News from the Top

What Does Opportunity Look Like?


In Arizona, we have some amazing winter days where the morning air is crisp, but the afternoon sun is glorious. In early February 2014, I witnessed one of those days. Having some time before my interview, I found myself soaking in that sun on the steps of City Hall. Like a love story, I felt myself falling for Tempe and I said out loud “I want to be here, I want this job!” A month later with my car packed, my family had a final lunch with our closest friends and neighbors and then drove away teary-eyed. I couldn’t wait to get to Tempe and I simultaneously mourned the departure.

After nine years in this role, I will be relocating to Cleveland, OH to become the President of University Circle Inc. and I’m excited about the challenge and growth ahead of me. But of course, I am confronted yet again with the complex layers of logical analysis and emotional fretting. 

 As I walk through these moments, I’m processing how we collectively should transition in careers. How do we care for the places we have been AND the places we are going?

Our industry comes with a place-based connection that is rewarding but can be limiting. An accountant can find opportunities anywhere, but we are often constrained by location. While there are many organizations in this industry that are large enough to offer growth within, there are many instances where we cannot grow without relocating or leaving the industry. So when do we know what is right for us and our organization? I will share with you my considerations in hopes that they will resonate with you, if and when you are at this stage.     

First – Am I ready to leave this work? Am I still finding an outlet for my passions? Am I learning new skills? Can I reinvent myself and the work enough to be challenged? Or am I comfortable? Many leaders have made the intentional decision to stay and have continued to reinvent their work for decades, creating power in longevity. Neither answer is more right. 

Next – Does the place still need me? The life cycle of an organization is a relay, and it may require different talents along the way. There are seasons for sprinting, for endurance, for cycling and potentially for diving into the deep end. Is now the appropriate time to pass the baton to the runner at my heals? And who is behind them awaiting an opportunity for elevation?   

Third – Is the new place a good fit? Am I running to a growth opportunity rather than away from something? Will I be the precise talent needed to receive the baton in this organization? Can I provide skills that will be of value … at this time, for this place?   

Finally – Is this right for my family? Relocation decisions are obviously simpler for people without partners, children, or family obligations. But regardless of familial ties, there are always personal connections that must be squared before we decide to relocate. Can I provide for my family in this new position? Can they find opportunities that will continue their trajectory towards their own independent lives, or even propel them further? Can they emotionally handle the uprooting at this point in their development?   

I clearly answered these four questions for myself. But there was still one knot I couldn’t untangle, resting deep within. Finally, I peeled back all that logic and got to the core of my vulnerable self and recognized that I was scared … scared of failing. Scared of failing my colleagues in Tempe, scared of not delivering for my new team in Cleveland, and mostly scared of failing my family. That was the moment I knew it was time. Nothing is worth doing if you don’t fear the failure. So, wherever you are on your career path, I hope you feel an alignment with your passions, your talent, and the needs of your place. And I hope your fear is real, giving you a chance to push through it. Here’s to the brave choices we are making each day in the decisions to go and the decisions to stay.