General troublemaking, Professional Growth, Social Innovation

How a $55 Job Changed My Life

Two years ago I was in a job I was really unsatisfied in– I felt like the passionate person I was was being underutilized. Looking for a little extra cash and the ability to be exposed to new things, I signed up to be a TaskRabbit, a service where people can request others to do jobs for them— everything from grocery shopping to data entry to installing light fixtures. I did a few research jobs, and then came across some postings from General Assembly, a hub for entrepreneurs in NY, looking for people to help with events. Interested in the work they did, I put a few offers on their events and eventually got one to help set up and ensure there was enough beer out at a “tech night” event. It paid $55 for the three hour event— and a lot more in the long run.

In a weird, unbeknownst to me, foreshadowing, the event was a workshop from IDEO for Columbia MBA students on design thinking for startups (design thinking is the backbone of PresenTense’s curriculum). I thought it was incredibly interesting, and started to do some research on GA’s website about classes they offered to the public. I came across a series on Building High Impact Nonprofits and Social Enterprises and signed up immediately, as someone who has always considered starting my own non-profit. I didn’t even know what a social enterprise was. This was April 2012.

I took the class and learned a lot (also was exposed to many things I never even heard of before that excited me). When the organizer of the class, Shana Dressler, invited students to help her on a project she was working on to write a book about how to start social impact business, I jumped on the chance. A few weeks after I started the class at GA, I saw the job posting for PresenTense and decided that this was a direction I was excited and passionate about. I applied and cited my newly-gained “experience” including the class at the GA and my work on Shana’s team.

I accepted my position at PresenTense, an accelerator for social impact businesses, in June 2012. I continued to work with Shana and an amazing group of ladies on what became the Social Good Guides for almost a year, gaining tons of exposure in the social enterprise field. Two years after taking the class at GA, I am now heavily engrained in the social entrepreneurship space, and am passionate about the field. I couldn’t imagine a better field to me, nor one I would relate to more. Heck, I even think one day (maybe not so far away) I will be a founder myself.

(cue infomercial voice) But wait, there’s more! Because of my job at PresenTense I have been exposed to many different people, organizations, and projects, and made some pretty great friends as well. One of them is my dear friend Meredith, who, upon our meeting under PT auspices we realized we were quite similar (and even were wearing the same outfit when we met!), graciously introduced me to many of her friends, and invited me to join her book club. My friendship with Meredith, and participation in the Book Club, have opened me to a ton of new people, experiences, and like-minded individuals who are eager to take the world (and cause trouble!) like I am. Thanks, Meredith!

If you are trying to keep track, my $55 TaskRabbit job led me to: take classes in a new field, work on a project to empower social entrepreneurs, my job at PresenTense, lots of new friends and business connections, my book club, and I am sure more to come. Oh and did I mention I am ridiculously happy in this field working with some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever encountered? I think all that proves a pretty decent return on investment.

Okay cool, Sara, you are thinking. What’s your point? How do I strike gold with an odd job? Here’s what I want for you to take away, troublemakers:

  1. Everything in life is an opportunity, but only IF you choose to see it that way. My job from TaskRabbit was just to ensure a bar was stocked and to set up chairs, but I leveraged it beyond face value.
  2. You never know where opportunities will lead. Keep an open mind. Did I think signing up for TaskRabbit would lead me to a new career direction and a brand new awesome group of friends? No way!
  3. Take risks. I knew nothing about anyone in the Social Good Guides group, or much about the topic at hand, but it seemed like an opportunity to work with interesting people on an interesting subject.
  4. Put yourself in situations where you will be exposed to things that excite you, and where you will meet likeminded people. This is where the magic happens, even if you aren’t “qualified” in that field.
  5. Everything happens for a reason. I truly, deeply believe that. But sometimes you have to be a week, a year, or ten years removed to see what the reason was.
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