What does it take to follow your passion? Gregg Grenier—who works as a Relay for Life Specialist with the American Cancer Society in Acton, Massachusetts, a position he found on Idealist—believes that being clear about what he wanted and refusing to compromise helped him find his dream job.
In this interview, Gregg offers his advice for relentlessly pursuing your passion and making the most of your experiences in order to find your perfect job. You can also check out all of our job seeker success stories for more inspiration and advice.
When did you start your job search and what were you looking for when you came to Idealist?
I started seriously searching for jobs this past June when I was finishing graduate school at Teachers College, Columbia University, Columbia’s graduate school of education, in New York City. I was finishing a Master of Arts in Higher and Postsecondary Education, so I was looking for jobs in student affairs, mainly student activities and residence life, but as well as jobs in the nonprofit sector. Jobs that dealt with event planning, volunteer management, and community organizing. Many of my peers and mentors suggested Idealist as a great resource to conduct my job search.
Tell us about your new job and the organization. What will you be doing?
I started this past September as a Relay For Life Specialist with the American Cancer Society in Acton, Massachusetts. Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event that takes place in communities and colleges across the world, most being held in the United States. Teams of 8-15 people fundraise throughout the year and camp out overnight at the event — each event is between 12 and 24 hours.
The relay portion comes into play because one member from each team must be walking on the path/track at all times throughout the event. This is an overnight event because it parallels with the journey a person takes from the moment they are diagnosed with cancer, through treatment, and ending at the point where they enter into remission. There are ceremonies throughout the night to celebrate, remember, and honor those that have been affected by cancer.
My role has me working with three communities and their events in the Greater Boston area. I am the liaison between the volunteer planning committee and the American Cancer Society. I provide guidance on event development, leadership development, and community development. I also work with each of the events to meet their fundraising goals and other metrics set forth by the American Cancer Society.
What do you think helped you land this job?
I think that my business background, my undergraduate degree is in marketing, my volunteer management experience, and my graduate work in student activities helped me land this job. Having an in-depth understanding of business practices makes it easier to explain to volunteers and community members where the money they raise goes and how the American Cancer Society is structured and managed.
With the American Cancer Society being the largest voluntary organization —over 4 million volunteers each year— it is critical that the relationship between the Staff Partner and the volunteers is stable and constantly enriched. Finally, having event planning experience is not a huge prerequisite for landing the job, but it is important to be detail-oriented and willing to learn what it takes to plan a successful event.
How can someone with similar passions break into the field?
If someone has a passion to create a world where cancer is no longer a threat, a passion to unite a community around a single cause, and a passion to develop community leaders, then they will be able to find a way into this field. I suggest that someone volunteer with this type of organization to gain an understanding of the volunteer perspective because as a staff member, you become removed from what it is like to be a volunteer. I volunteer outside of work to be able to keep that perspective. Being able to have an understanding of the staff and volunteer perspectives will allow you to create and sustain positive relationships with the people you work with and serve on a daily basis.
Additionally, someone does not need to have a loud and outgoing personality to be successful in this field – he/she just needs to be confident in his/her abilities and be willing to listen and learn. Not all volunteers that a person will interact with will be 100% extroverted – volunteers come in all forms. A staff member must be able to identify a volunteer’s personality and be able to work with it, no matter is he/she is extroverted or introverted.
What advice do you have for job seekers?
The largest piece of advice I can offer is that everything will work out if someone is willing to put in the time and effort. I know that after the first month of job searching that I began to think that I may never be able to find a job, never mind a job that I loved. What kept me going was what my boss at my internship during graduate school told me: “Don’t give up. You will find a job. Even when you think you may never find one, keep going and it will all work out.” Those simple words kept me going through the process.
I made it my mission to not settle until I found a job that I was passionate about. Though, I did give myself a deadline of when I would need to take any job that came my way because I could not financially support myself past a certain date. As that date approached, I did not give up hope and just kept searching and applying for jobs (mostly through Idealist), and I was eventually offered my dream job with a week to spare.
On a side note, when I was interviewing for my current position, I was not afraid to tell the hiring manager up front that this was my dream job. I wanted her to know that after all of my searching, that this was the job that I had been searching for all along, and that I was going to do everything in my power to show them that I was the one they wanted. All in all, if you are willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears (literally sweat and tears), then you will find that job that you are excited to go to everyday.
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