Have you ever asked yourself “Is this really what I’m meant to do with my life?”
You see, when I started my pursuit for a career in culture – jobs in culture did not exist.
In 2006, when I told people, “I want to work on the company culture.” It seemed like an impossible dream. I was told I was an idealist and that I should probably work in non-profit.
And I did.
I moved to New York and worked in partnerships development for global programs. Which landed me roles with the United Nations and a White House initiative on culture.
I remember sitting on the plane going home after fulfilling a lifelong dream – I visited the United Nations in Geneva as part of a group of internationals delegates. But, I didn’t feel the joy I thought I would feel. Sitting there in my tiny airplane seat…
I asked myself “Is this my dream job? Is this really what I’m meant to do with my life?”
Through working in nonprofit I had become aware of the influence businesses had on my work. And I wanted to pivot. I took a career turn. This time? My focus was to create a community of leaders influencing business culture.
So, I moved back home to Silicon Valley, and I tried, again.
I told people the importance of creating culture-focused companies. Most thought it was “nice” of me to think about culture.
This felt like the equivalent of patting me on the head and saying, “How cute.”
But, I didn’t care that nobody took me seriously, I was passionate about the topic and I knew how to make results happen.
I carried on.
Lesson #1: Just keep going forward.
In my pursuit I lived in Europe and Latin America for a total of 5 years. I worked in nonprofit, government, corporate, universities, multinationals and startups. I did not care where I worked or for who, but I was focused on building the case for culture as a strategic driver of success.
I never could have imagined that in my lifetime I’d see “Chief Culture Officer” and “Director of People & Culture” be roles that companies – or the business community at large – would assign budget and resources to.
We are living in remarkable times. And I want to highlight three people who’s careers serve as examples of how you can create a career in culture for yourself.
Lesson #2: Write your Own Dream Job Title.
Claude Silver is the Chief Heart Office at Vayner Media.
That’s right HEART Officer.
I’m sure that if Claude told people a decade ago that was her dream title, people probably patted her on the head, too. But, yet, she persisted. [Heartful hug, Claude!]
Claude’s career also had many iterations – she worked in project management, digital services, operations and along the way built up her knack for people. She focused in on what makes people tick, and how to lead with her heart to move people. The way I view Claude’s role is that she amplifies the skillset of the people in the organization to 10x their talent. She makes everyone around her better. She is an Organizational Coach, amplifying the message, vision and voice of the CEO. #Dreamjobalert!
I’m curious- what is your dream job title?
Lesson #3: Build the business case
When I talked about my passion for culture, I missed an important point. Being passionate is important, but it is not enough. You must linked your passion and skills to actionable results.
Maia Josebachvili is VP of Marketing Strategy at Greenhouse, a talent acquisition software company. She was previously a derivitives trader on Wall Street, and founder of a startup acquired by Living Social. She has experimented in many domains, gathered skills and continuously shown the business value she brings to a company.
Not only that, she created a framework and toolkit to help you build the business case, too.
Maia connected the concept of customer lifetime value to build the case for ROI of investing in people and culture. Her framework on the Employee Lifetime Value is a toolkit that helps businesses and individuals build the case to show the financial risk and opportunity when we invest more in culture. [Thank you Maia!] You can use this toolkit yourself here.
Lesson # 4: Make your work visible (and noticable) to executives
Konval Matin is Director of Talent and Culture at Shopify.
Enviable job, I know!
But she didn’t start there. Her role as Director was years in the making.
She started as an intern at Shopify, became an associate, manager, and is now director of 12 person team fully focused on Culture & Talent. When Konval started, she was not an HR professional, and she still isn’t. She is driving culture and talent development in a new capacity. She grew the function and her role together. She made her work visible and noticable by her peers, her manager, and ultimately executives. It was a staircase, not an elevator.
She now drives the strategic focus that Shopify is well known for – a great workplace culture. [High-five, Konval!]
Do you see some themes here?
- Culture-focused roles are still being defined. Be part of those who are writing the future.
- Your career will have twists, turns, and pivots. Every step is an opportunity to learn the value you bring to a team and company. Take note of what those things are, and double down on it.
- We are at the beginning. There may be some culture roles now, but there are not enough. There needs to be more. And you can be part of the movement.
- The people who currently hold roles in culture have helped define and shape the role as they go. They have shown their skill, vision and coached their organizations to see the value the role brings and their skill to execute.
The biggest missed opportunity is for you to believe that your dreams aren’t going to happen.
Who’s career has inspired you?
And what are you doing to build the case for culture?
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