Something to Push Against

It is natural to seek out the roadblock, the check-point, the official approval gate: someone whose job it is to green light your idea, give you your next gig, say yes.

The search for something to push against, a hurdle to overcome, is also a chance to hide: to take small steps, to describe nothing more than the bit that could get an OK within the confines of how things work today.

At its worst, seeking out a “yes” can even  be a clever, acceptable way of being OK with a “no.” It’s a way to hide, to shift blame, to take on too little, to search for a wall to point to that we couldn’t break through.

“They wouldn’t let me do this” is often just another form of “I was afraid to see what would happen if I tried to pull this off without someone else’s cover.”

CEO of me

Each person we meet in a professional setting sees two things: the person we are and the role we play. Often, that role casts a long shadow, as people are quick to look for shortcuts in figuring out who they’re talking to and what that person brings to the table.

When my business card said, for five years, that I was head of fundraising at Acumen, I felt like my first job in every meeting was to convey to someone that I wasn’t “just the” fundraiser (indeed every great fundraiser I know says that they “aren’t a traditional fundraiser.”) There was and is a lot of baggage associated with being a fundraiser – many philanthropists would tell me that they experienced many fundraisers as seeing them as nothing more than big wallets waiting to be cracked, which itself tells you something about how we all tend to caricature people. Indeed it was always a sign that things were going well when someone would say to me, often with a hint of hesitation, “Uh, so, how did you get into fundraising anyway?”

The pernicious, less obvious constraints are those we place on ourselves. We let a narrow definition of a role or a title create boundaries around the way we see ourselves, how we walk in the world, and impact we dare to have.

To be clear, in any organization our first job is to do the job that our organization hired us to do – indeed, if we don’t do that with excellence, professionalism and precision then we haven’t paid the table stakes for a broader conversation.

At the same time, we are often the ones who box ourselves in, waiting for someone’s OK to even begin to think bigger in anything but the most private ways.

What would happen if you sent yourself an email signed:

Sincerely,

Your name

CEO of me

The best part is when, somewhere down the line, the bigger, more audacious, more impactful version of how you play the role helps you, and others, reconsider how they mistakenly categorized the role in the first place.

Turning Down the Strawberries

My three-year-old daughter has a funny way of turning down food. “No thanks,” she says, when presented with strawberries, which for reasons no one knows she’s decided she does not eat. “I’ll have them later.”

Most of the time, when we say we will do something “later” it means one of two things:

  1. This isn’t important enough for me to do at all, I’m just not willing to tell you that directly; OR
  2. Before doing this I need to check with three people so I don’t have to make the decision alone.

Yes, you might have a system in place to organize your work, so that “later” actually means “I will do this at 3pm” but when “later” is vague and loose, it is a quiet, subtle way to practice taking yourself off the hook, even for small things. And this sort of habit builds up until it becomes how we orient ourselves in the face of things that are ours to do.

It is so rarely the case that we need to you play smaller and ask for permission more.

Yes, consult when you need real input from people who will make your thinking better, but please don’t ask around in search of a lukewarm “no.”

If you find yourself snowed in by Juno today, then today might be the perfect time to practice starting to say “yes” and “now” and “this is up to me” more often.

Pass the strawberries, please.

What we need from you

What we need from you isn’t better thinking, more analysis and caveats, the low-probability risks you’ve explored, and how you’ve smoothed the edges.

What we need from you is the fearlessness to put your best ideas out in the open,

unadorned

for everyone to see.

Not more smarts, more courage.

The hard parts

The parts that are uncomfortable

The bits that no one else really wants to do

The things that make you feel exposed

And stretched

And outside of your comfort zone

The things that make it clear that what you thought it was going to take to get this done wasn’t right at all.  The funding isn’t there. The strategy hasn’t been sorted out. The roles and responsibilities aren’t clear enough. The team is too small and it doesn’t have all the right skills.  We’re just not where we need to be, and fixing things is going to be a heck of a lot harder than we expected.

All this really messy stuff?

That’s why we need you.

It’s because it’s hard that the work hasn’t been done….yet.

Maybe the dragon isn’t the problem

I just walked past a smiling blind woman – blond, straight hair, in her 30s and dressed for spring – walking down a crowded 5th Avenue street in rush hour. She and her golden lab guide dog were perfectly synchronized, and she was the picture of calm, serene confidence amidst the crush of people and traffic.

I wonder what it took for her to be able to do this – not just learning to walk with, communicate with, and trust her dog, but the courage and determination she’s showed at countless junctures in her life to get where she is today.

The thing about accomplishing great things is that it requires consistently making the decision to be brave, to show up, to overcome your own doubts and fears and the voices in your head. That fear is the dragon you have to slay each and every day.

The tricky part is that the dragon has allies. It needs them, because it knows that when you step into the arena, ready for pitched battle, it’s not hard for you to rev up your adrenaline, strap on your shield, and wield your sword for the big fight. The dragon fears that.

What is hard, though, is getting out of bed every morning to prepare for the fight. Here’s where the dragon’s secret allies come out: smiling cherubs with pointy horns hidden in their hair, cajoling you, teasing you, luring you into a stupor. “Do you really want to fight today?” “Think how dirty you’ll get, how tiring it will be.” “Things are fine the way they are now.” “Is it really worth it to put yourself out there?” “Stop rocking the boat.”

You ignore them, most days, but their chorus is seductive. If you let them, over time – months, even years – they douse the fire in your belly.

We can’t let that happen.

For those of you showing up in the arena every day, I offer you the choice to plug your ears to their Siren song.

And for those of you not yet showing up to fight, I implore you, at the least, to silence the peanut gallery commentary that saps others’ bravery and courage. If today isn’t your day to step into the arena, the amazing, powerful thing you can do is to seek out others’ moments of bravery, of insight, of courage, of grit and determination and moxie, and celebrate them.

If you see a flickering flame, protect it from the wind, add kindling to the fire until, eventually, it roars.

Because none of us actually believes that what we need in the world is less courage (or more pointy-headed cherubs).

Hiring a World-Class Marketer and Storyteller

What could be better than hiring the right person for a transformative job, one that allows them to use their skills, their passion, their energy and their knowledge to change the world?

I’m looking for someone to run all of marketing and communications at Acumen.  “Marketing” in the fullest sense of the word, the way Seth describes it as “transform[ing] the way you and your organization spread your ideas, engage with customers and most of all, think about what you make and why.”

I deeply believe that Acumen has a powerful story to tell.  And I know that telling this story in the right way to the right people won’t only be transformative for us as an organization, it will help the world understand that intractable problems can be solved, it will shift global conversations about dignity and inequality and connection, it will demonstrate the potential of a new breed of values-based leadership.

I’m guessing that the right person for this job has around 15 years of professional experience; is a thinker and a doer and a troublemaker in the best sense of the word; is someone who cares deeply, synthesizes easily, learns quickly.  You don’t have to be an expert in poverty or international development, but you do have to be a truth-seeker who cares about this work in real way.

Even if you’re not this person, I bet you know someone who knows someone who…..you get the idea.  So please spread the word.

I can’t wait to read the applications, because I know that I’ll be surprised and delighted and that I’ll learn a lot from all of you.  (If you do apply, please take a risk and shine).

Here’s the full job description, so you can just forward this post to the right people.

Or forward this link: http://acumenfund.theresumator.com/apply/KenPu7

 

Acumen – Director of Marketing and Communications

Acumen is hiring a Director of Marketing and Communications, a seasoned marketer who thrives on taking the complex and making it meaningful, visceral, understandable, and personal.  We believe we have an important story to tell about the transformative impact we, and the world, can have on poverty.  It is a story of innovation, of possibility, and of human dignity.

You are someone who cares about the problems of global poverty and of inequality, and you bring world-class talent as a marketer, a communications professional, and a storyteller and a thinker.  You understand that the future of marketing is about trust and relationship-building, about how an organization can represent and transmit a set of values in everything it does.  You are energized by the idea of digging in deep to understand what Acumen has to offer, and you have the skills and relationships to bring the latest thinking, tools, ideas and action to sharing our unique story with the world.

About Acumen

Acumen started as an idea. Thirteen years later we have a proven model that combines the best of charity and investing to change the way the world tackles poverty.

Acumen is changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing in companies, leaders and ideas.  We were one of the early pioneers that created the field of impact investing.  Our companies have improved the lives of hundreds of millions of poor people by providing them high-quality, affordable water, sanitation, healthcare, housing, energy, agriculture and education.   We offer leadership programs that bring together the world’s best talent to focus their skills, capacity and moral imagination to solve the world’s toughest problems of poverty.   And we invest in the spread of ideas to share what we are learning, in order change the way the world tackles poverty.

We see each investment as a provocation, a chance to support entrepreneurs who dare to build solutions where markets have failed and traditional aid has fallen short.

See who is talking about us here.

About the Role

Reporting to the Chief Innovation Officer, this role requires:

  • World-class marketing and storytelling experience.  You have more than a track record in marketing, brand management, communications and storytelling.  You understand that marketing ultimately is about creating meaningful connection that drives action, and that a catalytic approach will accelerate the impact of our work by creating broader and deeper understanding of our values, our progress and our impact.  This will help us continue to lead our sector and be a beacon for what is possible in the fight on global poverty.  The chops you bring are in managing or advising big or upstart brands, in thinking strategically and in telling stories.  You are digitally native or know how to find and manage talented people who use video and online tools to create change.
  • Demonstrated capacity to develop, refine and transmit Acumen’s message to key stakeholders—our Partners, our Advisors, our peers, and our community around the world.  You are skilled in taking a rich, complex message and boiling it down to its essence.  Better yet, you have the audacity, imagination and skills to activate our teams around the world to systematically discover, raise up and share important and inspiring stories—stories from from the slums of Kenya, from the mountains of Pakistan, from smallholder farmers in Ghana or from the poorest state in India—to teach our community and the world about how to make real and lasting change in the fight on global poverty.
  • Strategic thinking, solutions design and internal/external evangelism. You are a highly strategic thinker, comfortable with sophisticated financial products and interested in the nuances of poverty alleviation, who will mine the richness of all we are learning and empower our global organization to share what we are learning in more exciting and visceral ways.
  • Exceptional writing and communications skills.  You will ultimately have the final word on all external and internal communications by Acumen and will serve as a key advisor to Acumen’s Management Committee and to the CEO.  You must be a strong writer who is comfortable managing and representing the multiple voices of Acumen.
  • A deep commitment to our mission.  We are looking for a leader with evidence of empathy, passionate curiosity, and a commitment to helping others. You have a demonstrated interest in creating large-scale change, and you have relevant exposure to work in the social sector, whether locally or globally.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Evolve Acumen’s current marketing and outreach to create much stronger connection to and relationship with the Acumen brand and the values it represents.  Strengthen Acumen’s positioning as a go-to source for ideas on the role of patient capital in fighting global poverty.
  • Enhance Acumen’s brand salience, brand engagement, brand congruence and brand velocity. Help our key stakeholders understand what we do, why we do it, and how it’s relevant to them.  Ensure that they feel heard, and that they can meaningfully engage with Acumen and with our work.  Invite leading-edge thinkers into our work to ensure we stay highly relevant and innovative.  Create experiences that uniquely amplify our message and draw partners to us in a deep and meaningful way.
  • Create a system to surface, develop and publish compelling stories based on our work. Drive discovery of the best thinking at Acumen (using new or old forms of technology) and quickly transform these insights into stories that can be used to accelerate the work of  Acumen’s Business Development team, our Communications team, the Office of the CEO, and Acumen’s Country Leaders, accelerating our ability to raise funds, to share what we are learning, and to influence a broader conversation about new ways to solve seemingly intractable problems.
  • Oversee global communications, including all press and PR across all of Acumen’s geographies and all of Acumen’s digital properties (including video and online fundraising). You will lead and manage the team responsible for sharing our best front-line thinking and insights across five regions, whether through Op Eds and external media, thought pieces that move the conversation in our sector, or materials for communications with Acumen’s key funders, Advisors and Board members.
  • Provide direct support to Acumen’s CEO, Jacqueline Novogratz, and work with the Chief of Staff to the CEO to ensure maximum impact of her communications—whether written, in the press, or in public speaking opportunities. Continue to position Acumen’s CEO as a key thought leader in development and social enterprise, positioning her for increased visibility in global conversations on the role of capitalism, philanthropy and markets in creating a more inclusive economy.
  • Lead a matrixed global team of eight, including a core team of four professionals based in New York

Qualifications & Characteristics

Passion, entrepreneurial spirit, and rejecting the status quo are just a few of the things that Acumen team members have in common.  They also share a commitment to, and enthusiasm for, the organization’s mission and business model, coupled with respect for our core values: generosity, accountability, humility, audacity, listening, leadership, integrity, respect.

Ideal candidates for this role also have:

  • 15+ years of work experience, ideally a blend of private, social or non-profit sector.
  • Highly creative, comfortable with ambiguity, interested in big, thorny questions.
  • Strong network of relationships with thought leaders in your space, and the capacity to effectively enlist and engage leading thinkers and doers to support our work.
  • The ability to thrive in an ambiguous environment, provide leadership and direction to the team when there are curve balls, and to lead with inspiration, resilience and resolve.
  • High capacity to collaborate across matrixed teams, as well as the ability to exert influence both with and without formal authority.
  • Eagerness to travel globally across the developing world (anticipated 10-20% travel).
  • Permanent authorization to work in the United States.

Compensation

Acumen offers competitive compensation for the international development sector, commensurate with experience. Compensation includes a base salary, an annual bonus based on achievement of individual and organizational goals, health insurance, and an employer-sponsored contribution to a defined contribution retirement program.

Location

This role is based in Acumen’s New York City office at 15th Street and 9th Avenue.

 

For Consideration

Please apply online through this link to submit your resume and answer the following two questions. Feel free to have your written responses refer to websites / videos / published work online.

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Describe three brands you have worked on and what you did to make them succeed

Applications will be considered on a rolling basis, so candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

How do I get a job in impact investing?

WSIC2013I had the chance to speak at the Wharton Social Impact Conference this past Friday.  It was fun, engaging, and energizing to see so many students so immersed in this space.  Indeed Wharton’s Social Venture Fund – I met the team while on campus -has 35 members (selected from more than 100) who give 5-10 hours a week to source, diligence and recommend potential impact investments across numerous sectors; and they have just raised enough funding to make early stage investments in a number of these companies for the next few years.  Great stuff.

Inevitably, one of the questions one gets asked in these sorts of settings – directly and indirectly – is: “how do I get a job in impact investing?”

I found myself answering the question two ways.

If the question meant, “if I want to be the person doing the impact investing (in the developing world?), how do I get that job?”  in which case the answer is pretty straightforward: build experience both in deploying capital directly in private transactions (e.g. in private equity or venture capital) and have direct operational experience in the geography where you’d like to deploy that capital – ideally working in the sector in which you’d like to invest.

And then try really hard to get picked for the job that you want.

The problem is, I think it’s way too early to be asking that question, because it fundamentally overestimates where we are in the evolution of this industry.  “Impact investing” is a nascent, messy, ill-defined space that’s somewhere near late toddlerhood.  We can barely agree on definitions of what is and is not an impact investment, and we’re a long way off from being properly organized as an industry.  For something so new, with so many talented people excited and looking to make an impact, the orientation cannot be around how to get picked for the tiny number of jobs that exist for the massive number of amazingly qualified applicants.  Instead, the opportunity is to create a job, a role, a set of experiences that will allow you, over time, to help us all shape and move and define this new space.

Ultimately, letting go of the notion of a job search broadens your opportunity set in two ways.  First, it forces you to recognize that the odds of getting picked for that 1 in 1,000 job you think you want are not good enough odds for someone as capable as you are.  And this is good news, because the moment you realize it is the moment you can take on the work of shifting your orientation from job-seeking to job-creating, which I’d rather you do sooner than later because it keeps you in the driver’s seat.

Second, once we recognize how early it is in the creation of this new ecosystem, we can begin to understand that people who will define this new space won’t just be investors, they will also be entrepreneurs and company-builders and thinkers and connectors and fundraisers.  They will be troublemakers in big institutions who can bend a big operation in a new direction, and free agents who are skilled at connecting ideas with people with money to make things happen.  Mostly, they will be the kind of people willing to do the hard work of creating something new.

This sector doesn’t need people who are looking for jobs – and it won’t for a while.  What it needs are people (like the folks I met at Wharton) who have a 10 year head start on those of us who are already in the industry, people who are willing to take the whole sector to another level and, I hope, to a better destination.

More shapers and visionaries and big thinkers, please.  We are still just at the beginning.

Stand out

I recently had the chance to review 30 resumes from job applicants from top business schools.  The level of accomplishment in this group is just astounding.  Best grades, best jobs, speak multiple languages, have done things like volunteering in Nepal before hopping to a top job at Bain or McKinsey or co-founding an Argentine startup or, yes, working at Goldman Sachs.  And all of them have hobbies like “member of the Olympic archery team” or “have climbed three of the Seven Summits.”

What amazed me, beyond how wildly accomplished this group was, was that one out of the 30 had an online presence of any significance.  One.

One person whose body of work was readily available to see and explore.  One person whose mind and thought process and passions were easy to investigate.  One person who had more than a LinkedIn or About.me page.  One person who had a readily-available portfolio of work that gives real insight into who she is.

If this top .0001 percent in terms of accomplishment is missing this opportunity, that means big opportunity for you.  You have a huge opportunity to stand out even among (especially among?) this crowd.

That happens by putting yourself out there and showing the world your best thinking, your best ideas, your best work, in a public place that they can find and explore.  Or, more likely (since you’re just getting started), you’ll start by showing the world the work you can do today, with the knowledge that when you keep on doing it, in a few months or a few years down the road, it will be great work.

What better way could there be to stand out from the crowd?

Better yet, you’ll be amazed at how you learn and grow through the process of pushing your own thinking in this way.

It used to be

It used to be that you could go to a meeting, or a job interview, without having really prepared in advance: without looking up the details of who someone is, what they’ve done, and where they’ve worked; without checking out their organization, the role they play, and who they work with; without skimming their LinkedIn profile, reading a few of their blog posts, and watching a video of them speaking; without seeing who they’ve helped along the way, or checking out the interesting, generous things that they’re involved with in their free time.

Now, skipping those steps is not allowed.  Now, it’s a sign that you’re unprepared and care less.  Now it’s a missed opportunity to have a conversation that’s more relevant to both of you.

The other side of this coin, lest we forget, is that just like you’re using The Google to figure out who you’re meeting and what their story is, people are doing the same thing before meeting you.

It used to be that them discovering nothing about you other than the boxes you’ve checked was enough.  It used to be, but it isn’t any more.