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Career Change Spotlight: Leslie

Hey everyone! Another journey to share with y'all!

As someone obsessed with learning (I'm currently taking a community college online course with an oh-so-timely topic, Stress Management and Human Health), and with the world opening up to diverse educational models, I was stoked to talk to the brilliant Leslie Mestman, a colleague of mine from over a decade ago when we both worked in the environmental field, who has since moved into the wonderful world of community education!

One of the things I love about Leslie is that she has explored multiple career paths (as she told me, "I’ve done a lot of things and changed jobs often") and used the common threads of her unique experiences to lead successfully...all while making a difference in the world. Community? Environment? Kids? Is she my spirit animal, y'all?

Here's Leslie's story...and tips for those out there ready for a change!

What do you do for living these days?

I’m the Director for Portland Community College’s Community Education Program. We offer ~5,000 classes per year at ~70 locations, promoting lifelong learning through personal enrichment classes spanning a range of topics from arts to recreation to driver’s education. During the pandemic, we’ve moved almost everything online.

What career(s) were you in before this? I started my career in social work, and then spent about 10 years working in energy efficiency program management before spending about a year and a half building an all-volunteer run non-profit, Off the Sideline, to help low-income youth access team sports. What inspired you to make the transition? I really enjoy change and new opportunities to grow and learn. I think it can take a lot of trying on different hats before you really solidify what makes you happy in a job. I worked for four different organizations within energy efficiency and then realized that it was probably the field that wasn’t quite gelling for me anymore.  What were your biggest challenges in changing careers? Going into a totally new sector, I was worried my energy-efficiency experience would be too foreign to a lot of people to see the connection to the types of jobs I was interested in pursuing. That was part of the reason I created the non-profit, I instantly created the leadership job I wanted and felt confident I could do. It gave me instant access to new connections and new skill sets. I realize that’s not a practical option for most people.  I would also add that when you’re not sure what you want and your search is broad (like mine was), it makes it hard to identify where to focus your energy.  What advice can you share with others thinking about moving into a new line of work? * Know your transferable skills - From my perspective, my whole working life has been program development/management. I just managed different widgets, but all my jobs had stakeholders, timelines, budgets, deliverables, etc.  * It takes longer than you think - I spent 8 months looking before landing at PCC. I always get a little nervous when I hear people say they are going to take a break before looking.  * Don’t be afraid - I’ve seen a lot of people, particularly young people, get sort of frozen in time at their company. They are still viewed as the “green” kid who just started and it can get in the way of advancement. Sometimes taking a leap and going somewhere else can get you to that next level. Also, you spend a lot of time at your job, so it should be rewarding!


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