The Power of Knowing What You Want in Your Career, with Stacey Rice

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Find Your Dream Job, Bonus Episode 24:

The Power of Knowing What You Want, with Stacey Rice

Airdate: December 9, 2019

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 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 job that they love.

Our guest today is Stacey Rice. She’s the program strategist at the City Club of Portland.

Stacey believes in the power of knowing what you want.

In a story you can find on the Mac’s List website, Stacey says that focusing on the jobs that offer the best fit for the next step in her career made all the difference in her search.

Well, Stacey, you’re the program strategist at the City Club of Portland. Why do you love your job?

Stacey Rice:

Gosh, I love my job deeply because we get a chance at City Club to affect civic issues in the Portland area, the Portland Metro Area.

City Club has been around for 103 years, has an amazing history, and has an incredible history also, of really tackling civic issues in Portland. Making recommendations through our research about how to fix those.

And we’re in, I think, a very critical time in Portland, with the issues that we face here and City Club has undertaken a pretty major organizational change to make it more diverse and inclusive and socially just, and that’s what really attracted me to City Club. Outside of the civic issue piece of that is that that’s such important work today and time, and changing old-time institutions.

Mac Prichard:

It is an institution that has been around for some time and Portland, like…many other cities also have City Clubs, but let’s talk about your job search, Stacey.

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Stacey Rice:

Well, probably the biggest challenge I faced was actually, I had just left a long term gig at the LGBTQ+ community center here in Portland. I had been there for five and a half years.

And trying to find what the next piece of my journey was about from there. I mean, it was all advocacy, community center work, impacting community, taking on the issues that that community was facing, and then, so, I needed a break and it was time to leave. I was tired so I took 2 or 3 months off and then when I was…during that time I just started thinking, “Okay, what’s next?” And that kind of organizational change piece was what I was kind of looking for. I found that we did at the Q Center as well, and I found that I really loved that kind of work.

Mac Prichard:

Tell us more about that, when you say “organizational change,” what do you mean?

Stacey Rice:

Yeah, I mean, it can show up in many different ways. I mean, at Q Center, it came that we reached a point, because of mismanagement, that we were about to close, and so there was a lot of staff turnover, a lot of changes, and so basically it was myself and one other person to kind of take this on and kind of keep it all together, and kind of rebuild it from basically square one again, actually. Rebuilding trust in community and people who had donated to Q Center or were participants at the community center.

It was also just trying to rebuild it into more of a diverse and inclusive place. I mean, the LGBTQ+ community understands diversity on so many levels but there were some groups and communities who felt…they didn’t feel welcome so we kind of had to take that on, too.

And so then that…what happens at City Club is actually kind of the same thing. It’s that you’re taking this 103 year-old institution that has this structure, has this history, and actually changing your programmatic things, changing the makeup of your boards, your communities, to make it more diverse and inclusive, so yeah. That’s kind of what organizational change is.

Mac Prichard:

Okay and that’s part of what it sounds like attracted you to the City Club. What was the key to success, Stacey, in your job search?

Stacey Rice:

Goodness, I found that it was actually the network that I built. Because I’ve been Portland for eight years, I guess total now, and I’d seen this job advertised on Mac’s List right when I had left Q Center. I was too tired to take on another job right then, so I just kind of put that on hold.

I thought the job had already been filled until a friend of mine reached out to say, “Hey, I know that you’re looking for something; this job at City Club is still open.”

So it’s a lovely thing to build a network, it takes time but I feel like every opportunity that you get to do that is super important because you never know where that’s going to lead you and actually, I wouldn’t have even looked back at the City Club website to even see if it was still a job that was open. I just thought, “Okay, it’s already filled.” And then this dear friend said, “Hey, no, it’s still open.” So, you know, I applied, interviewed, and got the job.

Mac Prichard:

That referral played an important part in your job search, didn’t it?

Stacey Rice:

Oh, it played pretty much all of it.

Mac Prichard:

Did this person not only tell you about the job but perhaps introduce you to someone at City Club?

Stacey Rice:

Didn’t do any introductions at all but did tell me quite a bit about what the job was about. They were very familiar with City Club, they understood, kind of, what City Club was trying to do. They understood my…they knew my journey and my history at Q Center and so they felt like, “Oh my gosh, this is just a really great fit.” And so, yeah, I mean I really, I wouldn’t have this job unless this person stepped up, actually because I was kind of looking for organizational change work and when this person stepped up I said, “Oh my gosh, okay.”

Mac Prichard:

How did the insight you got from your friend about the organization and its challenges help you with your application materials and the interviews?

Stacey Rice:

Oh, it helped tremendously because I had a better sense of what the organization was trying to do, you know, what they were looking for in employees.

As we know, sometimes when you go into a job that you see, that you like, you don’t know a lot about culture, you know, challenges, all those kinds of things. And so I felt that this person gave me quite a wonderful foundation and background in that which I think it does, too, give you a leg up, I think.

Mac Prichard:

Did you do other preparation, Stacey, besides talking with your friend?

Stacey Rice:

Oh yeah, I dug deep into the City Club website. You know, went and checked out who was on their boards, who might I know on the committees, took a look at all that. I could see that organizational change was working by the folks that were part of City Club now, which was a great sign, I thought.

I dug into the research piece. City Club has done research reports since probably its existence, the beginning, and so I dug into those to kind of see what that was about. And I had a little bit of a sense, I had been on City Club’s stage about three years before I had applied for the job, so I kind of knew what City Club did from an event standpoint, but I didn’t know about the research. So, yeah, I just dug.

Mac Prichard:

You did a lot of homework, a lot of research, how did you apply that work in your interviews. What did you do, in your conversations with your employer, now, that reflected that homework?

Stacey Rice:

Well, you know, you do have to do your homework. I mean, I think it’s something that, I guess this is pretty obvious, it’s really kind of hard to go in on the fly with the interview. I mean, I think you need to dig deep and have that stored away, you know, tucked away in your mind of different things that they’re focusing on that you’ve seen, that you’ve heard.

And the lovely thing, it is so satisfying when you go to an interview and you’ve done that and all of a sudden the questions they’re asking you are kind of nailing those things that you kind of researched and looked at, so yeah.

After the first interview, I thought, “Oh my gosh, they asked the questions I maybe thought they were going to ask and I had stuff ready to say.”

Mac Prichard:

Before we started the interview, we were trading stories about childhood and discovered we’re about the same vintage.

Stacey Rice:

Yes, we are, yeah.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, so we’re both farther along in our careers. You had an earlier career before you came to public policy and organizational change work, so you’ve switched careers. Can you talk about that, Stacey?

Stacey Rice:

Yeah, it was…I didn’t know quite what to expect. I mean, I had…Q Center is an advocacy organization, community center as I’ve said. You’re working just mainly in community and then all of a sudden this new job that I got is totally outside of community.

And I have to be honest and say it took a little bit of an adjustment. I always laugh and say that I don’t see as much drag queen glitter on the carpet at City Club as I used to at Q Center. But so, it took a little bit to kind of find my groove, I think, with that because it was so different. It was a tad more corporate, more business, political-oriented. We did some political stuff at Q Center but not to the extent that we do at City Club. But what I’ve found is that I love how that stretched me to learn more about different pieces of the work and new people and yeah, it’s just been amazing.

Mac Prichard:

Well, Stacey, you’re a transgender woman, how has this affected your career and your job searches over the years?

Stacey Rice:

Well, thank you for asking about that. Yeah, well, I transitioned 20 years ago. Before I transitioned, I was actually in corporate sales for 10 years at least, maybe 11 almost, for a big, multinational chemical company.

I loved my job but there was no way, this was in the 90s…there was no way that I could transition on the job and probably keep my job, so I’ve struggled with this journey since I was five years old. When you know that you actually feel like a little girl inside, not the little boy that everybody sees, and so it finally got to the point where I could find the courage and the strength to go ahead and transition. But then I realized…and I tried to find, after I transitioned, I tried to find a job as my female self, using my, I had incredible sales experience and it was a struggle.

I’m not really sure whether it was because they thought that I was trans, I don’t know but it just didn’t work and I realized that was not going to work. So, I had to basically start my whole career completely over again.

I started out in retail, working in a department store, and I have to say, there were days that, I mean, of course compared to what my life was in the corporate world, I mean, financially it was quite a bit different. But there was never a day that didn’t go by that…I was so broke but the thing was, I was incredibly happy and joyful because I was actually my true self and you know, I’ll make it work somehow.

Starting from there, I worked several retail jobs, worked at Nordstrom back in North Carolina. From there I went and worked with the Chamber of Commerce in Asheville. Got an admin position at another firm, was there for about four and a half years until I moved to Portland and so it’s been kind of cool to see how that has built in the last 20 years from starting out at Dillard’s department store in Chapel Hill, North Carolina at $10 an hour.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s go back, and thank you for sharing that story, Stacey.

Stacey Rice:

Sure.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s talk more about your Portland job search. What didn’t work when you were looking for the position you eventually found?

Stacey Rice:

You know, it was interesting, what I found, and this really surprised me, I’ve lived my whole life on the East Coast. I found out that maybe East Coast style is not West Coast style.

Especially…when it comes to everything, basically.

Mac Prichard:

I lived nine years in Boston and can affirm that too, yeah.

Stacey Rice:

You know that deeply.

Mac Prichard:

Yes.

Stacey Rice:

The driving, oh my god, okay that’s a whole other thing.

Mac Prichard:

It’s a very different culture, East Coast versus here, the Pacific Northwest.

Stacey Rice:

It is. I laughed when I first started at Q Center, I was answering the phones as Receptionist Admin.

And when I would call people back after they left a voicemail like, maybe 30 minutes before, they were always so stunned and shocked, like, “Why are you calling me back so quickly?”

I’d go, “Well, that’s just the way we do it.”

So I found that I kind of had to…the first interview I went to here, I was dressed East Coast power suit style and saw pretty quickly, oh my gosh, that’s not the life here. You see, I had to kind of shift that, you know, and I knew coming here, I came here without a job, I’d saved some money, I knew I was supposed to be here.

I started volunteering at Q Center. Three or four months later I got a job there, which was great but I just, yeah, had to kind of…I wanted to work in the nonprofit world. I was in the corporate world mainly back East, the last especially five to eight years. Yeah, I thought, nonprofit world, I didn’t know much about nonprofits so I had to learn a little bit about that as well, too when I got here and kind of scoping out who was what here in the nonprofit world.

Yeah, it’s always lovely to have opportunities to dig in and learn and grow that way.

Mac Prichard:

Terrific, well, Stacey, I want to close by asking, what’s your number one job hunting tip?

Stacey Rice:

Well, my number one tip is that if you see an organization that you really love and you’re wanting to leave your present job to go do something else, find time to volunteer for that organization or any other organization that catches your fancy because I’ve gotten three jobs actually, over the years just by volunteering with organizations. And then you’re kind of a proven person, they’ve seen what work you do, how you’d fit in. And I’ve talked about this to other friends who have done the same thing. I think, just that networking, volunteering piece to get out there. Yeah, especially someplace you want to be, yeah. Get in there and kind of impress them.

Mac Prichard:

Well, Stacey, thanks for sharing your story. You can learn more about Stacey’s job search by visiting 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.

If you’ve been in a job where you were overworked and experienced mismanagement, you may need to take a break before looking for your next position. But what if you aren’t sure what you want in your career? On this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, Stacey Rice and I discuss how to use your network when you don’t know exactly what you want to do next and how doing your homework can lead to a successful interview. Stacey also shares how to bounce back and even start over in your career after huge life shifts. Learn more about Stacey’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 manage the programs at City Club of Portland which includes our weekly Friday Forum luncheons, a research program that examines the civic issues that affect Portland and Oregon, and advocacy.

How long did it take you to find this job?

Two months.

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

I originally saw this job listing in Mac’s List and this is the main resource that I used. The weekly listings seems to hold listings of jobs that are of the most interest to me.  

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

The most difficult part of my search was trying to find the best fit for the next step in my career. Being very particular in what I was looking for really helped bring clarity to my search, and sticking to that focus kept me dedicated throughout my search.

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

Volunteer with an organization that you have a passion for and that you would like to work for. They get to know you and if a job comes open that matches your qualifications, you may have the inside track to that job. I have gotten two jobs by doing this but I also gave my time to something that I believed in.

Why do you love your job?  

I am excited to help lead the organizational change at this 102 year old Portland institution to move it towards a more diverse and inclusive place.