Job Search

So, you want to be a design thinker…

Originally posted on Medium


Everyone can be a designer, but not everyone is a Designer. What’s the difference, and why should you care?

Design thinking is everywhere. Corporations are tripping over each other trying to adopt it; consulting firms are in a race to acquire design shops;universities are adding it to coursework; and the Facebook group I moderate that started as a few people interested in social innovation design floods my notifications with activity and join requests.

On one end of the design spectrum are the students, innovators, and entrepreneurs reading about this design race, and attending online courses, in-person bootcamps, and design sprints. They’re trying to figure out how to apply design thinking to their work, or how to get a job in it.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the trained Designers. They’ve dedicated long careers to visual, experience, industrial, product, and other forms of design. They have MFAs and BAs in a Design discipline. The thing everyone else is scrambling to learn more about and do, they live and breathe every day, and they don’t add “thinking” or “human-centered” to it to make it real. And no, their job is not just about making things look good. (more…)

Innovation is not Sexy


Innovation is hard work–much harder than the headlines will admit, and much more complicated than the colored post-its let on. While researching government innovation, I’ve had the opportunity to interview several leaders of innovation teams in cities across the country–and the conclusion from all their stories is clear: innovation is not sexy work. 

Innovation is at its best when it’s supported by data, research, and lots of outputs. It doesn’t happen overnight–it takes patience. While many exciting new start-ups disappoint, the companies and cities doing real innovation that leave us pleased as consumers and citizens are putting in the time and effort to build lasting innovations, sometimes in unnoticeable incremental changes. Sometimes the output is a great new app; other times, it’s changes to a boring process that makes a big difference.   

That’s not to say that innovation is not also exhilarating. But I’d argue that the best innovation isn’t sexy–it’s not a fun and quick creative brainstorming session followed by a perfect product that solves a problem. (more…)

5 Good Reasons to Consider Turning Down a Job Offer

Photo of sticky note courtesy of Shutterstock.

Photo of sticky note courtesy of Shutterstock.

Over on The Muse I wrote about when turning down a job offer might make sense for you and your career. Just over a year ago I turned down a seemingly-perfect job because it didn’t seem like the right fit, and I haven’t regretted it a day since. You’ll want to consider mission, growth opportunities, warning signs, timing, and money. Read my advice here.

Resumes Matter

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In the spirit of trying new things and “building and shipping,” I recently launched a resume review and job search advice service that I hope to iterate and grow overtime as a side-business. Learn more and sign up here! 

Ask Yourself These 3 Questions to Find a Job You Actually Like (BrazenLife)

My latest article on careers for BrazenLife

Whether you’re a new graduate, considering a career change or in the midst of a job search, it’s easy to get excited by all the job opportunities out there. It’s also easy to get overwhelmed. Where do you start looking for the right job if you don’t even know what the right job for you might be?

Numerous guides and life coaches can help you “find your passion and realize your potential.” But if you don’t have the money or time to invest in these resources, you can still make progress on your own. Start by asking yourself these three questions, which will help increase your self-awareness, narrow your job search and evaluate your opportunities.


Networking Tips: Making an Ask

Making an ask of someone, whether for work, fundraising, your job search, or a friend, is difficult to say the least. But I’ve found again and again that it’s always better to take a risk and ask. As Deborah Mills-Scofield writes in HBR:

“When we don’t use the “Power of the Ask” we are in essence saying “no” before the question has even been asked — saying no to opportunities that change our businesses, our organizations, ourselves…and actual lives. So even if it feels uncomfortable, look for even just a small way can you use the “Power of the Ask” in your network — for someone you work for, with or manage. Make this your year of the Law of Accelerating Returns.”

I’m always working to make my asks better. So instead of giving my own advice, I thought I’d share some of my favorite articles about making asks.


Why You Should Go Out of Your Way to Find an Awesome Peer Mentor (Brazen Life)

An article I wrote about peer mentorship for Brazen Life

Imagine…You just had an invaluable meeting with one of your mentors. You feel really stuck at work, unsure whether to take that great promotion or follow your passion with the startup that asked you to join their team. Your mentor went through a similar dilemma, and their advice was fresh and honest.

Now, what if we told you that your mentor was not a senior leader in your field, a professor or your boss? Rather, your mentor was your peer—someone at the same level as you in their career. But, you ask, how can a peer be a mentor, and why would I even want a peer mentor?

Here are four reasons why you should have a peer mentor and some key steps to building a peer mentoring relationship that will last a lifetime:


Resources for Social Innovation Jobs

previously wrote about how to change career fields to social innovation. Whether you are new to the space, or already committed to a social change career, here are some resources to help you with your job search.


Networking Tips: How to Find People Online

How do you find people to network with? 

Conferences and events immediately come to mind for networking, but you don’t need an in-person function to connect with fascinating people. Here is my strategy for finding individuals online to connect with for networking purposes.

Look for organizations in your field of interest that you would like to work for. Then read the biographies of their founders and staff. I love reading biographies because I get a sense for how people got to their role, and what type of person the organization is looking for. But remember, the biography doesn’t tell you everything, which is why a conversation with the person behind the biography is so important.

In addition to looking at organization websites directly, you should look up organizations on LinkedIn to find out who is on their staff or former staff, and which of your connections could potentially put you in touch with the organization. You should also look for people by industry, location, or group on LinkedIn or find potential contacts on Twitter and Facebook groups.

If you are looking to connect with someone to learn more about the the organization they work for, there are two options—career peers or senior folks.

One option is to look for someone at or near your level of employment. For example, if you are currently an Executive Assistant but want to work as an Assistant Director of Operations, try and connect with the Executive Assistant or Assistant Director of Operations at the other organization. These peers will give you a sense of what it’s like to work at that level of the organization.

For more senior level contacts, its best to have a mutual connection make an introduction, or have a more specific reason for taking time out of their busy schedule to meet with them—i.e. you have overlapping interests with them or their organization or you are planning to apply for a job with them in the near future. Senior folks are also very useful for career trajectory advice.

Use your judgement depending on the organization and the person about who would be most beneficial and strategic to network with. 

No matter whom you try and connect with, it’s ideal to find someone you can relate to. Maybe they are from your hometown, went to the same college, have the same extracurricular interest, are part of the same membership organization, or worked for your former employer. Finding even one similarity makes connecting much easier, and also less awkward. 

As soon as you start looking for potential networking contacts, keep track of everyone you are interested in meeting in a spreadsheet or organizer like Springpad or Evernote.

How do you get in touch if you don’t have a mutual connection?

If their contact information is not on their website, look for them on LinkedIn or Twitter.  While Facebook is launching a job search service, Facebook is typically for more personal use and should probably be used as more of a last ditch effort to get in touch. You can also try calling the company directly, Googling their name and “email,” or if you know of the email format at their company, mimic that with their name.

Then read these tips on networking notes to ensure you get a response. 

Networking Tips: How to Write Great Networking Notes

Networking. It’s a word with a lot of preconceived notions attached to it. And a lot of people think its more difficult or unattainable than it really is. I’ve had a lot of networking failures and successes over the years, and I wanted to share some of the networking tips and tricks I’ve learned. This will be the first post in a series of “Networking Tips” posts. 

The focus of this post is on networking emails, a very important but underlooked aspect of networking. The sample notes below are real notes that have been successfully used, but names and details have been changed. Some of these notes focus on contacting people you don’t know but that would be useful to your career or job search. Others are for connecting to people you do know but need to make a networking “ask” of.


Hiring in the Digital Age

This is a great piece from The Atlantic. The author talks about the difference between the skills a reporter used to need versus what he demands of young reporters today. 

He writes: 

“What we’re looking for, I’ve come to realize, is people who can do a bit of everything: report and write stories; write headlines and decks; select and crop photos; fact check and copy edit the work of others; make charts and graphs; oversee social media; manage outside writers. (And hey, can you do some coding?)

This transition from vertical job descriptions to horizontal job descriptions is perhaps the most profound change in newsrooms that are full of change.

But the new world prizes other skills, too. The best hires possess a kind of creativity and entrepreneurialism that my peers and I surely didn’t have at that age. Today’s young web journalists are learning to frame and write stories in innovative ways. And as smart at they are, they’re also playful, ready to bring some fun to the game.

We also look for a candidate’s ability to make lateral connections across topics. In interviewing business writers, we might ask about tax policy and retail trends but we’re most interested in how candidates think about non-business topics—and whether they have the instinct to apply a business or economics lens to everyday subjects.”

What I like about this piece is that the attributes he mentions don’t just apply to reporters, but many types of jobs that young people take in today’s world. Many young employees take jobs that require them to do a bit of everything too—what one employer once explained to me as doing everything from organizational strategy to window washing. Young people haven’t had years to hone their skills, and they are rarely experts. What employers are really looking for are team players and a willingness to learn and do almost anything asked of them. It’s okay if you’ve never done the task required of you as long as you put a smile on your face and promise to learn and try your best.

He also mentions the need to make lateral connections across topics. This is a huge asset for any employee—the ability to see how an issue in your department or sector impacts other departments or sectors and to synthesize and analyze multiple forms of data from a range of sources.  

Today, the demand on young workers is to be generalists. But how will this impact future jobs and job descriptions? Will the shift from vertical to horizontal jobs that he writes about apply only to jobs for young workers, or for all future lower and senior-level jobs? If senior-level jobs remain more specialized, will the young employees who increasingly work as generalists be prepared? 

What do you think?

Hiring in the Digital Age

How to Change Career Fields to Social Innovation (

My article for 

You’ve decided you want to shift career fields to work in social innovation. But your current job has little or no overlap with the social sector. How do you make the switch? Here are eight approaches you can use to help you make the move and land a social innovation job.

Have a story. You need a concise, compelling story about your career change. Why are you interested in social innovation? Why do you want to switch fields, and why now? Why are you attracted to the mission of the organizations to which you are applying? Make sure you really understand why you want to make the move, and that you are ready for the changes it may bring in workplace culture, job responsibilities, and your long-term career goals.

Volunteer. If you aren’t linked to the social sector through previous experience or your current position, you will have a more difficult time convincing organizations that you are passionate about social innovation, even if you really believe in it. To show your passion and interest, start volunteering in the social sector in your free time. Look at Idealist, your favorite non-profit, or organizations like Catchafire for opportunities. Ideally, try to make your volunteer work align with the type of organization you want to work for. Don’t think that volunteering at an animal shelter will help you get that impact investment job; instead, volunteer in financial inclusion or fundraising.

Live Abroad. For internationally-focused social enterprises, experience working and living abroad is a must. If you haven’t already spent significant time abroad, find opportunities through service organizations or fellowships to spend time in the developing world. You’ll grow personally and professionally, and come back with a wealth of perspective and experience. Or maybe you’ll even find a job or start a new venture abroad.

Become a social entrepreneur. Many entrepreneurs think of a venture while employed and then quit to build their organization full-time. But it’s not an easy switch—you’ll need financial support and a strong network to stand by you as you embark on your solo-journey. Make sure you are prepared for the challenges, and eventual rewards, that lie ahead in this bold move.

Become a social intrapreneur. You don’t need to become a social entrepreneur to make an impact in social innovation. Social intrapreneurs are individuals that create change or launch new ventures from within large companies, or that support social enterprises in strategy and operations roles. Apply for jobs with your favorite social enterprises—they all need individuals to develop strategy, implement programs, and accelerate scale and impact. Or, become an intrapreneur at your current company. Find a way to build social or environmental value into the business model or launch a CSR or employee volunteer program.

Highlight your transferable skills. Some senior-level social innovation jobs require field or social sector experience, no exceptions. But for entry-level positions, capability and cultural fit are the real keys. Describe your strengths and accomplishments in your resume, cover letter, and interview as they relate to the specific skills that the organization is looking for, and emphasize their transferability. For example, a microfinance organization working in South Asia may need a project manager, and you’ve worked for the past two years in project management for an ad agency. While the mission of this new job is very different, the skills required to manage people, time, and resources are transferable.

Consultants and Finance Professionals Rejoice. If you have consulting or finance experience, you are actually in luck. Many social sector organizations now look for private sector consulting and finance experience to bring analytical and business-minded skills to their organization and clients. You can work directly for a social enterprise, or look for jobs with social sector consultants or impact investing firms. MBAs are also a plus, so don’t rule out a future at business school. But, this experience alone is not enough, so be sure to still show your passion for social innovation.

Join a community. A great way to find opportunities is to join one of the many communities that bring together individuals that want to make a difference through social innovation. Check out ReWorkStartingBlocEscape the City, and Net Impact. They all have great resources for jobseekers like you looking to make a switch, and you’ll be in good company.

Add your favorite career move tips and stories in the comments!

Author’s note: To aid your search, you can find my 8 unwritten rules of job searchinghere and a list of social innovation job resources here.

Thanks to Zoe Schlag for reading a draft of this post. 

How to Change Career Fields to Social Innovation (

Why You Need to Hire an Intraprenuer (

My article for the SmartRecruiters Blog. 

When you read the term intrapreneur, you may think it’s a misspelling for entrepreneur. But it’s no typo. It’s exactly the type of person your organization needs to hire.

Intrapreneurs are individuals that use entrepreneurial thinking to create change or launch new ventures within existing organizations. They essentially always ask, “Is this the best and most effective way to do something? Is there a better or new way?”

Intrapreneurs may launch a new revenue-generating product or service, make systems and infrastructure more effective, or incorporate a social or environmental good component to your work. Organizations like Google are famous for fostering intrapreneurs through a culture of innovation and providing employee hours to explore new ideas.

In general, intrapreneurs can be trusted to work on a range tasks from strategy to implementation, and collaboratively across departments. If your company is already established, intrapreneurs can hit the ground running without spending time creating infrastructure and securing resources. Intrapreneurs pursue new strategies while staying true to the core principals and goals of the organization.

So, how do you find an intrapreneur to join your team? When you interview prospective employees, ask them if they’ve ever launched new initiatives or ventures for a previous employer, and listen for questions they may ask about workplace culture and employee responsibilities. Intrapreneurs are great at managing up and across departments, so find someone that has a history of working on teams in both leadership and non-leadership roles. You should also look for people that aren’t afraid to take calculated risks and fail. And don’t forget company culture—make sure that you hire an intrapreneur that will fit seamlessly with your team and management style.

You should also look to hire internally because you may already have an intrapreneur on your hands. Do you have employees that consistently think outside the box and offer suggestions, or people you trust to launch new initiatives? Are they passionate about your organization’s mission and do they have a history of working well within the company culture and infrastructure? This might be the intrapreneur your organization needs.

Once you’ve hired or identified your intrapreneur, the goal is to empower them by providing the trust, freedom, and resources they need to be successful. Allow for all team members to think about internal innovation and provide more opportunities to suggest ideas or build proofs of concepts.

If your social enterprise truly values collaboration and innovation, you need at least one intrapreneur on your team, so start searching.

Why You Need to Hire an Intraprenuer (