The last time I changed employers, George W. Bush was president.
To be more specific, Bush was still president, and Barack Obama wasn’t even the Democratic nominee yet. John Edwards was still in the race at that point. So was Hillary Clinton.
This week, as I packed up my office in Davidson and closed the chapter on just shy of nine years of fundraising work there, I happened upon the letter first offering me a job at the college. It was dated on the same day I’ll start my next endeavor, which is to serve as Vice President for Advancement at Mitchell Community College.
This all began back in September, when I got a couple of emails about the opening at Mitchell, one of which I forwarded to Kel. I spent a little time thinking about it, then a couple of days later, I called the firm running the executive search process to ask a few questions. I was in Chicago at the time.
A week or so later, I decided that it would be a beneficial exercise to brush off my resume and go through a job search process. I figured the odds were that I’d work at Davidson another three or four years, staying on until the end of their $425 million campaign, taking a sabbatical at the end, looking around. Now might be a good time to get some experience interviewing.
It had been nearly five years since I’d updated my work history. When I finally found my resume on my computer, tucked inside an archive folder inside another one, everything I’d written seemed woefully outdated and not very helpful for the job for which I was applying.
So I started with an entirely blank document, writing from scratch my accomplishments in my years at Davidson. My work as an English teacher was reduced to three sentences; my volunteer experience took up 80 percent of the second page. I began to realize I’d done some things in the last decade.
I work-shopped my resume with a friend in the corporate search business and with a consultant friend, then sent it in with a cover letter–and something of an expectation that it would be answered with a swift, firm, thank you for your application, but we’re moving forward with different candidates.
Instead, I had another phone call, then a phone interview. Then, I was brought on campus for a first round of interviews and meeting with the president. Then a second round. The week after Thanksgiving, they offered me the job.
Davidson spent a solid week trying to keep me, an effort that I will not soon forget nor ever fail to appreciate. And to be clear, I had to remind myself to separate my emotional attachment to that place, to look quantitatively at what each job offered and what I might be able to accomplish. It was one of the most draining weeks I’d experienced–balancing the urge to stay with what I knew and was good at with the exciting opportunity to do something different and, perhaps, bigger.
In the end, as is obvious by now, I took the job at Mitchell, asking for a generous amount of time to find a good stopping point in my job at Davidson. Still, the time went by quickly, and this past week I started bringing in empty boxes and packing up all of the stuff I’d accumulated in my years on the job.
Among the items: a luggage claim check from the Nantucket airport; a picture of several friends taken in Madison Square Garden, where we watched Steph Curry and the Davidson Wildcats beat West Virginia; a stuffed Mr. Pickle toy, given to me by the former CEO of the Mt. Olive Pickle Company; a copy of one of John Hart’s books I’d had signed during one of my many dinners with him; an R.E.M. sticker from the band’s manager; countless letters and notes from friends, donors, and colleagues over the years.
By my accounting, I flew over 150,000 miles while traveling for Davidson–six times around the planet, to think of it one way. I lost track of how many nights I spent in hotels. I was privileged to represent the college in 27 states and four countries.
In my years, I would meet with thousands of people as part of my job, hanging out with Supreme Court justices, Senators, Secretaries, MVPs, astronauts, authors, actors, billionaires, CEOs, and so on. Eventually I discovered I could play the “Six Degrees of Separation” game with a -2 handicap.
My next job will be incredibly different.
My forthcoming colleagues picked up on that right away. Nearly every interview panel I sat with asked some variation of, “So why would you leave Davidson to come work at a community college?”
It took some time before I began to understand why they wanted to be convinced that I was the right fit. And to be fair, I wondered throughout the process if I was really ready to re-enter the lifestyle of a state employee.
All I had to do was meet a few students.
I’ll spare you the story now, in part because this post is already too long, but one of the young men I met in my second round of interviews, a gentleman I would encounter again a few days later, was the ringer that convinced me serendipity was singing my name and I needed to go.
This week I’ve also spent some time looking back at my journal entries from 2007 and 2008, when I wasn’t teaching well and when I really felt I needed a ticket out of the classroom. I re-read with some humor how I described what I thought my job was going to be, then another aim some three or four days in.
So I know now isn’t the right time to guess what my new job will be. Next week won’t be, either. But it’s worth writing down how lucky I feel to have this chance, to even be here. I owe a lot of people in my life for that opportunity.
Now I get to go work with a small but important group of people at a college that serves thousands of people in our community. Particularly now, with the coming Trump administration, I think it’s important to take a hard look at how education changes people’s lives and helps them find success in their vocations and empowers them economically. This work feels very important.
What a gift.