Before joining the MovingWorlds Institute, Maria D’Angelo found herself in a position that many of us can relate to. She had a good job with a big-name company, but shared that “the strict schedule and long hours just weren’t sustainable. I felt like I was being asked to put in so much more than I was getting out of it.” Ready to pivot her career in a new direction, Maria started researching other options and discovered the social enterprise movement. “I had experience in the for-profit world, and had heard of nonprofit and NGO work as alternatives. But what really fascinated me about social enterprise was the fact that it existed as a separate group of entities that in a way combine the best of both worlds – business as a force for good” she reflected.
Following this thread is ultimately what led Maria to apply to the MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship, where she was accepted into the July 2019 cohort. “When I found MovingWorlds and learned more about how they help people break-into this space and pivot their careers to be a catalyst for good in the world, I knew I wanted to apply. My intention for joining the program was to learn more about social enterprises, how they functioned, and how I could best equip myself to become a more competitive candidate in the social enterprise space” Maria shared.
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Maria and learn more about the career moves she’s made in the year since, and how she turned her career transition dreams into a reality. Read her full story of career transformation below!
Approaching career transition from the inside-out
In the MovingWorlds Institute, our approach to social impact starts from within. Rather than trying to fit yourself into the shape of a certain role, we teach Fellows to instead figure out the shape of their own unique ‘puzzle piece’ and use that as the foundation for fleshing out the qualities a potential role would need to have to fit you. For Maria, “the program helped me realize that I needed a flexible environment, a sense of agency over what I do, and autonomy over when and how I work to perform at my best. I realized that I didn’t want another role with a different corporation; I wanted to find a role in a startup setting. Starting with my own needs, instead of the other way around, is something I will carry though the rest of my career.”
Immediately after the program kickoff, Maria landed her first job interview with a new tech startup. Although she was still in the early phases of her Fellowship, Maria had already gained a wealth of self-knowledge that she was able to leverage in the interview to help seal the deal. She reflected, “One thing that really helped prepare me was the different assessments we took and were then able to discuss with our entire cohort. I learned more about myself, my working style, what motivates me, and what I’m passionate about. It was really mind-opening to see that there was so much more to what I was doing in my last role than I initially thought, going through this process revealed to me all of these different areas where my skills could be a good fit and have an even bigger impact. It gave me the platform I needed going into that interview to be able to say, ‘Here are the things I’m good at, the things I like to do, and the things that motivate me – and here’s how I could bring them all together in this role.”
Maria was offered the position just over a month into her Fellowship. All Global Fellows complete a stretch social impact project, either virtually or in-person, as part of the program, and Maria was transparent with her hiring manager from the start about needing to take time off to complete her project with artisan cooperative Trama Textiles in Guatemala. Maria shared, “One of the main reasons I knew this job would be a good fit is that I was very upfront with my manager about also being a Fellow at MovingWorlds, and about the two months I was planning to spend in Guatemala for my social impact project. I asked for a clause in my offer letter that would enable me to take that time off, which honestly felt a little scary but I wanted to be fully transparent. My new manager thought it was awesome, and was so supportive from the very beginning. I was afraid it would make me seem too ‘demanding’ to ask for something like that up-front, but in reality the opposite happened: the team wanted me to join their company even more because they saw my commitment to social impact as something admirable.”
Maria negotiated the time off with her new team, and upon arriving in Guatemala for her social impact project, Maria shared this update: “Growth and creation have been the words that outline my experteering project with Trama Textiles so far. Working together has helped me grow and enabled me to create new processes for them, and my time spent in Xela has encouraged me to dig into myself to create growth in my professional and personal life. This experience has been one I will certainly never forget, and I can already see how it’s been a catalyst for continued growth and new creations.”
A newfound confidence to jobcraft the perfect role
As Maria established her new routine in Xela, she realized that she would be able to balance both her pro-bono consulting project with part-time work to get her onboarded at her new employer. She went back to her manager with the part-time remote work proposal, and they came to an agreement. Reflecting back, Maria shared that “the Fellowship program helped me build my confidence and self-knowledge around my own capabilities and needs. That in turn helped me show up more authentically and have the courage to negotiate for them. That’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life, and what I’ve learned through this experience is that if you don’t state what you want, you aren’t going to get it. The Fellowship helped me get that clarity and confidence to make sure that I ended up on a team that was willing to meet me halfway and appreciated me for what I brought to the table.”
The work that Maria did to ensure she was joining a team that was willing to meet her halfway became even more important when COVID-19 hit. Like many startups, her company was forced to rapidly adapt to the ‘new normal ‘of work during a pandemic, and thanks to the experience and confidence Maria gained through the Fellowship, she was able to adapt her role within the company to meet its changing needs.
Maria shared that, “After I returned to the US, the CEO and I met to reassess my job responsibilities. Finding an environment where your manager and colleagues are genuinely supportive creates the space for you to be able to speak up and negotiate through things. I think this kind of environment will naturally attract other people who do the same, and actively look for ways to meet you halfway. My transition is a great example of that: our CEO really appreciated my flexibility and willingness to learn and adapt quickly, and I appreciated his willingness to work in tandem with me on jobcrafting what my new role would look like. Ultimately, our shared goal is to make things work overall to further the mission of the company, and cultivating authentic, deep, and trusting relationships is key to making that happen.”
Making a successful career transition during a global pandemic is no easy feat, and Maria’s story is a great example of why the ‘inside-out’ approach to career transition makes such a big difference. Because Maria put in the work to introspect and know what she’s capable of and who she is, she was able to say ‘yes’ to the right role where she could grow and evolve with the company. Despite the pandemic, Maria not only kept but grew her role at her new company, and was promoted to Operations Manager within her first 6 months.
Are you looking for guidance in making your next career move? Apply to the MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship for individualized support uncovering your unique combination of talents and strengths, and identifying the right kind of team environment to bring them to so you can thrive.