I came to Hager Sharp just three years out of college, and in that time, I had solely worked for nonprofit and advocacy organizations. I honestly never saw myself leaving that world (at least, not so soon), and I felt like a fish out of water when I moved to a communications agency.
Transitioning from a work environment that was reactive, responsive, and quick to act to an agency that offers a measured, strategic, and thoughtful approach proved difficult and, at times, intimidating. But jumping into a new work environment taught me that loving your job extends beyond industry bounds.
Here are three lessons I’ve learned since taking the leap to agency life from the nonprofit world:
1. Making a difference comes in many forms. When I started agency work, my biggest fear was leaving behind a career focused on working for a cause. I was admittedly skeptical—could I really make a difference in the agency setting? But when I came to Hager Sharp, those fears quickly vanished. At Hager Sharp, I found a mission-driven company filled with people and clients who are difference-makers, motivated by achieving greatness in the world. I found people who are passionate about the same things I am. And I soon realized that by working at an agency, I could expand my reach beyond just one organization, applying my nonprofit skills to the many causes about which I am passionate.
2. Nonprofit skills are highly transferrable. Fundraising is the skill required to succeed in the nonprofit world—anyone who’s worked in this field understands how critical fundraising is to a nonprofit’s lifespan. However, nonprofit staff can often feel pigeonholed by this niche skillset. But my first boss would assure me, “Everybody loves a fundraiser.” And in my first year at Hager Sharp, I’ve learned how much this really is true. The skillset I developed as a fundraiser laid the foundation for becoming an effective communicator. Developing strong donor networks, coordinating high dollar events, and staying on track with limited resources translates to building effective partnerships, implementing successful observances, and ensuring projects progress without a hitch.
3. Every day is an opportunity to learn. Stepping out of the nonprofit bubble not only allowed me to work with people with an incredible array of experiences, but it also taught me how much there is to learn. From working with social marketing experts to media professionals to accomplished creative teams, agency life provides innumerable opportunities to learn. Each day we work together as a team to leverage our unique skillsets to grow professionally and better serve our clients.
So how can you make the most of a career change? Focus on the work that’s fulfilling. Capitalize on unique experiences and find new ways to apply the skills you already have. Never stop learning and growing.
Laura Koehler, MPH, CHES