Building a Career Around Your Strengths: Lessons Learned from a Social Enterprise Leader #AlumniUpdate

Alexandra Nemeth

Content Marketing Manager at MovingWorlds.org

Two years ago, Thais was at a crossroads in her career. She knew that she wanted to do more impactful work, but was struggling to find her place in the impact sector. “I didn’t want to work for a big corporation any more, so did some volunteering to explore alternatives. While the work itself was impactful, I saw that NGOs and nonprofits could be very inefficient. I wanted to find a way to combine the best of both worlds, but wasn’t finding my way there on my own” she reflected.

Since being accepted into the MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship in 2018, a lot has changed for Thais. Today, she is thriving in a new career as the Chief Operating Officer of a scaling social enterprise. We caught up with Thais to learn more about how she got there, and the role the Fellowship played in her journey. Continue reading to see what she shared!

From uncertainty to clarity 

While thinking back on her experience, Thais reflected, “Participating in the Global Fellowship program was life-changing for me. When I met the other professionals in my cohort in Amsterdam, I realized that I wasn’t the only one having doubts and fears about fitting in to the profit-driven corporate world. Seeing how much we had in common gave me a sense of peace and confidence; I was able to focus on making my goals a reality, rather than wondering if I was “crazy” for wanting more than the status quo. Connecting with others on the same journey to listen, offer feedback, and support one another was invaluable.” 

Global Fellowship cohort at MovingWorlds Institute kickoff in Amsterdam
Thais’ cohort at the Amsterdam kickoff in May 2018

The MovingWorlds Institute helps Global Fellows first gain a better understanding of themselves, then use that insight to align their careers with their unique purpose and strengths. This process of self-discovery was a major highlight for Thais, who shared, “I remember this one exercise we did involving assessments to identify our strengths. Before, I had been very focused on marketing, but the exercise revealed that I also have a strong inclination for program and project management. This was really eye-opening for me: I had been limiting myself before because I was not connecting the dots between my past experience and future options.”

This self-insight shifted the way Thais thought about her career trajectory, broadening the scope of what was possible. “Before the Institute, my focus was narrower and on the immediate-term. Another exercise that really transformed my thinking was designing our dream jobs. Rather than trying to fit myself into a prescribed role, I was able to use these new insights to create the role that would fit me. We imagined everything about our dream jobs, from the type of team we’d be working with to the organizational structure to the daily responsibilities. Going into this level of specificity helped me understand exactly where I wanted to go, and the accountability of my cohort helped me build a plan to get there.”

Leveraging the fellowship to land her dream job

While traditional employment models tend to force narrow and short-term thinking, the MovingWorlds Institute takes a holistic approach designed to help Global Fellows take the leap into meaningful work that makes the world better. Marketers can do more than market. Sales people can do more than sell. Financial analysts can do more than analyze. By combining learning, networking, mentorship, and coaching, the Institute helps Global Fellows map their existing experience to new possibilities, then fill the gaps in experience needed to get there. 

Like so many in the Fellowship (see Heather’s story for another great example), Thais overcame self-limiting beliefs and realized that although her experience was in marketing, she could do so many other things. She shared, “Recognizing my own skills, and getting feedback from the MovingWorlds team and my peers helped me confidently choose a direction that wasn’t in the realm of possibility before. I came out of the Fellowship believing that I could be good at project management, and that I did have something unique to add. The training and coaching then helped me emphasize that more in my CV and in an interview.” 

With her peers and the MovingWorlds team cheering her on, Thais landed a new job with UnLtd Spain, a social enterprise that finds and supports social entrepreneurs through partnerships with corporations. Thais felt “It was the perfect place for me to leverage my corporate experience and connections to advance social good, and help scale solutions that change our society for the better.” She started as a Program Coordinator, where she applied her strengths to coordinate operations and logistics for UnLtd’s accelerator program. Less than a year later she was promoted to Director of Programs, where she became responsible for the Program Team and developed new methodologies for impact measurement and reporting. In January of this year, Thais was tapped to fill the role of Chief Operating Officer. 

Global Fellow Thais giving a presentation at UnLtd Spain
Thais giving a presentation at UnLtd Spain

Reflecting on the growth and evolution of her role, Thais shared, “The self-insight I had as a result of the Fellowship allowed me to make the right choice in finding an organization where I can bring my passion and advance quickly. It’s uncanny to look back and realize that the job I have now is almost identical to the job I dreamed of as a Fellow. I definitely credit those training sessions and the support of my cohort with helping me make that a reality.”

The MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship is ultimately about helping professionals understand their incredible potential to leverage their strengths and purpose-drivers to find fulfilling jobs that make the world better. We’re thrilled that Thais found a career that is as dynamic as she is, and is authentic to who she is and what she cares about. She shared, “My work is fast-paced and always evolving. The social enterprise ecosystem here in Spain is growing, and I get to live my passion every day being part of that.”

Looking for support building a career around your unique strengths? Apply to join our next class of Global Fellows!