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Sabbatical Update: Assessing the Opportunities

Here we are in the next stage of Sabbatical!

Soon we'll mark one month since we've arrived in the Emerald City, and while most of these past three weeks have been hectic for me in getting out house set up, from normal painting and decorating to bigger projects like building a duck run and a fence (the latter was definitely a new one for me -thank you Pinterest for inspiration from other DIYers!), evaluating those work and volunteer opportunities has been part of the process as well.

One of the biggest things I've learned is to take my own advice. Seems basic, right? But just like we are often harder on ourselves than we are on others, we also don't always think the rules apply to our own situations, and reminding oneself of that can be very, very helpful. My friend and colleague Cindy has been great at texting me those one or two sentence questions that remind me of this. The things I ask my own coaching clients, of course! So with that logic comes when one is evaluating potential career opportunities.

Just like in romantic relationships, we can tend to fall into that infatuation phase when looking at a potential job prospect - especially one that fulfills something on the passion end of the spectrum that we are seeking. This will often cause us to gloss over the things that will ultimately drive us crazy, and is where slowing ourselves down and writing down that list of questions about the role, the organization, and more is so essential....then taking note of our emotional impressions of how they were responded to.

With this, I had written and verbal conversations with an Executive Director of a local organization for a role I'd alluded to in my last Sabbatical post, and it really made me stop and think. After having worked for a nonprofit two decades ago that checked every box on the passion scale but was run by an egomaniac with a monstrous temper who drove most staff to tears at one point or another, as well as of course having worked with hiring managers for my entire career, warning lights began to go off with the way the process was being run and the lack of effort the ED made in developing a rapport. An organization that prides itself on a mission surrounding equity was not running their hiring process in an equitable way, nor was it concerned about candidate experience. And folks, if you don't care about how your candidates feel, how much are you really caring about the way your organization is run...or those you serve for that matter?

So I shared my concerns about this person's invitation for a second interview that essentially was asking me to regurgitate everything I'd just spent an hour telling them while not disclosing who I'd be speaking to and simultaneously revealing that different people would interview different candidates. When it comes to hiring, not having the same people interview everyone (or at least a core team) is a huge no-no when it comes to fair hiring practices. John is not going to evaluate Sally the same way that Mia is, and neither will be able to share notes because they haven't all met the same people to therefore compare and contrast each candidate's ability to do the job! Furthermore, asking an interviewee to answer the exact same questions that were answered both in the cover letter and first interview shows not only a disrespect for the candidate's time, but also an inexperience when it comes to both evaluating candidate fit as well as best utilizing the time of your hiring team. No one wants to spend an hour talking about the things they already shared with the first manager (5 minute elevator speech? No problem. But an hour responding to questions that the hiring manager could have easily provided existing answers to the team in advance, and then let them focus on going to the next level of questioning instead? It shows an inability to manage time as well as an amateur approach to hiring. Furthermore, refusing to reveal who a candidate will interview with is a game that no one should be forced to play, as it denies the applicant the opportunity to prepare for the interview which includes coming up with questions for those in the roles and understanding how one would work with them. Even more unfortunate when the job in question would include HR duties. Yikes.

Sadly, this happens frequently at both nonprofits and startups, where people who run the place because of the mission - but don't bring the business skills - end up wasting a lot of time and missing out on locking in great talent. Many can sell the product / raise the funds, but assume that anyone can "do HR", including themselves. People won't hesitate to hire an accountant to oversee their financials, but when it comes to human resources, suddenly everyone's an expert, and the profession I spent 22 years in gets blown off. And that's how equity problems often start in organizations.

Ultimately, I gently let the hiring manager know that based on the questions and proposed process, I didn't think this was going to be a strong fit due to my concerns about equity, but offered my pro bono assistance to the nonprofit to help them with their hiring needs and build a stronger, more efficient and equitable process to help make his life easier and that of the hiring team, as well as expressed interest in helping them in other ways in a volunteer capacity because I was so excited about the subject matter they claimed to be focused on.

And that's when I learned who was running the place, and was very, very grateful for following my instincts and questioning the process. While I didn't know if he'd take me up on my offer for help, I had hoped he would *listen* and be glad to have someone with my years of experience be open and honest about how they could improve their processes since Equity was supposedly the whole point of what they did. And boy was I wrong. He was not only dismissive but insulted me, and right then and there? I said thank you. Because in the end, he saved me a whole lot of time. The head(s) of an organization drive the culture, and I had no interest in being a passenger in that vehicle.

So with that, I've kept that in the back of my mind when evaluating other paid and unpaid opportunities. Are they the kind of place that complains about not being able to find talent for both paid and unpaid work, while showing a clear lack of interest in creating a healthy two-way process that sells to someone why they should apply and respects their time as much as they expect their own to be respected? I've walked away from pursuing a number of them which fell into one or more of the below...

* the unpaid board member role with a five page application

* the company that demands every applicant for every role have a degree

* the ones who talk about equity and diversity...but are primarily one color, gender, etc.

* the nonprofits and companies who claim to care about community but don't require all employees and volunteers be vaccinated against COVID to ensure the safety of all.

Along with evaluating the opportunities that have presented themselves, I'm also using this sabbatical time to evaluate who I am TODAY. Not who I was when I lived here 20 years ago, and not who I was a few years ago in the throes of failing fertility treatments, and not who I was on the farm. Who am I right now...and who do I want to be? And I remind myself (thanks to Bec Martin for this one...) today:

"You are the author of your own story, and the book is not over yet!"

I am utterly and unabashedly grateful for this opportunity to have a sabbatical, one I never had in the first 40something years of my life, and with that, I will keep sharing this new and crazy world where, for once, I feel like I have a choice. My husband has been fabulously supportive of this and has never once made me feel like a slacker and in fact shared that he felt honored to be able to take care of both of us, as I did the same for him when he first came to this country. Now that's a partnership. Now that's the kind of energy I need.

Let's do this.

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