WayUp Office Hours is a free, interactive summer event series for NYC interns to learn from leaders of transforming industries. This week our panelists in the Nonprofit & Social Good industry got to speak to our NYC interns about what’s really important: making a positive impact on the world. Among the panelists were Romola Ratnam, Deputy Director, Corporate Partnerships at UNICEF, Brandon Piper, Manager of Outreach at Success Academy Charter Schools, Olivia Gold, Social Innovation at Warby Parker, and Jeff Carelton, Founder of Carelton Energy Consultants and Heatwatch.
It’s not just about being qualified for the job: you have to be interested and interesting.
You can have all the right qualifications, but at the end of the day, you have to be someone your future employer and coworkers will want to work with every week. Brandon, who received his B.A. from DePauw University and his M.F.A. from Michigan State University, said that at the end of the day, people don’t want co-workers who are “constantly trying to prove who they are”; they want co-workers who are engaging and personable. According to Olivia, who studied Social Impact & Responsibility at Wharton, every Warby Parker candidate has to pass the “airport” test; current employees will ask each other, “Would you be comfortable being stranded in the airport with this person during a layover?”
Romola, who graduated Summa Cum Laude from New York University, said that she hires the candidates who truly care about the work they’ll be doing, encouraging students to develop their intellectual curiosity. “We all can look good on paper, and we can all be great at these skills…What are you passionate about? Who are you? What drives you?” Jeff, who studied Business Economics at Brown University and founded two energy-saving companies, agreed that passion and drive are the key qualifiers of being an entrepreneur: “If you start a business, no one’s going to know about you for a long time – you have to be willing to work hard without recognition.”
There isn’t one direct way to break into your dream career.
The best piece of advice Olivia has received in her career is “Don’t climb ladders: scale walls.” While this motto means that there isn’t one linear path to getting what you want, she added a secondary meaning: not shying away from opportunities that aren’t as perfect as you imagined. You can gain valuable skills in any role, and there’s always something to learn that can turn into a transferable and powerful skill set in your next role. After all, one look at our panelists’ bios and you can see that their majors or past work experience are seemingly unrelated to their jobs now–regardless, each one was able to use their knowledge and apply it to thrive in their current positions.
There are things far more important than salary.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s stressful,” Romola said about living in NYC on a nonprofit salary. “You have to believe in something to fight for it every day.” She also added that given that she works so closely with so many people who don’t have enough opportunities that “it’s good to challenge yourself to consume less.”
Brandon emphasized that while money is important, who you are working with and what you are working on are far more essential. “If you can’t get behind those things, it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “I don’t have to make that much money to know about the impact that I’m making and the innovative people I’m working with…that’s what makes it worth it.”