Posted by Gina Potthoff on October 1, 2019
After four years as chief financial officer of the YWCA in Chicago, Susan Kane, ’91, sent a quick email to a former colleague late on a Thursday afternoon to say she was thinking about going back to the job market.
Kane was surprised by the quickness of the reply: “Want to meet Monday?”
Over coffee, Kane learned of a yet-to-be-posted job opportunity—chief program officer for Blessings in a Backpack, a nonprofit that mobilizes communities, individuals, and resources to provide food on the weekends for hungry elementary school children across America.
Moving into a programming role was a big change, but Kane found it appealing. Just like the mission of the YWCA—eliminating racism and empowering women—Blessings in a Backpack’s work also struck a chord.
Kane’s career journey perfectly exemplified the advice she’s given to other alumni of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business interested in working in social impact: network, network, network.
“I think the general business skills that you bring as a Booth MBA are really needed within the nonprofit world,” Kane said. She shared her experience during “Making the Switch,” a series designed to help Booth MBAs leverage their degrees for new careers at a nonprofit, government agency, or social enterprise.
More than 200 Booth alumni tuned in for the Making the Switch, which in fall 2017 was a webinar series hosted by Booth’s Career Services and the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, the school’s destination for people tackling complex social and environmental problems.
On October 25, the Rustandy Center and Career Services are again inviting alumni to attend Making the Switch, which will be a daylong event at Chicago’s Gleacher Center designed to give alumni tools to leverage their Booth MBA for a new career at a nonprofit, government agency, or social enterprise. For more information or to register, click here.
SEARCHING FOR CAREER AND PURPOSE
Susan Kane, who worked as an accountant before earning her MBA, described her own post-Booth career path as nontraditional. After working for a venture-funded tech company and a large tech company, she joined the family construction business as chief financial officer.
In 2011, after spending 15 years in the family business, Kane decided to search for a job where she could make a difference in the world.
“It took me quite a while to make the transition from the corporate world to the social sector,” she said during the webinar. “I did a lot of soul-searching along the way. At one point, I was going to chuck my whole business background and become a personal trainer. But, ultimately, I decided that I had these business skills which had value in the market. I could earn a decent salary and then be in a better position to donate to causes that I cared about and support causes that I cared about.”
Helping alumni translate their business toolkits successfully into work in the social sector is a main aim of Making the Switch, which is among several social impact career resources available at Booth.
“Susan Kane’s story highlights a sentiment we’re hearing from many alumni and students who want to make a difference but aren’t sure what a post-MBA career in social impact would look like,” said Caroline Grossman, ‘03, director of programs at the Rustandy Center and adjunct assistant professor of strategy at Booth. “Together with Career Services, the Rustandy Center is working to offer more resources and programming for those who want to make a social impact, no matter what issue they care about.”
TRUSTING THE JOURNEY
Kane landed the CFO role at the YWCA in large part because of her passion for the nonprofit’s mission of empowering women. She has also been involved with the board of the University of Chicago Women's Business Group and served as a women’s triathlon coach.
While at Booth, Kane developed a specialty in scaling organizations. At Blessings in a Backpack, she’s led efforts to develop a national infrastructure to support strategy implementation and serve more kids. This year, the nonprofit was named a finalist in the Chicago Innovation Awards for its work to develop a sustainable, replicable business model that can be used to drive growth in new geographic markets.
“I trust the career journey,” she said. “Whether Blessings in a Backpack is the last job in my professional career, or if there’s something else that’s ultimately still out there for me, I’m very confident that I’m learning things that will help me achieve my life’s purpose while helping me to make a difference at Blessings in a Backpack.”
Making the Switch will take place on Friday, October 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Gleacher Center, 450 Cityfront Plaza Dr, Chicago, IL. Alumni will hear from fellow Booth graduates who've made this career transition, explore the landscape of social sector careers, and come away with concrete next steps to make a successful switch. The cost to attend is $50.
For more information on Making the Switch and other social impact career resources, visit the Rustandy Center website or the Career Services website.