Embracing New Opportunities: Matthew Gross’ Job Search Success Story

In this job search success story, Matthew Gross, human resources generalist for Pence Construction, shares how he leaned into his community connections to help him transition from the nonprofit to the for-profit sector.

What do you do for a career? 

I have spent most of my career in the nonprofit sector, managing and leading youth and community development programs and using education and training as a catalyst for positive social change in the U.S. and internationally (Philippines, Thailand, Nicaragua, Mali, and Malawi). My educational background is in education, management, and HR. My career path has been nonlinear – I even made a career change after 20 years! However, multiple bridges bring my work together: connecting people and communities, building on their skills and abilities, and uniting them together behind a common cause.

Who do you work for? 

I am currently employed by Pence Construction as a human resources generalist.

How long did it take you to find this job? 

You can say it took me more than 20 years, or you can also say it took me only about a few weeks. After more than 20 years in the nonprofit sector, I made a change to the for-profit world for the first time in my career. From first applying to receiving an offer, it only took a few weeks at most.

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

I found my current job on LinkedIn and Indeed. As a nonprofit employee, I had always used Mac’s List as my go-to Oregon nonprofit job board. 

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In my last job at In4All, we partnered with Pence Construction as a community partner to support an elementary school in Salem with STEM education. I had gotten to know quite a few employees and even delivered volunteer trainings at their office. In my younger days, I always wanted to get a job because I had earned it and on my own merits, but after learning that is not necessarily how the business world works, I had no qualms about reaching out to my contacts at Pence and inquiring about the open position. Just about everything that we do is based on relationships and the people that we know.

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

Making a career change from the nonprofit youth and education sector to the human resources for profit construction world was a big change. Not having a human resources job title on my resume, despite having quite a bit of experience from doing this work in the nonprofit world, was a barrier, especially for any company using resume scanning software. 

I overcame this obstacle by including my HR experience on my resume when describing my work at a particular company. I also updated my LinkedIn profile to include more detailed descriptions of my HR experience. In addition, I spent my pandemic by obtaining a certificate in Human Resources Management. I added this educational accomplishment to my resume and LinkedIn, which helped validate (and expand upon) my knowledge in HR.

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

Run to new opportunities, not away from old ones. Know what you are looking for and want in a future employer and supervisor. Know what you need to be successful, and don’t be afraid to ask for it. 

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Why do you love your job?

I love my job because I get to work with great people; my team is phenomenal. I have opportunities for professional growth and development and a career pathway forward. My work has meaning and purpose.

Everyone’s job search story is different, but each individual story can inspire and empower others who are on their own unique path. We love to hear how our readers have found rewarding careers in Portland, and we want to share these stories with you to inspire you in your job search and to help us all better understand the local job market!