Howdy, Career Beavers blog readers! Week 7 of spring term already, and the Career Changer is back to continue the story of her wavy career path. All school year, I’ve been writing the story of the shifts and changes on my professional path that got me here to OSU after graduating with my undergraduate degree twelve years ago. In my last post, I told the story of how I began working as a real estate office manager in Colorado, a totally new position in a totally new industry for me. While I was contributing to this office, I was also keeping my ears open about other opportunities. One arose about nine months later that could be a good fit for my skills, experience, and personal goals.

In the small town of Creede, the arts are very important. So important, in fact, that in addition to the Creede Repertory Theatre, there is a local nonprofit arts organization that sponsors gallery shows, arts education, art in public spaces, and other arts related events. The Creede Arts Council’s director was leaving after many years of building a set of programs that added value to the community, events that people had come to expect and count on to sustain them year after year. The Council needed a new Director.

With my background in writing and theatre and because I had completed an internship in nonprofit development while in graduate school, I was chosen to direct this organization of very dedicated volunteers as they worked hard to provide arts programming for their community. This opportunity may not have happened in a big city, but the available candidate pool was small, so I got lucky! Because it was part time, I continued working in the real estate office while taking on grant writing, volunteer organizing, event planning, and marketing.

Some of these tasks were brand new to me. Some of these tasks were new facets of skills I was already comfortable with. All of these tasks were a challenge, so I learned as I went, asked the board and the previous director lots of questions, and tried things out to see if they would work. I learned so many useful skills in this job that there isn’t the space to list them all. Looking back on it, I’m so glad I took a chance in applying, and they took a chance by hiring me!

The most valuable skills I cultivated regarded working on a team while leading that team. A volunteer board hired me to manage them but also to serve their needs. I needed to balance my leadership style with the goals and purpose of my position, supporting everyone’s ideas and acting as a facilitator for conversations to decide the direction of the organization. So, many of the skills I cultivated in that job are skills I use today and skills I will continue to use in the future. However, I still knew I wanted to work in higher education. In Week 9, I will tell you about my next steps in achieving that goal. Have a great week!

Jessica Baron is currently a Graduate Assistant in Career Services at OSU and a full time student in the College Student Services Administration Program. Before making her way to Oregon State, Jessica worked as an actor, waiter, online tutor, receptionist, college composition instructor, creative writer, gas station attendant, nonprofit program director, writing workshop leader, high school drama coach, Hallmark card straightener, substitute teacher, real estate office manager, and SAT tutor, not necessarily in that order. Her “Confessions of a Career Changer” will focus on her wavy career path and the challenges and joys of wanting to do everything.

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