Episode 5: Maura Sweeney

On Episode five of Merchants of Change, we listen in as three Crusaders have a chat about work. We spent all of season one, interviewing former athletes who have become high-powered sales execs, but in this episode, we decided to zoom out for a dose of self-reflection.

Maura Sweeney graduated from Holy Cross in 2007 and found herself back on the hill in 2011 after a stint in recruiting. Today she works exclusively with HC alumni who need help with career services and professional development.

Shift Group candidates have already made the decision that they want to pursue a career in sales but we wanted to try an episode for listeners who are higher in the funnel; listeners who might not be sure what’s next. This episode is loaded with actionable insights on how to find meaningful work.

Where should you start?

Maura’s favorite conversations with alumni are when someone comes into her office and opens with “I have no idea what I want to do.” If you watch the show on YouTube, you might notice her physically lean forward in her seat. Maura is an expert at helping her alumni sift through the murk by nudging them to consider the big questions.

  • Who are you?
  • What have you been doing?
  • When do you work hard?
  • Can you think of a time when work felt enjoyable? A time when you got lost in the work in a good way?
  • What motivates you?
  • What are you curious about?
  • What do you need right now?

The answers to these questions will help you find a career that fits who you are, instead of the reverse, where you start with a job and see if you can twist yourself in a pretzel trying to fit in.

Eleven minutes into the episode Maura starts hitting us with great resources for people who want to go deep. The first book that she calls out is “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (you’ll need to listen to the episode to hear Maura crush this pronunciation).

Humans in Transition

The pandemic has caused a lot of us to reconsider big pieces of our lives. People have decided to relocate to new cities and towns and re-evaluate their relationship with work. Maura’s spent more time recently with teachers and coaches that are now interested in sales. They want to take some of the skills that they’ve developed in the classroom and see if they can find a spot where their communication chops, organizational skills, and work ethic can be leveraged into a different, potentially more fulfilling path.

For these folks and others who might be interested in sales, Maura walks us through some different attributes and some ideas of what to explore. Not everyone should be a quota-carrying account executive. “If you thrive in team settings and love to solve problems but hate the idea of forecasting and being measured against a quota, maybe sales operations or customer success is worth checking out.”

“Nothing is a sure thing except for what you can do for yourself.”

When was the last time you sharpened your skills? Are there courses or books or certifications that you can explore even if you still have a job?

The current climate has taught us (again) that the people you work with are not your family. Employers are forced to make tough decisions every quarter and it’s a good idea to stay sharp in case you need to call an audible. Set aside some time to read job posts and try to imagine yourself in different roles so that if a great opportunity comes along, you’ll be ready to pursue it. Most of the best work opportunities of your life will come while you are gainfully employed somewhere else.

As you work on your job search, Maura tells us that the biggest thing that prevents people from moving forward is this question:

“How do I find the perfect job?”

You don’t need to find the perfect job for the rest of your life. You need to find the perfect job RIGHT NOW. Focus on what you need from work today because it’s going to change in two, four, or six years. We can’t predict where we will be, what we will need, and what the market will look like in the future. Focus on roles that fit your life today.

Pull up your school’s website and find out if they have a career services team. There may be someone like Maura waiting for you to reach out so that they can use their experience to help you find a way forward.

Additional Resources:

“How to Get A Sales Job” – John P. Davis.

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