Jennifer Presley devoted a large chunk of her life, including an advanced degree, to a career in sports management, so leaving the field wasn’t an easy choice—but it was the right one.

She came to Detroit to work for the Tigers and found herself yearning for a deeper connection to the city and its people, so she started volunteering in her off time. Her hobby quickly became her passion.

Switching careers is rarely simple, especially once you’ve established yourself in a niche field. Presley admits to some trepidation, but she was able to see overlaps in the two sectors: the skillset she honed creating meaningful events in the sports arena translated easily to nonprofit work.

Since that realization, she’s made a name and a career for herself at Focus: HOPE—literally. Her current position as Mgr of Partnerships & Events was created just for her. Lesson: you define your career.

Her determination to follow her passion and can-do attitude make her a personal inspiration, so we asked her to share some leadership wisdom, and—yay for us!—she did.

Have a Teachable Spirit

“Sometimes we go into situations thinking we know everything—and we don’t. And it’s ok not to know, but you have to be open to being taught. Even if you have the highest degree in the room, there’s still something for you to learn.”

Manage Your Career

“When my current position was created people had a lot of ideas, and I knew that I had a lot of ideas myself, but I was hesitant for the first few months to say anything. People were like ‘this is where we need to go,” and then I spoke up—’actually this is where we need to go, and here’s why.’

I didn’t want anyone else to manage my creativity and my work ethic. I knew what I could do, and I needed to express that in a strategic way so that it could get to the masses of the organization so that they felt confident and comfortable giving me the reins to do what I needed to do in order to create a following for Focus: HOPE.”

Manage Up

“Figure out your manager’s expectations. Once you know what they expect of you, you can start to put things in place. They’re not asking you for things because you already know what they want. There’s very little they have to worry about you completing. You manage that and beat them to the punch—’I know what you want. I did it. You don’t have to worry about it.'”

Be Patient

Sometimes we want to get to a milestone quickly, but there’s something about the journey: there are so many opportunities within the journey, and if we rush it we might miss them and ruin the blessing.

I wanted to be in a director’s position. I thought I was ready for it. When I finally got there I realized I was not ready, and there was a reason I needed to wait.

Luckily, I had an amazing CEO at the time who saw that and gave me professional development tips, and helped me develop my weak areas. I appreciated that journey so much because it gave me the opportunity to stand back and see the areas where I wasn’t doing well.

Be Honest with Your Weaknesses

“Because other people see them. You don’t want to cover them up. You want to work on them.

One of the best things about working at Focus: HOPE is all the talented people. When I identify the areas where I’m weak, I have coworkers who come along and say ‘this is how you do it.’ They’re very encouraging,

I’m thankful to have coworkers who are willing to teach me and make sure I know what I’m doing.”

 

 

Curious for more? Catch Jennifer tonight at LinkedIn HQ, where she’ll be participating in our inaugural “In Talks.” series. Click here for the full scoop. 

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