Over the last year of remote work, Zoom school, and simply trying to stay healthy, many of us have been wondering about our careers, and about whether our current job allows us to be the best version of ourselves – for ourselves, for our families, and for our communities. Some of us have lost the jobs and titles that seemed to define us and are reflecting on career issues as a matter of necessity. But the solitude and isolation that we all experienced has brought up, even for many whose careers seemingly remain on track, questions like “What is my purpose?” and “Could I earn a paycheck in a way that enables me to fulfill that purpose?”
I have been in the position of asking similar questions at various stages of my life. In my first job after undergrad, as a Marketing Specialist at Digital Equipment Corporation, I saw colleagues with 20+ years of experience caught up in a mass layoff through no fault of their own. Several years later, the apparently solid and stable consulting firm that employed me was completely shuttered owing to its association with a major corporate scandal. During the 2009 economic downturn, my own consulting business abruptly lost 60 percent of its client base. Most recently, I found myself pondering these questions when I came to realize that my purpose had evolved beyond the executive role that I had held for four years with a particular nonprofit organization.
At each of those turning points, I took stock of my situation – seeking inspiration from a favorite author, guidance from a mentor, enrolling in a seminar, or working with a coach – and spent some time assessing my strengths and weaknesses, where I wanted to go and how I might get there. I also thought through how to re-position myself for my desired career move: by refreshing my resume and LinkedIn profile, of course, but also by generating content to support my new positioning, by seeking out speaking opportunities to build visibility in the new conversations that I wanted to participate in, and by re-sharing older material that I had written or in which I had been quoted.
The last time I began such a process was in 2018. At that time, I observed that many people had been seeking me out for career guidance and for assistance with their LinkedIn profiles and with matters related to their careers, businesses, or organizations. Looking through the content that I had created over many years, I realized that everything I had done throughout my career – from working as a Marketing Specialist in the information technology industry to teaching nonprofit leaders about Digital Storytelling at New York University – had always been about helping others to tell their stories for maximum effect. That realization led me to form two new businesses. Through the first of these entities, called Liz Ngonzi Transforms, I work with leaders looking to clarify their purpose, develop their story and communicate it effectively to stakeholders such as clients, partners, investors and potential employers. Through the second, called The International Social Impact Institute, I assemble teams of trusted collaborators to deliver training, consulting services and events that are meant to amplify the voices and impact of purpose-driven leaders from historically marginalized communities – enabling them to clarify, develop and share their stories with stakeholders such as prospective funders, partners, and employees.
I would like to inspire you to undertake a similar process of clarifying, developing and sharing your story with the goal of aligning your purpose and your paycheck.