Archive | why we do

RSS feed for this section

Guest Post: Why I Chose Energy by Megan Atkinson

I am happy to feature a guest post from Megan Atkinson today. Megan blogs at The Life and Times of an Energy Careerist. I loved this post and thought it would be a good edition to the Why We Do What We Do series.

Here’s Megan’s post!

When people ask me why I chose to get into energy, I have a quick answer and a not-so-quick answer:

Quick answer: It’s my passion. Because I would eat, sleep, and breathe the energy industry for free if I were independently wealthy.

Not-so-quick answer: I blame my dad.

Dear old Dad. It’s all his fault.

I grew up in a household where my mother would do her motherly thing after work and run around the house doing whatever it was she needed to do – turning the lights on in every room, at every stop. Then my father would run around after her griping about the electric bills and turning them off. I came to understand the economic value of energy efficiency at a very early age but was generally disinterested.

First I wanted to be a super model, then a forensic scientist (before all the CSI, Law and Order, and NCIS shows), then a teacher. Eventually I got into high school and actually had to assess my abilities and interests before choosing a career. Because really… I couldn’t even model rubber gloves let alone clothing.

MeganatkinsonThis is when my dad really started harping on me about finding a career I love. He would always tell me, “If you can find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’m sure he stole the mantra from some super wise famous guy, but it stuck with me.

First I majored in fine art. That was idiotic. I had the skill and enjoyed creating but had zero interest in having the word “starving” as part of my job title later in life.

Then it was political science and economics. That was fine and dandy, but who wants to have their financial security hang on the re-electability of some skeezy politician? Not me.

So I took a hard look at what I loved about public policy and economic theory – energy issues, how we power (literally) our economy. So I took a wind power class and it was all over from there. I knew I was made for an energy job.

I eventually decided that though I love renewable energy, energy efficiency is where I needed to be. It was recession-proof (recession-friendly, even), an emerging industry with cutting edge technology, I understood the industry jargon much more fluently than I did Spanish, and I had so much fun learning about it.

So I pursued it. The more I kept learning and doing and experiencing, the more I couldn’t wait to get a jump start on my big energy career.
My dad was right. Turning off the lights DOES save money – and having a job you love really DOES make your job feel a lot less like work and lot more like “holy crap, you mean I get paid to learn all this stuff and talk to strangers and nerd it out?!“

Why do you do what you do?

If you’d like to guest post for The Opportunities Project about Why You Do What You Do, contact us.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Introducing My 2011 Spring Scholarship Program!

I’ve launched my 2011 Spring Scholarship program! I am giving away three scholarships and applications are due Friday, April 1.

Here are the three scholarships I’m giving away. You can apply via the Scholarship page on my News and Events channel.

1. The College Student Scholarship- Awarded to someone finishing his/her junior or senior year of college and exploring internships or first full-time job.

2. The Young Professional Scholarship– Awarded to someone with less than three years of full-time professional experience and needs some help finding a new or first job.

3. The Woman Veteran Scholarship– Awarded to a female veteran of our armed services who is pursuing work in the civilian sector.

You can also watch my video telling you about the scholarships and why I am giving them away. Look forward to your application and thank you in advance for sharing!


Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog


Guest Post: Why I Chose Communications by Aria McLauchlan

Aria McLauchlanI am so, so pleased to feature a guest post today from a client alumna, Aria McLauchlan! Aria is an Australian-turned-New Yorker who brought her business degree, work experience and a suitcase full of dreams to the city mid-2010. She is now settled and working in account service in a growing marketing agency, internationalizing her communications experience, writing her blog, Aria, Intrepid, and looking for little ways to inspire and make a difference. (Tracy’s note: Aria tweets about her commitment to making a difference and I recommend following her for that reason.)

Aria was gracious enough to write a post for me for my Why series. Many of us focus on How or What we do, but knowing your professional Whys are even more critical. People who have clarity about why they do something and can communicate it well get better results and that is something we discussed during our coaching.

So here is Aria McLauchlan on “why the girl who only ever wanted to ‘make a difference’ fell in love with advertising and marketing instead… and why she’s sticking with it.”

If you belong to the communications industry, there’s a very good chance you didn’t grow up wanting to be a ‘digital strategist’, a ‘copy writer’ or a ‘public relations consultant’. Those terms just don’t exist in childhood career aspirations.

But somewhere between childhood dreams of becoming a ballerina or an astronaut, and the glaring realities of an adult life, the idea of advertising as a career choice hit me in a beautiful, lightning-bolt moment of realization.

Watching a ‘chick flick’ at the age of 14 (I was born ten years too early to be able to earn any kudos from citing Mad Men as a source of career aspiration!), I saw two characters birthing a brilliant idea for sports giant, Nike.

While I’ve since forgotten the exact wording, the impact of watching an idea with unlimited potential unfold before my very eyes was immeasurable. This fabled idea would go on to win over an important client, glorify the career of these two characters, and inspire my own career path and college choices. Advertising as a job title entered my realm of consciousness. It was at this point that I knew that working with and conveying ideas, amidst the effortless ‘cool’ of the agency world would be the way to go.

Various personality and aptitude tests confirmed my inclination towards the communications industry, while the words Advertising Account Executive, printed casually in the depths of a monstrous high school Career Guide, spurred on a role that would prove to be a perfect fit for me in a field with which I was already enamored.

Despite my obvious alignment for my newfound role, advertising seemed to be at odds with many of my values and wider beliefs for the world; beliefs that were informed and highly influenced by my highly liberal, progressive family background. As my closest mentor has continually, although always gently, attested of our rampant consumerist society, and by extension, the industry which promotes it – why create perceived problems or needs, when so many real problems and needs already exist!?

My answer and rebuttal lies in this:

I’ve since discovered that beyond the perceived world of agency-cool, long lunches and sexy parties, and at the heart of the reality of non-stop 14 hour days whilst earning $30K a year out of college, the ‘glamour’ of communications has a much truer, if not seemingly intangible appeal.

The industry that is grounded in research, planning and insight, and that communicates that insight in the form of an idea that can resonate with all of us, is the same industry that has the resources [read: people], the capital, the capability and the influence to change the way we shop, the decisions we make, the causes or companies we support, the way we think, and ultimately, the way we are.

It is this potential that I see unleashed by a growing number of my counterparts every day. The ability to make a real difference in the corporate world might just be an idea, but I also feel it is a privilege and an opportunity. Now who wants to market that?


Want help getting clarity on figuring out and communicating your Why? Schedule a free 30 minute consultation with me to talk about what I can do for you as a career coach and consultant.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Believing in Yourself: Wisdom and Letting Go for #Reverb10

I spent most of #snowmageddon writing my posts for the Reverb10 campaign. I’ve done one post so far, but as a recap, Reverb10 is an online initiative to get people to reflect upon what happened in 2010 as part of their effort to manifest the best in 2011. I am all aboard the Reverb10 train personally, and as a career coach, I think everyone else should participate in it, too! As a coach, one of the best gifts I can give is to bring people toward greater self-awareness. Self-awareness can show you how others may perceive you in your career, but more importantly, show you what you really want in life and how to get it. Taking personal time to reflect and write about your experiences and goals is a great way to jumpstart the process.

Because I am late to the game, I am grouping many of the prompts into themes that make sense to me. I am also posting multiple times a day to publish as many as possible before the new year. Today’s first post is about my decision to start my company, and the realization that was a decision to also let something go. Since my company is relatively new, I still run into people in the city who have no idea that I am now a career coach. Usually they ask me “When did you decide you wanted to be a career coach?” or “Why did you leave your job at the New York City Department of Education?” Most people see them as the same question, but one is about adding and the other is about subtracting. Sometimes you need to do both to move forwards. My greatest lesson learned is that these decisions reflected conscious choices and I had abdicated my power to make choices for a very long time. This post also addresses one more reason behind Why I Do What I Do, another blog post series.

#Reverb10 Prompts
December 10 – Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? (Author: Susannah Conway)

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?(Author: Alice Bradley)

December 17 – Lesson Learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward? (Author: Tara Weaver)

The Wisdom in Knowing You Want More

My wisest decision in 2010 was a two-part one: (1) to recognize that I had a dream and the talent to become a successful coach, and (2) to act on my belief and start my practice.

The first part took place in very late 2009 when multiple people in my life asked me for my advice on their job search. When I worked with friends and colleagues to review their resumes and help with interviews, I saw my strengths in a new light and recognized how much I enjoyed working with job-seekers. I am not a huge “the universe is speaking to you” person, but I don’t think it’s random that people were coming to me in a moment where I was wondering what I wanted to accomplish in the next year, especially a milestone year since I’d be turning 35. I also had a lifelong dream to be an entrepreneur that I had put on hold countless times. Going back for my PhD in 2006 was part of my plan to become an independent consultant, but I came to realize that I didn’t need my PhD to own a mission-driven business, especially with ten years of experience in recruitment.

In January 2010, I started talking to coaches and attending business classes and knew that I could do it. In March, I started telling people in my life about my plans and asking opinions from people I trusted. By the end of the month, I told my boss on a Friday evening, feeling liberated… but walking out in tears.

Leaving A Role Behind

In the excitement of launching my new vision, I didn’t quite realize that leaving my role as “The Director of Teacher Recruitment” for the New York City public schools would be a separate hard and painful process. I was leaving something that I had poured all of my emotional labor into for almost a decade and the title had become as much a part of my identity as the color of my eyes. Even though time has passed, there is still a part of me that is in mourning for the team that worked with me, and the good things that came from being a member of an established institution and tribe. But ultimately, the role was not serving me anymore. It was not giving me intellectual and personal freedom, room to grow, or space to honor my own feelings about what it takes to improve our nation’s education problems, K-16. By ignoring those feelings, I was giving away control over my life and I had to let it go to grow, even if it meant leaving behind some good things.

As I fight the day-to-day battles of getting things off the ground, I forget the amount of courage and power both of these decisions took. It was easy to stay where I was rewarded with an excellent paycheck and benefits. But I desired to be an entrepreneur and coach and no one was going to start my business for me. The lesson learned is that if we want something enough, we must recognize our power to do it with conscious and deliberate action, and an understanding that success requires risk and at least a moderate tolerance for failure. No matter what happens, that I pursued it is its own accomplishment.

Are you ready to make a conscious choice today to make a difficult decision and/or let something go?

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Why I Teach for America

Last week, I saw on Facebook and Twitter that the first members of the 2011 Teach for America corps had received their offers of admission. I think that’s amazing and congratulate all the new members of the corps!

Teach for AmericaThe Opportunities Project is a supporter of Teach for America (TFA) and its mission to ensure that everyone has the right to an excellent education. Over the last few years, Teach for America has been a force to be reckoned with in college recruiting. Last year, TFA was the largest employer of Yale graduates and 18% of all seniors applied for a slot in the corps. That means powerhouse investment banks and management-consulting firms are competing with a teaching program for the top talent. Why I think that is happening is a topic for another blog post.

If you read my bio, you know I started my career as a TFA corps member, teaching fourth grade and sixth grade in Washington Heights. I had always done well in school, but my high school experience had been very disengaging to me and I had little respect for teachers. When I started college, I was in the film production program at the Newhouse School at Syracuse and was planning my career in media domination. There were lots of little decisions and big experiences during my time at Syracuse that led me from media to the public policy program at Maxwell School and then Teach for America, but the most influential was likely my first semester in college.

Before getting to Syracuse, it never occurred to me that I would have trouble fitting in or that I would feel intimidated. But I struggled my first semester. I wondered if I really deserved to attend a private college with all of these other students- someone who had never been on airplane, someone who had never been to camp, and someone who had never heard the phrase Advanced Placement. But I realized that even though I hadn’t had all those experiences, I had advantages over other students, and they were my fourth grade teacher Mr. Brodeur and my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Desrosiers at the Wood School in Fairhaven, MA. They had taught me work ethic and the belief that I could have dreams and achieve them with focused effort and resilience. Even though my high school had let me down, the marks of the good teachers I had carried forever and I wanted to return the favor to other kids like me.

My experience with Teach for America over the last thirteen years has been up and down. Back when I did the corps, there was a tenth of the support they now offer corps members and I regularly got my ass kicked by my students. (I still talk to many of them now and I love how respectful they are in pretending this wasn’t the case). And in TFA’s efforts to set and meet ambitious goals for their alumni, they established tracks for career success (principalship, teaching, elected officials, etc.) and if you weren’t on one of those narrow tracks, my experience for many years was that I didn’t belong. However, I’ve seen in the last year that’s changing, too. Unresolved issues are my mixed emotions about their expansion in this time of municipal budget cuts and teacher layoffs, and my overwhelming desire to start a Facebook group called Shut. Up. John. Legend. But neither takes away from the benefits for students that wouldn’t happen without TFA, and the power of being part of a network of 20,000 alumni who are doing their part to make things better in this country.

Teach for America is not for everyone, even if you meet their rigorous selection model. But if you think you can make changes for young people through your relentless effort and courage, I encourage you to research the program, whether you are graduating this fall or are a professional. Their next application deadline is December 17th. Any questions for this alum, send them in.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Why I Do What I Do: Reflections on Veterans Day

A few weeks ago, I introduced a blog series I was planning on the “Whys” in our life, and more specifically why we do what we do professionally. Today is Veterans Day and I’ve decided to run the post that I planned to run last in the series, with a few changes. The series hasn’t run yet because, well, things happen. In particular, I’ve had too much fun blogging about my takes on authenticity in your professional life and promoting the fantastic events I’ve been doing with Keith Petri of But I think today is a fitting day to reflect on this.

So how does “Why I Do What I Do” relate to Veterans Day? Many readers may not be aware, but 10% of The Opportunities Project’s revenues go toward a scholarship fund to provide free career coaching for female veterans who want assistance transitioning into the civilian workforce. I am doing this because I respect the leadership and skills that the military teaches people- they far eclipse those taught by the best business school- and because it feels deeply personal to me. This is a recent thing- I haven’t had a life-long love for the military. My grandfathers were veterans but they never talked about it. My parents are liberal anti-war types and I inherited much of that view. I remember a military recruiter called our house once in high school and I laughed my ass off- I was an alternateen who wrote poems and worshipped Sylvia Plath- me in the military? Seriously, no.

The Opportunities Project supports their friends who served in the military this Veteran's Day. But I have a childhood friend who is like my sister that I reconnected with through Facebook almost two years ago. I went away to college and stopped coming home for breaks and she went to community college and moved around a lot. This was before everyone had an email address and we lost touch. When we found each other, I learned that she had joined the Army at 27 and it had changed her life. She now counsels soldiers who are returning from war or changing posts and I’ve learned a lot about what our young veterans sacrifice and what they gain. I’ve since visited her in two places that her and her family have been stationed and met more people who have served in Iraq than I ever thought I would. So one of the reasons I am giving back to our veterans is to honor the work that this woman I love has done to make things better for people who have signed up to serve our country.

Female veterans can apply for free career coaching from The Opportunities Project.(Fun fact- that first picture was taken with a Polaroid in 1993 in Martha’s Vineyard. That second picture was taken in 2010 in Savannah with an Android mobile phone. Fascinating to me for some reason.)

On the flip side, while I think there is no better education than the military, it angers me that so many 18 year olds feel that their only economic choice is to enlist. Two years ago, I watched The Recruiter, an HBO documentary about one of the most successful Army recruiters in our country and his efforts to recruit Louisiana high school students (unfortunately, it’s not available on ITunes). It was one of the most thought-provoking documentaries I have ever seen and a far better statement on the failures of our American education system than Waiting for Superman will ever be. Most of the students profiled in the movie were enlisting because it was their only professional and educational option after high school. The recruiter knew that and worked extra hard to make sure every one of them met the requirements for enlistment. I think that the filmmakers wanted me to think of the recruiter poorly for some of the ways he seemed to trick kids, but I loved this man for making sure they didn’t let this opportunity pass. I found the interviews with female recruits especially moving and I realized that this has sat with for me a while because I desperately wanted to make the world better for these young women. Hopefully, I can through coaching.

Yesterday, Penelope Trunk of Brazen Careerist ran a blog post on why we should cancel Veteran’s Day. Even if it was not a controversial issue, her thoughts come off as immature, whining, and unrelated. I am not quite sure how her mommy and daddy issues are relevant to whether the United States should collectively celebrate Veterans Day. I do agree that we should be talking about how our education system fails so many people and that many people in uniform (including firemen and police) could be more grounded in the struggles civilians face. I think our military budget is way too high. But none of this should demean the experience of soldiers who serve our country in the least. Our thoughts should focus on how we can do more for these people every day, not how we can also serve ourselves.

So that is “Why” I do one of the things I do. Information on the scholarship program details will be coming as I get more clients. And in the meantime, for a great post on veterans and their careers, read ERE’s take today.

If you’d like to guest post on Why You Do What You Do, please comment or contact me. I welcome a diversity of voices.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

My Pitch: Why Career Coaching Can Transform Education

Happy Friday! After a somewhat traumatic Thursday that involved a lot of time talking to Chase bank (don’t ask!), I am now writing from Savannah, GA. I am visiting an old friend and doing more planning for our special event on Tuesday, November 9th on Achieving Career Success through Blogging. Tickets go up again on Monday, November 1 so RSVP today!

I’ve planned a four (or is it five?) part series on Why I Do What I Do, but thought I’d start the weekend with a video aligned with the “why” question. In September, I applied for a slot in the first cohort of the Kauffman Education Ventures Program. This program is for 15 entrepreneurs who want to start for-profit, multi-million dollar education ventures, K-20. My hope for The Opportunities Project is that it eventually competes on the level of Kaplan and The Princeton Review- if you graduate and you need help getting to the next step, you would turn to The Opportunities Project for guidance, so I threw my hat in the ring.

I wasn’t ultimately chosen for the Kauffman program, and to be absolutely honest, I was relieved. I was not convinced it was going to be a fit during the pre-application process conference calls, and personally, I need the space in my life to try new things on my own. That is just too important to my personal journey now. Maybe next year. But as part of the application, I had to submit a YouTube video addressing two questions- (1) what inspired me about entrepreneurship, and (2) why I thought my venture could transform education. It was the first YouTube video I ever did and it was not exactly natural or easy filming. Even more difficult was posting it publicly and seeing users named “Maneater” favorite it. Eww. I thought about deleting the video after I found out that I was not selected, but I’ve decided to keep it up for a while. I like the reminder it gives me that it’s okay to be outside your comfort zone, especially when you care about something deeply. The second part also reminds me how passionate I am about fixing the world for our graduates.

Happy Halloween!

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

The Question of Why in Career Decisions

You may have noticed lots of stuff going on the website today- moving things around, adding pictures, fixing language. Still a lot of work to do. I apologize if anything is not working and please contact me if you’re looking for something and can’t find it.

One of the topics I’ll be blogging about in the next few weeks is Why. Why I do what I do. It was a huge decision to leave my very stable Director of Recruitment job behind and launch The Opportunities Project and I did it for a lot of different reasons. Some were personal and some were influenced by new beliefs about the world and the way it’s been working the last few years. I hope to roll at least three reasons out in the next week. I am also looking for guest posts from anyone else who wants to talk about the Whys in their life.

In the meantime, here’s a video to get us started thinking about it from TED. Every successful entrepreneur has told me that I need to read the book Start with Why by Simon Sinek. It’s on the list! Here is Simon talking about his research and his findings that the real leaders in our world always know the Why before they know the How and What. I think knowing the Why is critical to all our life decisions and it’s an important lesson to reflect on as we finish the week.

Source: Lifehacker: It’s Not About What You Do, but Why You Do It

I am also looking for guest posts from anyone else who wants to talk about the Whys in their life. All are welcome- just leave a comment and I’ll follow-up!

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog