Tapping Into Community: Rae Rawls Dunnaville’s Job Search Success Story

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Find Your Dream Job, Bonus Episode 56:

Tapping Into Community: Rae Rawls Dunnaville’s Job Search Success Story

Airdate: September 6, 2022

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 Rae Rawls Dunnaville. She’s the communications innovation and technology analyst at the RISE Partnership in Portland, Oregon.

Her organization delivers outstanding training and benefits with a focus on equity and worker-employer collaboration.

Rae Rawls Dunnaville believes in the power of community. 

In a story you can find on the Mac’s List website, Rae says that friends, former coworkers, and other contacts were the best sources for uncovering job leads when she looked for work.  

Why do you love your job, Rae? 

Rae Rawls Dunnaville:

I love my job because I love working for an organization that helps workers access the health care and education benefits that were won, in large part, by union members uniting to make their jobs better. 

Mac Prichard:

Tell us about the work of RISE Partnership. 

Rae Rawls Dunnaville:

RISE Partnership was formed in 2019 when three labor-management trusts decided to cocreate one organization that would help improve the way training and benefits are delivered to workers in Oregon. Right now, there are five programs that deliver health care and education benefits to around eighty thousand workers throughout the state. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, terrific. Now, it sounds like a great organization with a wonderful mission. Let’s talk about your job search, Rae. What was the biggest challenge you faced when you were looking for work? 

Rae Rawls Dunnaville:

The hardest part of my job search was really trying to figure out what my next move was going to be. I’ve been a labor communicator for a decade. Prior to that, I had experience working at B2B publishing company, a progressive think tank. You know, my experience was varied, and I’ve been a communications specialist and generalist. I’ve done a little bit of everything. 

So it was difficult to find a role that allowed me to use the wide variety of skills that I’ve developed over my communications career that would also allow me the flexibility that I need as a mom with two young children. I reached a point in my family and career life where I don’t exactly have the ability to work the long hours that I’ve been accustomed to working. So I needed something that was still mission-driven and allowed me to use the skills that I’ve learned, and I’m gonna stop there. 

Mac Prichard:

That’s a common challenge for many listeners, figuring out what to do next. What steps did you take, Rae, to sort that out and to get clear about your next opportunity? 

Rae Rawls Dunnaville:

I knew that I wanted to make a shift in my career, but I wasn’t entirely sure how to do that, and I wasn’t actively looking for a job when I found this role at RISE Partnership.

I happened to be talking to a friend and casually mentioned that I was thinking about looking for a new career path, and this friend knew that RISE Partnership was hiring for this position and encouraged me to check it out. And it was interesting because, had this friend not told me to check out this job position, I probably never would’ve applied. 

The title is kind of a mouthful, communications innovation and technology analyst. And the roles are, you know, they’re all things that I can obviously do, and I’m interested in. But the way that the job description was worded, I may not have immediately looked at that and thought, oh, yeah, I’m a shoo-in for this. Because the work that I have been doing, in my most previous roles, it didn’t look immediately like a direct fit. 

I guess what I’m saying is this job may not have shown up in my job searches using the keywords that I would’ve been looking for. So it was useful to have this friend, as I’m talking to her, say, you know, I know what you’re good at, and I know what you’ve done, and here’s something that I think would be a great fit for you. You should check this out. 

Mac Prichard:

You talked a lot in your article for us about tapping into your network – friends and coworkers, and other contacts – to uncover job leads like the one at RISE Partnership. How did you do that, Rae? Were you just having casual conversations? Did you have a plan that you were executing? What was your approach to letting your network know you were looking and asking for job leads? 

Rae Rawls Dunnaville:

In this case, I was just having casual conversations with other friends who were doing communications jobs or communications adjacent jobs. So, because I moved to Portland about five years ago and so it was important to me when I first moved here to really become part of the community. So finding places to volunteer, attending networking events. Really just trying to make friends and finding the places where my interests and background overlapped with other people’s. 

It’s always great to kind of, you know, meet people and file away in the back of your mind, oh, this person’s somebody who, you know, shares some interests that I have, or our kids go to the same school, and you can kind of build relationship from there, and real relationships help you, I think, when it comes time to make an ask. It’s easier for me, in my experience, to reach out and ask people if they know of any positions if I have actually built trust in a relationship with them first. 

Mac Prichard:

Sometimes job seekers are reluctant to reach out to others in their network about their search. They might worry, for example, that they’re imposing or it will be awkward. 

What’s worked for you, Rae, when you’ve talked to other friends or former colleagues or others about your job search? How do you approach that and have conversations with people about leads or what you’re looking for? 

Rae Rawls Dunnaville:

I think it’s really helpful to know what kind of work culture you want to be a part of, and to have a sense of what your life at your job and outside of your job should look like. I knew prior to having kids that I was fine working sixty-hour weeks and, you know, working a lot of weekends and traveling for work. My situation changed after having two kids back to back, and as the needs of my family changed, my capacity to work in the same way also changed. 

And so, knowing that, you know, I’m looking for a role that may not necessarily mean I have to work every single weekend or be available on, you know, holidays, or do, you know, overnight travel. That’s helpful because if I’m talking to a friend or someone in my extended network, I can be kind of clear about what I’m looking for.

If I know that press outreach is not necessarily my strongest skill, but I want to lean into more database management or something like that. I can also kind of guide my conversations with people that way. 

Mac Prichard:

When you heard about that opportunity at RISE Partnership, that your friend told you about, what happened next. What next step did you take?

Rae Rawls Dunnaville:

Well, luckily, I’m someone who always kind of keeps my resume updated as I learn new skills or take on new responsibilities or, you know, have new accomplishments at work. I like to keep my LinkedIn and my resume updated. So that if something comes up, and, you know, I see an opportunity that I want to go for, I don’t have to like sit back and think about, oh my gosh, what have I done over the last five years? Because I try to keep my information up to date. 

So I took some time and really read about RISE Partnership. I really wanted to understand what the organization was because it was quite a bit different from what I had been doing. I talked to some people who worked there, and I really wanted to go into an interview, if I was offered one, as prepared as possible. So I was able to quickly get my cover letter and resume in, and I was prepared for my interview when I was called. 

Mac Prichard:

And it’s striking that you reached out to people inside RISE Partnership before you applied. How did you know how to do that or who to approach? How did that work? 

Rae Rawls Dunnaville:

In my case, I actually knew a couple of people who already worked there. RISE is an organization that’s been growing rapidly, and the interesting thing about the organization is that a large percentage of the current staff have started working at RISE during the pandemic.

So there’s been a really great virtual onboarding process, and it’s also interesting because coming into RISE is coming into a culture that has largely built itself virtually. And that’s kind of a different world that we’re living in right now. And so, I think there’s an eagerness for people who have a strong background in virtual communications and technology. And I think that’s the end of that thought. 

Mac Prichard:

Terrific. When you reached out to people inside RISE Partnership, you mentioned a moment ago, that you asked them for information about the organization. What else did you ask them for help with? Did you, for example, Rae, ask people you spoke with to share your resume with the hiring manager? Or were there other requests? 

Rae Rawls Dunnaville:

Well, there were two things that I was curious about. The first was how it felt to work there as a parent of small children. That was very important to me. I wanted to know if the culture felt supportive, and that was something that I felt comfortable asking the people that I knew who worked there. 

I also wanted to know, you know, without the person getting into too much detail, I wanted to know what, organizationally, it felt they were looking for in a person in this role to add to the work that’s already been done in that role. So I wanted to have a sense of what new I could bring to the table. So I had a sense of where I wanted to focus in my interview, if that makes sense. 

Mac Prichard:

I’m also curious, Rae; you mentioned how important it was to find a workplace that would allow you to prioritize your family. What advice would you have for listeners who might worry that they can’t find a flexible workplace or an employer who does make family a priority? 

Rae Rawls Dunnaville:

I think that one of the things that’s really come out of the pandemic, which we’re still in, so workplace norms and expectations are still changing. But I think that a really strong organization is not going to push back against the ways that people’s lives have necessarily changed in the pandemic. They’re going to find ways to lean into that change. 

I think that allowing workers to decide what works best for them in terms of coming into the office, working from home, doing some combination in hybrid is really important because some people really don’t want to stay home, and they really do crave that office environment. And others, like myself, really do prefer to stay home and then come into the office for meetings and, you know, or if there’s events where we can just get to know each other and help build that organizational culture. 

I think part of being an inclusive employer is listing things like salary ranges in a job description. That’s also a cue to me when I’m looking for a job as to whether the organization is going to be inclusive. Reason being, I think that that shows a transparency, and you know, women and people of color are all too often underpaid for roles. And so, having a salary range right there in the job description is a small and simple cue that the organization is probably going to be thinking about inclusivity, and fairness, and transparency. 

And I think that those kinds of things often show up in other places, such as a flexible work-from-home, or hybrid, or office environment. I think that it’s absolutely possible to find organizations that are humane and family-centered, and people-centered. And I just encourage people searching for jobs to, really, to not give up. 

Mac Prichard:

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

Rae Rawls Dunnaville:

My number one job hunting tip is to approach your job search and interviews not just as the organization is interviewing you, but you’re also interviewing the organization to make sure it’ll be the right fit for you. 

I have been very lucky to be in a position where I have such a wide range of skills that I have, I think, a lot of doors that are potentially open to me. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that every organization is going to be right for me. And if it’s not right for me, then I’m not right for them. 

And so, I think it’s really important to go into an interviewing and application process knowing your worth, knowing your skills, and knowing that you have the ability to say, yeah, this is great, or no, this doesn’t work for me, and I need to keep looking. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, thank you for sharing your story, Rae. To learn more about Rae Rawls Dunnaville’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. 

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo. Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week. 

When your life changes, whether through becoming a parent or something else, you need an employer who cares about your needs. On this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, Rae Rawls Dunnaville shares how she used her connections to find the perfect job for her changing needs, and why she applied for a job that she may not have sought out. Rae also talks about the importance of keeping your resume updated and why it’s crucial to not only be interviewed but to interview the company as well. Learn more about Rae’’s career history below in this installment of our Success Stories series.


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

RISE Partnership is an organization that delivers union-won training and benefits to 80,000 workers across Oregon, including state workers, homecare workers, long-term care workers, and more. My role at RISE Partnership sits at the intersection of communications and information systems. I help ensure program communicators are able to get their messages about benefits and training out to the right workers, and look for ways to streamline and improve our communications with new platforms and processes.

How long did it take you to find this job?

For the past decade, I’ve been a labor union communicator. I loved the work, but as a parent of two young children, it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the hours and workload. Although I knew I needed to start looking for a career shift, I knew it would be tough to find an organization and a role that would offer the challenges and flexibility I needed. I can’t say exactly how long it took to find this job because I wasn’t actively out searching and interviewing, but I’d been keeping my ear to the ground for a while.

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

I was talking to a friend and casually mentioned that I was thinking about looking for a new career path. My friend knew that RISE Partnership was hiring for this position and encouraged me to check out the job description. I was instantly interested in applying because I’d heard great things about working at RISE, and the job made use of the tech, design, and communications skills I’ve acquired over the years – not to mention my knowledge of union member messaging and outreach. It seemed like a perfect fit!

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

The hardest part of my job search was ensuring I could find a role that allowed me to use the wide variety of skills I’ve developed as a labor communicator while also giving me the flexibility I need as a mom with two young children.

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

If you’re looking for a new job or even just open to the possibility of new work, it’s helpful to tap into your friends, former coworkers, and extended networks for leads on positions that they may know about. Sometimes you may be an excellent fit for a role that might not show up in your job search due to your search criteria.

Why do you love your job?

Working at RISE Partnership is great because it’s a mission-driven organization that is well-run, organized, and rapidly growing. More workers are seeing the benefits of union membership. I feel good about working for an organization that helps union members access the healthcare and educational benefits they’ve bargained for in their contracts.