Jessica Schreiber Wheeler first became captivated by the concept of social entrepreneurship while pursuing a Graduate Degree in Management and Leadership at Andrássy University Budapest. Recognizing its potential to change the world of business, she chose it as the topic of her Masters thesis, reflecting that, “I felt so energized and motivated learning all of these new social enterprise ideas, and then getting to talk to entrepreneurs who were putting them into action.”
Upon graduation, she moved to the United States and set out to find a role where she could apply her business expertise for social good. Shortly thereafter, she accepted a position as a project manager with a global e-learning company, where she enjoyed being able to bring a customer-centric approach to the process of instructional design. She shared that in particular, “streamlining the production of digital courses and training with cross-functional teams was one of my favorite and highly successful responsibilities.” Over time, however, she began to notice that her ability to grow and affect positive change was limited. She wondered: How might I reconnect with my original ideals of business for good in a way that brings me closer to the ultimate impact of my work?
Jessica’s quest to answer this question led her to the MovingWorlds Institute. “I was so excited when I found it,” she remembers, “I saw it as a connecting point to where I left off with my Master’s thesis, as well as an opportunity to deepen my understanding of the social impact space with the highly-aligned topics that the Institute covers. On top of that, I was new to this country, and didn’t have many professional connections. So I was also excited about the opportunity to build my network, learn the global and U.S. social impact landscape, and find a new opportunity that was right for me.”
Reflecting back on the experience a year later, she shared, “the Fellowship helped me do exactly that – connect with interesting topics and people committed to business for good, connect with new opportunities, and start building my professional foundation here in the social impact space in the U.S.”
Continue reading to learn how she navigated the transition to greater purpose and impact!
Making the Decision to Invest in Herself
After a call with MovingWorlds Institute Director Cole Hoover to make sure the program was right for her goals, Jessica decided to take the leap and invest in herself. She was accepted into the April 2021 Global Fellowship cohort, and anxiously awaited the kickoff weekend to see what this new experience would be like.
Jessica remembers that “before the kickoff weekend was even over, I knew I had made the right decision. Meeting the other Fellows in my cohort, and being surrounded by this inspiring group of people who also prioritized more than just financial bottom line, gave me that same feeling of energy and motivation that I missed so much from the research and analysis involved in completing my Masters thesis.”
In addition to getting to know a diverse group of like-minded people, the kickoff weekend also helped Jessica get to know herself. She shared, “The assessments around strengths and purpose were particularly helpful. The results revealed new facets about myself that I hadn’t considered before, but that immediately resonated. I was able to develop a purpose statement that is authentic to me and has proven invaluable during the job search process: to improve organizations’ efficiency, quality, and ability to reach their goals by defining and implementing well-functioning structures, processes, and tools.
After the launch weekend, Fellows stay connected with weekly coaching calls, case-based learning and discussions, as well as reading and reflection assignments designed to deepen their understanding of the social impact landscape and its leading frameworks. For Jessica, going through this learning journey as part of a cohort made all the difference. As Jessica explained, “It’s one thing to read a book by yourself, but being able to talk about it and digest the information together was one of the most valuable elements for me. Being able to connect and exchange opinions broadened my perspective beyond what I would have gotten out of the materials by myself, plus as a non-native English speaker it was great to practice and hone my professional communication skills in an environment where I felt comfortable speaking up, presenting my ideas, and participating in the conversation.”
Although Jessica was still working for the e-learning company when she joined, she shared that, “seeing all of the different options that are out there and connecting with others already doing purpose-aligned work really confirmed that it was time for me to leave my job.”
For extra support throughout the search, Jessica joined a smaller “accountabilibuddy” group (accountability buddies to help each other achieve goals) with others in her cohort pursuing the same thing. She reflected, “my accountability group was great for getting and sharing feedback about our resumes, job applications, and professional stories. Being part of a group that is genuinely invested in each other’s success – and willing to thoughtfully listen, ask the right questions, and help each other think through potential options – made a big difference.”
Putting the Pieces Together to Launch a New Career
Through coaching calls and accountability group meetings, Jessica realized that her core strengths in project management and process optimization from the private sector were still highly relevant to the new context she wanted to apply them in. She had developed a hypothesis that a nonprofit organization could be a more aligned fit for her personal purpose, and started applying for roles at the intersection of the two.
It wasn’t long before Jessica’s hard work paid off, and she was offered a fixed-term role as a Project Manager for JOIN Impact. She explained, “JOIN Impact is a nonprofit organization that fosters social innovation and civic engagement. It is the umbrella organization of 5 different brands. In my role, I was working cross-functionally between the partnerships, communications, and product teams to implement and manage an innovative digital learning platform for the social enterprise and nonprofit organizations that JOIN serves.”
She went on to share that, “the strategic planning and analytical thinking skills I honed in my e-learning role directly laddered to that role, which involved connecting with organizations to find out what they really need to improve, and then packaging and communicating the information in the most effective way.”
In addition to her transferable skills, the concepts she learned in the Fellowship have also been instrumental in taking her impact to the next level. “Being able to layer concepts like human-centered design and impact measurement frameworks on top of my existing skills really set me up for success in this new contract role. The impact measurement piece is particularly exciting to me – in the private sector, everything is measured. But in the nonprofit space, that’s not always the case. Over the course of my contract, I was able to take that private sector lens and impact measurement knowledge to help JOIN Impact bring more rigor to its programs, uncover what’s working and what isn’t, and teach its participants to do the same.”
Career transition is more of an ongoing evolution than an end destination, and for Jessica, the Fellowship community continues to be a meaningful source of guidance and support along the way. She shared, “Even after the 6 months of programming are complete, you truly are part of the community for life. It’s not a ‘ciao, your time is up’ kind of situation! Having a place to continuously return to where I can connect with inspiring people, ask questions, get and give advice, and share my story is so important. I entered this experience hoping that I would be able to find my professional footing in a new country. And I genuinely feel like I’m doing just that!”
We’re grateful to Jessica for sharing her story with us, and for contributing her time and wisdom to our global community. Looking for a supportive professional community to support your career goals? Apply to the MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship for the confidence, connections, and hands-on experience to launch or grow your social impact career.