Heather Freed, President & CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Illinois.

February 14th 2020 in People Who Inspire Us

Heather began her career in youth social work, advancing in her profession to become an Executive Director in 2014.  Heather relocated to the Greater St. Louis Area to accept her current role in 2019.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in making a career change?  There were two big ones.  First was the relocation.  Accepting my current role meant relocating to a new city and moving my family.  It felt like a much bigger commitment because of that.  The second was leaving my first executive leadership role.  It was scary and required confidence to demonstrate to a new agency what I was capable of.

How she overcame this challenge: She overcame the imposter syndrome that so many experience by embracing and articulating her accomplishments.  Through the resume process, she built confidence in sharing her what she’s achieved.

What’s the one piece of advice you wish you’d been given at the beginning of your search?  Your instinct may be to put yourself out there right away but take the time to think about what you can really offer, what you want, what you don’t want.  Look past the romantic ideals of another organization-challenge that to avoid missing red flags.  Take the time if you can and be ready.  Prepare your questions and don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions.

What is your advice for someone looking to get into your profession/industry? Don’t be surprised at the amount of work there is in NPO.  You have to be willing to work for meaning/purpose over making millions.  If you’re passionate about the work and the mission, you can get up feeling great and be excited about the work you do every day.  For-profit skills – sales for example- easily translate into NPO, marketing and leadership skills too.

How do you stay prepared for future opportunities? Have a plan & find opportunities that challenge you to build the experience necessary to achieve those goals.  Stay active on LinkedIn, engage with your community, etc.  Continually engagement on LinkedIn has helped engage in a new community.

What was the most difficult part of the interview process?  I was well prepared, but the most challenging part was staying high energy during traveling for full-day interviews.  You have to be mentally and physically prepared too.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the job search process?  Stay connected with people you meet along the way.  You never know when you might be able to work together again even if it didn’t work out the first time.


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