Setting Clear Intentions, with Maddy Abulencia

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Find Your Dream Job, Bonus Episode 27:

Setting Clear Intentions, with Maddy Abulencia

Airdate: March 9, 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 Maddy Abulencia. She’s the director of development at the Oregon Health & Science University Foundation.

Maddy Abulencia knew she wanted to build a career in the nonprofit world.

In a story you can find on the Mac’s List website, Maddy says knowing what she wanted made all the difference in her job search. It helped get a position that matched her career goals, instead of settling for less.

Why do you love your job, Maddy?

Maddy Abulencia:

Mac, that is a great question. Every day I get to work with such amazing and inspiring people. I get to help advance OHSU’s mission of creating a healthier world, and I am challenged every single day, as well. But I think at the heart of it, I get to connect people with opportunities that they did not think was possible and show them that yes, you can make a difference, you can make an impact, and that is so rewarding and so meaningful.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about your job search. How did you get started?

Maddy Abulencia:

I got started because I felt like I was ready for more and I knew I wanted more. At that time, I could not pinpoint what that more was; it was really a gut feeling. But I sat down and thought about where I wanted to be in 5, in 10 years, and I realized what I was doing at the time did not align with where I wanted to be. And that really helped me with starting the job search, which was daunting at the time, but knowing exactly what I wanted was so helpful in my start to job searching.

Mac Prichard:

That’s something we all struggle with. I certainly did earlier in my career and at different points, as well, getting clear about what we wanted. So, you knew you wanted to make a change and that’s natural. What steps did you take, Maddy, to get clear about that goal and to understand where you wanted to go next?

Maddy Abulencia:

I was able to really think about what I enjoyed, and maybe did not enjoy as much, in terms of fundraising, and really jotting down what I wanted to do allowed for me to say, this is the job I want, this is what I want to be focusing on, on fundraising. Because in fundraising, there are so many different things you could be doing. You could be doing event planning, you could be doing grant writing, you could be frontline fundraising. And I had the wonderful opportunity to do all of that, but as I built my career, I really realized I enjoy that one on one time with donors. As I started my job search, I really focused on opportunities where a lot of it was focused on frontline fundraising.

Mac Prichard:

How did you get that clarity? Did you have a series of conversations, for example, with peers? Did you work with a coach? Did you perhaps do some self-assessment? What steps did you take, Maddy, that helped you figure that out? That you wanted to focus on one on one relationships with donors.

Maddy Abulencia:

It was really what I enjoyed most. I think I knew fundraising was the career path I wanted to be on, and it was getting to connect with people, again, that I enjoyed the most. When I talked to other colleagues in the fundraising world, and got to hear about what aspects of their jobs that they enjoyed and what I would like to be doing as well, it was really resonating with me that working directly with donors, with people, is what I wanted to pursue.

Mac Prichard:

You looked inward and you talked to your peers, you defined that goal. What about challenges in your search? What was the biggest challenge you faced once you knew what you wanted and where you wanted to go?

Maddy Abulencia:

To be honest, I think starting the job search was the most challenging part of it, but after I got over that hurdle, staying intentional about what I wanted to pursue was challenging. But at the same time, it allowed for me to be meaningful in my search.

Mac Prichard:

Why was it hard to get started? What was the barrier there?

Maddy Abulencia:

I really enjoyed the company that I worked for at the time, and I enjoyed the people that I worked with and they had given me so many opportunities. And it was a little scary, the idea of leaving all of that behind and pursuing something that I was not comfortable about, and I knew I was really good at that role, but at the same time, I knew I was ready for more.

Mac Prichard:

What inspired you to make that leap, to leave that comfort behind?

Maddy Abulencia:

Getting over the imposter syndrome, I think. I think a lot of us suffer from that, and recognizing that I have accomplished a lot and I do have so much more potential in me, in being comfortable with pursuing what my potential is and really going for it.

Mac Prichard:

It’s really common, the imposter syndrome; it’s surprising how often it comes up, isn’t it?

Maddy Abulencia:

Absolutely, yes. And I think it’s still something that I struggle with sometimes, but at the end of the day, I remind myself that I enjoy what I do and I am growing so much from it and I absolutely enjoy what I do.

Mac Prichard:

Any tips for a listener about how to address that imposter syndrome? What was effective for you, Maddy?

Maddy Abulencia:

I think understanding what your values are and who you are really helps you get over the fear of the unknown. And I think if anything at all, it will help you get some courage to pursue what you might not be comfortable pursuing.

Mac Prichard:

How do you recommend someone get clear about their values? And talk a little bit more about how that can be helpful both in overcoming the imposter syndrome, but also in a job search.

Maddy Abulencia:

For the position I found at OHSU, I was fortunate enough to have known someone who worked at OHSU foundation at the time and I was able to ask that person what the culture was like, where they see the foundation headed. And that conversation was an eye-opener for me because it allowed for me to understand, that is a place I can see myself working at, and their values align with mine, and it sounds like a place where I can grow, which is what I was hoping for.

Mac Prichard:

Did you reach out to your colleague after you learned about the position or did you know that you wanted to be at the foundation and started talking to people there?

Maddy Abulencia:

I actually saw the posting on Mac’s List and I knew my colleague worked there at the time, so I reached out to her and learned more about the position. And it was only after talking to her that decided that I should apply for it and I did. And I would recommend anyone who is on a job search to really leverage their network, to see if there are individuals at the organizations that they would actually like to work at or are currently working at the organization where they see the job posting is available, just to gain a better understanding of what the position entails and what the organization is about and whether or not they think they would be a good fit for it.

Mac Prichard:

When you reached out to your colleague, you didn’t ask her to get you the job, did you? You, instead, focused on questions that helped you get the insights that you just described, about the needs of the organization, is that right?

Maddy Abulencia:

That is correct.

Mac Prichard:

Why was that helpful to you in your search and helping you make your decision about applying for the position?

Maddy Abulencia:

Throughout the job search process, I knew that I wanted to be intentional and I was fortunate enough to have known someone at the organization working there, and just to get her input was so helpful in knowing whether or not I wanted to proceed with the application process. Because even though, once you apply for a position sometimes there are are so many interviews and paperwork involved, and just being really intentional about whether or not that was something that I wanted to pursue or not.

Mac Prichard:

It was really striking to me in reading the article you contributed to the Mac’s List website that you were very choosy about the places where you applied. You didn’t apply everywhere; instead, you were very selective. Why was that, Maddy?

Maddy Abulencia:

I knew where I wanted to go in my fundraising career and I had to be absolutely certain about what my next step would be, career-wise. Portland is such an amazing city, with lots of nonprofits and incredible people dedicated to those nonprofits, and it’s so easy to get sucked into seeing the job board and recognizing all these wonderful opportunities that other organizations are offering. But at the same time I knew, even though those postings sound interesting, it did not align with what I knew I wanted to set out for myself.

Mac Prichard:

I imagine it helped you save both time and energy, didn’t it? Because you weren’t applying everywhere?

Maddy Abulencia:

Yes, absolutely. I actually looked back at the spreadsheet I had kept during this job search process and realized I had only applied to about, maybe 4 positions.

Mac Prichard:

I am guessing that for those four positions, you probably spent a fair amount of time on your application material and in preparation for your interview, didn’t you?

Maddy Abulencia:

I did, absolutely.

Mac Prichard:

I have to ask, I’m curious, if you only applied for 4 jobs did you get interviews at each organization?

Maddy Abulencia:

Yes, I was fortunate enough that I did, and I was actually surprised, as well, because I thought some of those positions were out of my reach. But, again, I was surprised that I received interviews for those positions that I applied for because some of them seemed like they were positions that were out of my reach, including the one at OHSU Foundation. But I think that goes back to recognizing what I have accomplished and what my potential is and where I want to grow.

Mac Prichard:

I’m guessing too, that the fact that you only applied at 4 places allowed you to prepare, especially high-quality applications, and prepare very well for your interviews. Was that the case, do you think?

Maddy Abulencia:

That was the case. I was able to tailor my resumes, my cover letters, and also all of the questions that I had for the interview, and allowed for me to really research what the organization does and what their fundraising processes are.

Mac Prichard:

What’s the one thing you did during your search, Maddy, that you think made the biggest difference?

Maddy Abulencia:

I stayed positive. Job searching is hard, it’s scary, but I think if you are intentional and meaningful about it, it will help yield a much more rewarding career.

Mac Prichard:

What didn’t work in your job search?

Maddy Abulencia:

I don’t know, actually. I look back and I realize I like how I approached it. Again, it was scary to start the job search process because I liked where I was at previously. But, again, I knew I wanted more, so, just getting over that hurdle of starting the job search process and then being intentional about how I researched positions and how I applied for positions really made the difference for me.

Mac Prichard:

What resources were especially helpful to you when you were looking for work?

Maddy Abulencia:

I definitely leveraged my network. I reached out to people who were in fundraising and asked them what they enjoyed about it, and how they got to where they are, and also they were my champions. They helped tell me what I could improve upon in my resume and my applications, and for some of them, they even helped open doors.

Mac Prichard:

Any tips about how to reach out to colleagues and peers for listeners who might be uncertain about how to do that and ask for that kind of help?

Maddy Abulencia:

Don’t be afraid. Be honest when you reach out, explain why you’re reaching out, and be thankful, as well.

Mac Prichard:

Any other advice for our listeners that you’d like to share?

Maddy Abulencia:

Stay positive.

Mac Prichard:

Finally, Maddy, what’s your number one job hunting tip?

Maddy Abulencia:

I go back to staying intentional. Know what you want out of a job, know what you want out of a career, and really pursue that.

Mac Prichard:

Well, thank you for sharing your story, Maddy. To learn more about Maddy’s job search, visit macslist.org/stories.

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

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.

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

Sometimes, the hardest part of finding your next job is getting started. If you’re currently in a stable, well-paying position, it can feel scary and uncomfortable to think about leaving that safety for something new. On this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, Maddy Abulencia and I dig deep into what it takes to begin a job search, as well as how to use your network to help you find your next position. Maddy also opens up about how she conquered imposter syndrome and why she was so intentional about how many applications she submitted. Learn more about Maddy’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 work for OHSU Foundation where I have the privilege of raising philanthropic support to make discoveries faster, save more lives, and transform healthcare. I started as an Assistant Director of Development but am now a Director of Development.

How long did it take you to find this job?

I knew I was ready to take the next step in my fundraising career so I was intentional about my job search.  I had been periodically checking Mac’s List for about two months before the Assistant Director of Development position was posted, which I knew would be the right next career step for me.

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

Mac’s List helped me find my job!  When I came across the job posting, I reached out to someone who I knew worked at the organization to gain a better understanding of the position, team, and work environment.  It was only after that talk did I decide to apply for the position.

I also used Willamette Valley Development Officers — another local job board that serves the nonprofit community.

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

Even though I knew I wanted to be intentional about my job search, it was hard to resist whenever I saw something interesting on Mac’s List — but didn’t quite align with my career goals.  There was always a sprinkling of nonprofit job openings but I didn’t want to apply to every opening just because I could. I had to constantly remind myself of what I wanted and needed to grow my career.

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

Stay positive.

Why do you love your job?

I love what I do!  My job allows me to help people accomplish what they didn’t think was possible and it challenges me to grow every day.  It also helps to have a supportive work environment, wonderful colleagues, and leadership committed to inspiring us to be the best that we can be.