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Profile Of A New Radical

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HuffPo readers like you tell me that, while it's great to hear inspiring stories abut people making a difference, you also want to know how to become a New Radical (for more about New Radicals, please see archived articles).

So, this year, I'm going to profile emerging New Radicals - people in transition to their brilliant new careers. Each time I'll ask these men and women to answer five questions.

This week, I interviewed Julie Jacobs, a communications and marketing professional who spent nearly 20 years working for global PR firms and Fortune 500 companies. For the last four years, she's been on contract to the Skoll Foundation (Skoll invests in social entrepreneurs and other innovators dedicated to solving the world's most pressing problems), working with the marketing team to promote the social entrepreneurship model and providing communications services to Skoll grantees. And now she's looking for the next big thing.

1. What was your wake-up call?
"A lot of life events motivate people to change direction and the loss of my parents did it for me. They were both way too young and their deaths were unexpected. I would find myself sitting and thinking things like 'life is too short' and 'there are lots more important things to do'. How I spent my time became much more important. At the same time, in a serendipitous way, Laura Vais, who'd once been a client and became my friend, got laid off and found her way to the Skoll Foundation. I pitched Skoll, got the business, and we both started working with them. And my eyes were opened to a whole new world that I knew nothing about."

2. What do you have to offer?
"For 18 years I worked at big companies, really interesting, demanding, and rewarding work. I've developed skills in marketing, communications, and public relations that I'll be able to bring to my new role. Beyond my capabilities, I have extensive knowledge of the corporate environment, including the importance of client service. I'm also realizing that it's important to know who you are, not just what you do. Through the Skoll Foundation I got to know incredible people who are doing things to change the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world. At the same time, I've realized that I'm not about to leave Manhattan and go to India or Tanzania and start an organization or a school. Instead, I want to apply my professional abilities to a new client base."

3. What's your ideal next role?
"I definitely want to work in the philanthropy/non-profit/development sector. One thing that's become clear to me - that we recognized at the Skoll World Forum each year -- is that there are people out there in the field bringing their ideas to fruition and they have their own networks but they don't always recognize that they're part of something bigger. The biggest thing I brought to Skoll's portfolio of grantees - beyond communications - was being able to connect them to others working on the ground. If someone was starting a new organization in Malawi, for instance, I could introduce them to someone who already had connections with the Ministry of Health. And that got me thinking: when you've worked in a PR agency, you understand the importance of client service. Wouldn't it be great to help implement a more client-service ethos into funders' organizations? Some of these organizations are heading in this direction - wanting to develop deeper, closer relationships with grantees so that they can be more effective. Of course, I continue to be interested in marketing and PR, and I'm looking at the role communications plays in fundraising, for instance."

4. How will you get there from here?
"Lots of networking. Talking to people I've met through my work with Skoll, people who've been through what I'm going through, and people who are in roles in development and philanthropy that I find interesting. Tons of web research, too, adding to my knowledge of this sector. And looking at job postings - lots of foundations and non-profits are based here in New York. I'm also offering myself as a consultant to organizations that maybe aren't looking to hire a senior communications person -to give them what they need and see how we like working together. And I took a couple of courses at NYU, one on NGOs and the other on fundraising. My fellow students were interesting - a number of them were just starting out in their careers and others were looking at careers shifts, including a lot of people who work in finance and don't want to stay there. There was one woman who was re-entering the workforce after raising her kids - a lawyer, she'd worked for the big firms, and had just taken a job with a non-profit. You know, when I look at some of the job postings I know that there are people out there who can check every little box in terms of being qualified for a role. But I'm hoping that employers will be open to people who bring something new to the table, too."

5. How are you feeling about this career shift?
"There have been several nights where I couldn't sleep because I start thinking 'Ohmigod, I don't have a job!' But mostly it's exciting and I feel really optimistic that it's all going to come together. It feels right to be in this new network of people and organizations. All the contacts I've made, the things I can do, and my strong sense of what I want to do. 2010 is going to be a great year."

Julie Jacobs can be reached at juliejacobsnyc@gmail.com.

Now it's your turn. Are you an emerging New Radical? How are you putting skills acquired in your career to work on the world's greatest challenges? What resources have you discovered? What would you say to someone who's considering reinventing their work? Please share your thoughts by commenting below. As always, I invite you to email me directly at Julia (that familiar symbol) wearethenewradicals (punctuation) (familiar suffix).

Arianna Huffington speaks in Toronto.
If you're in Toronto on January 26th, there are still a few tickets available for her talk (in my town!) on "The Brave New World of New Media".
Event: Tuesday, January 26
Venue: RCM TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning
Time: 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
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Julia Moulden speaks in San Francisco.
I'm often asked if I'm speaking at a public event - here's one, organized by the good folks at St. Mary's College of California.
Event: Thursday, January 21
Venue: St. Mary's College
Time: 7:00pm
Tickets
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