May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor+Career Transition

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor+Career Transition

Have you ever had that feeling that something is about to change - but you don’t know quite what? Welcome to how most of 2017 felt for me. After vision-boarding at Tanglewood Works in January, I was excited and curious to see what would unfold in my life this year. And yet, as the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, I felt increasingly stressed and like life wasn’t moving in a positive direction. Had I cut out all of those pictures from magazines and glued them to a poster board for naught?! I felt increasingly irritable at home and anxious about work, but I couldn’t pin down a specific reason why.

Scrolling through LinkedIn one night in March, I came upon this video for a company called 2U. As soon as I watched it, I tweeted to the company what a great video they had made - I truly admired the energy and effort they had put into communicating their company’s culture in a two-minute clip. Out of curiosity, I clicked over to their careers page to see if a position jumped out at me, but I didn’t find anything I was super excited about. Since I was happy with the job I had, I moved on and didn’t think much of it.

Thank you social media for making nothing ephemeral. 

Thank you social media for making nothing ephemeral. 

After experiencing some events that shook up my personal and professional priorities in the middle of the year, I wondered if it was time for me to be proactive about change instead of waiting for it to happen to me. Fast forward to mid-July and I took another look at 2U’s careers page. I found a position that I thought would be a perfect fit for me - a Career Services Specialist position working with graduate students enrolled in 2U-powered programs.

My favorite part of my job at IREX was when I had the chance to interact directly with my career center colleagues in Iraq and Morocco so I was excited about the opportunity this position offered to engage more one-one-one with students on a regular basis. Since I had already met with my own career advisor earlier in the year, I just tweaked my cover letter and resume to match what this position was specifically seeking and pressed ‘submit’.

After completing all my interviews (there were five in total!), I received an offer and accepted the position. I had a truly stellar hiring experience that showed me what I could expect to experience as an employee at the company.  After two weeks, and some very thorough onboarding and orientation, I continue to be thrilled with what 2U has to offer.

Because why not look at sweet baby feet? Feet c/o a recent Hyattsville newborn session.

Because why not look at sweet baby feet? Feet c/o a recent Hyattsville newborn session.

In this position, I am excited to work at the intersection of my passions - quality higher education and serving people - as a part of the 2U Career Services team. If you’re curious why I’m so pumped about 2U - check out a few reasons below that I pulled together around three areas: people, places and things. If you’re interested in working at 2U or enrolling in a 2U partner program, don’t hesitate to reach out - I’d love to share more information (and the perks of both!)! With offices throughout the United States (and world!) and a wide variety of positions in the higher education space, is it ambitious to say there’s something for everyone??

People

I’ve been lucky to work at places (Peace Corps, World Resources Institute and IREX) where I was inspired by my colleagues every single day (like this one). So far, 2U will continue to carry that torch. It’s been a real pleasure getting to know the people I sit around and my immediate Career Services team colleagues who have opened their arms (and desks) to my questions and curiosity.

As part of my on-boarding, I’ve been meeting with different departments and people in a variety of roles to better understand what they do and how our roles could potentially intersect. Last week I spoke with one woman and afterwards thanked her for her time. She looked at me and said ‘Taking time for your co-workers is as important as taking time for your students’. I couldn’t agree more - a cohesive work environment means we’re all equipped and inspired to do our jobs better and ultimately provide the best experience for the people who matter most - the students. 

Another senior member of my department, when describing what his position at 2U meant to him, said that ‘This is the job I’ve been waiting for my entire career.’ I don’t think people say things like that lightly and it feels good to hear it from so many people, at all levels of the company, what a positive experience they are having at 2U.

It’s hard to describe the friendly, without being over-the-top, feeling I get being in the 2U office. Yesterday morning, someone on my team saw another colleague and me in the kitchen and she asked if he and I had already been introduced. He said, ‘Jennifer? We go two weeks back!’ since he’d already taken the time to introduce himself to me my first week. There’s also a no asshole policy (!) and 2U will be hosting a Bring Your Parents to Work Day in November!

Places

When I write places as a reason I like 2U - I mean both physically and virtually. When I started my MA in International Education in February 2012, online education was still in its early days as an option. By completing a low-residency degree with the SIT Graduate Institute, I was able to live and work in Mali during the 2012 coup d’état and then transition (sort of!) seamlessly back to life in the United States after I was evacuated - all while working toward my Masters degree. By completing my degree online, with in-person residencies, I had the flexibility to continue my career in international development while my job, country of residence, and home all changed.

With my bestie, Cassie, in April 2012 right before we left Mali following the coup d'état. Not sure why we were so smiley except that we were together - we were both super nervous about what laid ahead!

With my bestie, Cassie, in April 2012 right before we left Mali following the coup d'état. Not sure why we were so smiley except that we were together - we were both super nervous about what laid ahead!

While completing an online degree is not for everyone, it does allow for a level of flexibility that an on-campus experience can’t as easily accommodate. That includes people in the military (and their spouses) or people who, for whatever reason, can’t uproot their families to live where their degree is being physically offered. And check out the list of 2U university partners - it's an exciting group!

As far as places are concerned, I’m also pretty attached to the 2U location in the D.C. metro area - the brand new office is located at the New Carrollton metro station and is an easy 15-20 minute drive (even with traffic) from Hyattsville. I can also bike since it’s just five miles from home!

Things

The people and places of 2U are truly enough to keep me satisfied as an employee - the things listed below are really the icing on the cake. From free snacks to an amazing gym and a subsidized, on-site cafeteria, and a gorgeous office with interior design that makes me feel like I work in an industrial-chic coffee shop, 2U knows how to keep their employees happy. It feels good to not only like what you do, but also where you do it. They even have a jeans dress code! While I’ve been trying to up my fashion game since attending the personal styling evening at Green Owl Design in August, I can definitely appreciate throwing on a pair of jeans and a clean top and heading to work!

As someone passionate about quality education both in the United States and abroad, I’m also delighted to learn more about 2U’s Pencils of Promise partnership. Pencils of Promise seems like the tech-start up darling of international development and I’m looking forward to learning more about their work to improve education outcomes for children and teachers around the world.

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Change seems to creep up on us when we least expect it, doesn’t it? If someone had asked me at the beginning of this year if I would be in a new job and no longer working in the international development sector, I would have looked at them a little funny; that was not where I saw my year headed or where I thought my vision boarding would lead me. And while a job change hasn’t magically erased my anxiety (I’m working on that!), I’ve definitely had a change of perspective and am embracing this new chapter of life.

My sweet family this summer - embracing the change together!

My sweet family this summer - embracing the change together!

At the end of July, I boarded a flight to return home after visiting my cousin. I was getting ready for my final interview with 2U and as I settled into seat 24A, I opened my laptop and pulled up my notes - the 2U logo front and center. Scrolling up and down the document throughout the flight, I practiced my presentation for how I would approach a variety of career coaching scenarios, silently mouthing my responses and probably gesticulating to the back of the seat in front of me.

As the plane doors opened and everyone around me stood up to deplane, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I turned around to a woman sitting diagonally behind me who asked if I worked at 2U. I shook my head no, but that I was preparing for an interview there later that week. She shared that she had just started working at 2U a month prior and I thought  ‘what are the odds??’ I only caught her first name and we just spoke for a few minutes before we shuffled off the plane. I was caught off guard because, aside from an acquaintance I had lost touch with, I didn’t have a single LinkedIn connection (or real-life connection for that matter) to anyone working at the company - I hadn’t even heard of 2U until seeing their video in March!

Last week, at a quarterly meeting for new hires in my department, I walked into the executive boardroom and pulled my hand lightly over the dark wood table as I looked for a chair. I settled into the first open seat I came to and turned to my left to introduce myself to the woman sitting there. I glanced down at her ID badge and did a double take when we made eye contact - guess who I sat next to? With close to 700 (if not more) employees at the 2U Lanham office, and over 45 people in this meeting alone, you could say the odds were slim of me meeting the same woman I met on the plane in July, let alone sitting next to her at this new hire meeting. But to that I would say, buy me a scratch-off lottery ticket and may the odds be ever in your favor!