Shortly after I had set up shop inside the food bank and began to see their clients, I turned my attention to connecting with the various referral agencies to the food bank. There was a new guy in town and I wanted to introduce myself to as many of these agencies as possible, both letting them know of the services now offered through the food bank, and to put my name out there for future considerations. After all, over this last year it had suddenly occurred to me that I needed to have some sort of plan in place for when I graduated. I thought starting here would be as good a place as any.
Consequently, part of my daily duties grew out of a need that the counselling center had, which I enthusiastically took on as a way to give back to the organization that provided this opportunity for me in the first place. The counselling center was in dire need of a business manager / bookkeeper as they had fallen behind on getting their books in order and needed to get their charitable return corrected before running into penalties with the federal tax office, such as losing the ability to offer charitable receipts to donors. I tackled this massive job at the end of my day, after the long commute back to the center, and while I waited for the professor to be finished with his last client of the day. It gave me something to do and it began to show off my skills a bit more.
In addition, I had noticed that a local non-profit organization that provided a variety of social services in the inner-city had posted an ad for a marketing person. I wasn’t interested in the position but I used it as a way to introduce myself to this organization and to sit down and have a conversation with them. It worked well and I let them know that once I graduated next spring I may be back to knock on their door to see if they had anything available. What happened next was quite bizarre.
The Executive Director of this inner-city organization friended me on Facebook. Then she found me on the other social networks that I was active on and connected with me there. Next, and over the following months she began to send me various profile tests to take and would ask me questions – not unlike an interview – only spread out over the next four months. At first I didn’t take notice of what was going on, opting to just have fun with it but as the queries continued to stack on each other I noted that this was indeed an interview – albeit the longest interview process I had ever participated in.
By Christmas I had already accumulated enough hours in my internship to meet the graduation requirements and I only had three courses left before my degree was finished. I could see the finish line, which only reminded me of the fact that I had not yet lined up any job prospects. However, suddenly I was approached by this inner-city organization and from the counselling center to apply for jobs. The counselling center wanted me to apply for the Executive Director role as the professor was going to just focus on supervising the counselors while this new role would focus on the ‘business side’ of the center. The inner-city organization wanted me to apply for the Director of Human Resources. I applied for both.
Within a week of each other I had formal interviews with both organizations. With the counseling center I had an extensive interview with the board of directors where they explained the job and I had the chance to ask them some questions – to get to know them. At the end of that process they offered me the position and provided me the details of the compensation package. I was hesitate because of some dynamics that I saw in the personalities on the board – reminding me of past such experiences. At the inner-city organization I had a couple interviews with the Executive Director and the Assistant Executive Director. One of those interviews was over lunch where they shared with me in confidence that the current Executive Director was leaving and the Assistant would be taking over. They too offered me the position and provided me with the details of the compensation package.
Interestingly enough, both compensation packages were identical. Their salaries were the same and the benefits were the same. The jobs were different but only proportionately as much of the work seemed to overlap to some degree. All I needed to do was to figure out which place provided the best work environment. And here is where the missing bit of information came in handy. If I had not known that the current Executive Director was leaving I would have opted to work at the counselling center because there were so many aspects of their leadership methodology that conflicted with my own I couldn’t see how I could get past the six-month mark. However, when I got to know the Assistant and listen to their ideas I found myself getting excited and I felt that I could easily follow this person and find ways to participate in very meaningful ways.
In the end it was that conversation over lunch with the Assistant Director that convinced me which job to take. I could have pursued the title and the prestige, having an opportunity to grow the center into something amazing, but in that moment I was reminded of my track record of struggling with the various dynamics embedded in Christian leadership structures – and given how closely linked the counselling center was with the church community I didn’t believe I had yet learned the skills on how to survive such a place once again. This inner-city organization was also Christian but was not affiliated with any church. That, in the moment, gave me something to look forward to.