Alliance; the regional Chamber of Commerce, as well as being the assistant to the Chief Operating Officer. I wear many hats, including events assistant; in my role, I head a few of the committees within the Alliance, draw and negotiate trades with area businesses, and even get to utilize  my OLCC license to pour wine at our evening networking events. 🙂

How long did it take you to find this job?

Upon finding this particular job on Mac’s List, the process was very quick.  But the entire job searching process was a months-long, hair-pulling, should-I/shouldn’t-I, sleepless-nights endeavour.

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

Knowing that things like Craigslist tend to lead to dead ends, I tried to mostly go with referrals from friends, which included applying for, interviewing for, being offered, accepting, and then backing out of a job in Minnesota when I realized I could not stand the thought of NOT living in Portland.

I had checked out Mac’s List in past job search efforts but had never gone forward with applying for positions. This time, I couldn’t wait to check my inbox each Tuesday, knowing that that special gem might just be a click away.

When the position at the Portland Business Alliance came through, my experience and skill set matched well enough that I applied. Within a few hours I had an interview set for the next Monday. I met my current boss, and was given the offer the next day.  A completely rewarding 4-day process!

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

The most difficult part of any job search, I think, is hitting dead ends. Not receiving a response from an application you have submitted can feel defeating; worse is interviewing somewhere you feel like you’d be perfect, only to not be offered the position.

There is a lot of picking yourself back up, and being confident in the process – and hopefully learning from it along the way.

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

Definitely go with your gut, but also be open minded. If someone had told me I would not only be working full time as the “membership coordinator” for the Chamber of Commerce, but loving my job as well, I would not have believed them. Sometimes you have to take chances, and I am proof that can land you in an awesome position.

Why do you love your job?

I get to travel all over the city for our various networking events (150+ per year) , I go to venues and businesses which I would never otherwise have cause to go to – from attorney and architecture firms, to theaters and golf courses, and everything in between. I love meeting all of our great members, and learning more about this wonderful city we live in.  Plus, my coworkers are fabulous, and they make me laugh every single day.