HR Insider: Careers in Nonprofit HR

For this month’s HR Insider, I interviewed not just one but two human resources professionals  from the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI). This two-part series features Patty Fay, VP of Human Resources and Administration and Marissa Colgate, who joined the organization about a year ago as an HR Consultant. Each reveals insights based on their different work histories and perspectives, while having a shared love of working for a mission-based organization with staying power. Today, we focus on their career backgrounds; stay tuned for next week when they divulge hiring practices of the organization.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today! Tell us a little about yourselves and how you got into this work.

Patty: I’m the VP of Human Resources and Administration and I’ve been with GSGCNWI for three years. I spent the first 20 years of my career working in different sectors (higher education, chemical, banking) and then took three years off when my family and I moved overseas. We returned in 2010. I started back working pro bono for a non-profit, where I found my desire to be in the sector. I worked in the consumer products industry for a year before arriving at the Girl Scouts three years ago.

I majored in business in college. I knew nothing about how businesses operated. Getting a business degree began to open my eyes, to see a bit how all the pieces fit together to make a successful business.

I found my first job out of college responding to an ad in the newspaper. I interviewed and was so excited when I was hired! I was working in the HR department of a major university. I worked with a great group whom I learned a lot from. We had a lot of laughs as well. One thing I learned is that who you work with is almost as important as what you are doing. It can make or break the job!

Marissa: I have been working in HR for about seven years (banking and insurance), and less than one year at the Girl Scouts as a consultant.  During parental leave, my community involvement included volunteering at my children’s schools, the church, Adler Planetarium, and Children’s Home + Aid.

Marissa, what prepared you for your role?

Marissa: What prepared me for my role at the Girl Scouts is learning how to communicate and relate to others— applicants, employees, colleagues, girls, and all other manners of guests, donors, and volunteers— in a way that honors their personhood.  This I learned from raising my children!

Patty, you mentioned that you lived overseas for a few years. What was your experience like?

Patty: Living overseas was a life-changing experience. It was hard to be away from family and friends for three years, but we experienced so much and now see the world and our community in a completely different light. We are all part of a larger world and it was truly great to experience life from a different viewpoint. I volunteered while living overseas and had a great opportunity to collaborate with others from different backgrounds and experiences.

What do you love about working at Girl Scouts?

Marissa: The sense of purpose that our employees have is palpable! Many are truly passionate about the mission of transforming the world one girl at a time.

Our mission has staying power. The first Girl Scout troop was formed in 1912, and its mission of helping girls discover their strengths, passion, and talents is as relevant today as it was 103 years ago. Our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, knew way back then that it takes a village!

Patty: I love working for a mission-based organization with coworkers who are dedicated to the purpose of our organization.

What are your favorite Girl Scouts programs?

Marissa: I enjoy the Shark Tank program namely because I love seeing the girls defend their ideas as they present to the “panel of investors”. It’s a treat watching them think on their feet. And I love seeing the different personalities come out.

Patty:  Well, the cookie program is a big one. Girls learn five skills that will help them in business later in life: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.   The outdoor programs we have at our camps are unique and are not just for outdoor enthusiasts. We empower girls to explore the world at their own pace and comfort level.  

Patty and Marissa, thank you for taking the time to share your experiences and insights with Idealist Careers readers!

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I became acquainted with Idealist in late 2000 while working in the career development office at a private liberal arts college in NYC. I used it almost daily to help students and alumni find meaningful careers. After a 12-year stint in higher education, I worked as a career coach for professionals in various industries (and still used Idealist). During one of those many searches, a listing really caught my eye- the one for the newly-created position, Careers Program Coordinator. So... I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I took on the role of Manager of Career Content for Idealist Careers, creating career content for job seekers, leaders, and other nonprofit professionals. Understanding the roles that a positive outlook and holistic self-care play in career success, I've shared with our readers time-honored methods for improving confidence and productivity. Now, as Manager of College and Professional Development, my focus is on lifting the advice from Idealist Careers "off the page". Drawing from my experience in career development, I propel job seekers and career changers towards taking control of their searches with confidence and removing fear, uncertainty, and other blocks to success via in-person workshops and seminars, webinars, and conference programming. My great loves are cooking (preferably without a recipe, otherwise I doctor it up), dancing, live cultural performances, identifying the tasting notes in a good cup of coffee, exploring neighborhoods for hidden gems, and anything else that sparks the senses and allows me to experience all the beauty, dynamism, and intrigue that vivaciously living in a remarkable world offers.
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    • Dominique Darko
    • November 6, 2015

    I enjoyed reading this article especially being a member of the Girl Scouts (GCNWI) staff. I like hearing what people I work with have to say about the organization. Marissa actually called me after seeing my resume online and I believed was very instrumental in helping me become apart of Girl Scouts. Talking to Marissa, she made me feel comfortable, not nervous about my upcoming interview, finally meeting I was excited and now working for this organization I know I’ll be here for a long time. I can’t wait to read more!

    1. Fabulous! Thank you for sharing, Dominique!

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