Saturday, March 22, 2014

Job Sacrifices and Opportunities as a Darden Partner

Congratulations, Round 2 Darden admits and partners! Wahoo-wa!
After a much-too-long hiatus, I want to post to welcome you all as well as to cover a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and probably at the top of many potential partners' minds.

Darden's Flagler court, February 2013
One of the biggest challenges in relocating to Charlottesville as a Darden partner is finding a job. And of course you want to find a position that is interesting, rewarding, pays well, has good benefits, and won't totally derail your career track. This is tough. This is tough anywhere, but it is especially tough when you're coming to the decently-sized-but-not-enormous Charlottesville area and you'll be staying for what is probably a finite and relatively short amount of time (un
less you're hoping to stick around, as we are).

The first place to start looking is with the Darden Partners Association (DPA)-- get in touch with the Job Resources Chair, who is now the lovely Amber Hanson as I have stepped down. You can reach her at The DPA maintains an internal job board and information on other job resources for partners. The Job Resources Chair also keeps tabs on what partners work where in town, and can help connect incoming partners looking for jobs with current partners that work at places of interest.

Maybe you will find something just right-- something that fits all the criteria above. But it's very possible that you won't-- maybe the opportunities that crop up aren't in your field, or the pay is far lower than what you had before. Maybe they would be a career sidestep or even a step down. You might keep looking for jobs and networking your butt off, but it becomes clear that whatever job you would take would involve some career sacrifices.

Then the question becomes-- is it worth it to leave what I have? 

Of course the answer is different for everyone. It depends on how much you like your current job, whether you foresee returning to your current location after Darden, how much you want to be involved at Darden while your partner is here, and how well you can afford a pay change if that would be part of the equation.

For me, it has DEFINITELY been worth the sacrifices I  have made, and I know many other partners who feel the same way. That doesn't mean it's for everyone, but being willing to take cuts in some places has provided opportunities I couldn't have foreseen. I'll share my story as an illustration of how things can go wrong but end up very right!

My job search was a heinous one. I have a master's degree in Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice from the Fashion Institute of Technology, and I worked as a Museum Collections Manager at historic houses in Washington, DC and taught courses as an adjunct professor at Marymount University in Arlington, VA. It took me a long time to find the jobs I had, and I had just finally settled into my first full-time gig for a few months when Andrew was accepted at Darden. I knew I wanted to join him in Cville and be a part of his community-- I'll be honest, I'm a pretty needy spouse, and we were thinking hard about starting a family. I had, however, worked extremely hard to stay in my field of study and had been able to find employment there against all odds, which was something I wasn't going to throw away lightly. Not to mention the fact that I liked my job! I thought long and hard but I knew that I would never again have the opportunity to to be a part of the Darden community in this way. So I started looking for museum jobs in the Cville area.

Months went by, and I pursued whatever leads I had, networked till I was blue in the face, worked with UVa Alumni Career Services every week, connected with the DPA Job Resources Chair, and applied to whatever I found. There was one job that ALMOST came through and I lost it to an internal applicant at the last minute. I cried hard over that one. My resume and cover letters were stellar and I was talking to all the right people; the opportunities were just not there-- and when they were, they didn't work out. It finally became clear to me that I was going to have to look for something outside my field. That realization was a blow, but at that point I was desperate to get to Cville. In the meantime, Andrew started school at Darden, and I kept working at my good job in DC. I missed him, and the hour-long commute that we had shared and that I was now doing alone began to really wear on me. We talked over FaceTime after he had Learning Team every night. It was tough.

Eventually, I began to look into development positions, a tactic that had been recommended to me by a number of people (if museums are hiring, it's generally in development, and it became apparent that I had plenty of transferable skills applicable to fundraising). Through a networking connection suggested to me by someone at UVa Alumni Career Services, I became aware of a position at a medical research nonprofit-- totally outside my field-- but I applied, and she made a call for me. After two interviews, I was hired, and by February I headed down to Charlottesville, ready to dive into the Darden partner lifestyle!

I was disappointed to leave my field after having worked so hard to stay in it. I was afraid that I'd never be able to return to museum work if I wanted to, and sad that my hard-earned skills might "go to waste." I'll freely admit that there are days when I miss working in a museum, teaching, and researching, and I find it a little funny that most people at my current job only have a vague idea of my "real" area of specialty. It was also harder to learn the ropes at my new position than I had anticipated-- I particularly struggled with the complicated phone system, and dissolved into tears one day after hanging up on someone important (to my credit, I was newly pregnant at the time, so everything was emotional)!

But my new job ended up being a huge blessing in many ways. I have been deepening certain skills that I had begun to develop in my museum work, and learning many new ones. I know that experience with fundraising will always be an asset to me, and I have had the opportunity to learn from some of the best through my connections at my current position. I work in a great office with smart, fun, engaged co-workers, and my supervisors have been encouraging and flexible with me, especially considering my pregnancy and now the Little One and all the unpredictability that comes with her. It's hard to imagine another company being as supportive. Plus, the commute, hours, and pay have been great, and I even have an office with a window and a space-heater (THAT never happens in a historic house museum)!

My story isn't unique. While every Darden partner has a different job journey, I have heard from a number of friends that the new positions they've found in Charlottesville have provided opportunities for change and growth  in ways they didn't anticipate. And for me, the greatest reward is getting to be on-site and participating in Darden activities. I've made some lifelong friends and so enjoy getting to be immersed in the experience with my husband and the LO.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Welcome Round 1 Admitted Students and Partners!

Our life these days!
Photo by Maria Hudnall at Hudnall Photography
Darden put out its round one admissions results yesterday- so congratulations to Darden's first group of newly-admitted students and partners for this year! We can't wait to meet you-- hope to see you at Day @ Darden or Darden Days in the spring.

It's a big deal as a partner when your student is accepted-- it means a lot of potential changes for both of your lives and for your relationship. Being in a relationship with a student is definitely an adjustment, especially when that student is at Darden in their first semester first year working their butt off! 

One question that might spring up in your mind after you've finished the champagne toast is "would I want to relocate to Charlottesville while my student attended Darden?" You are probably thinking about:
-Staying near your current friends vs. making new friends in the Darden community (and also participating in Darden events only on weekends vs. being available for weeknight events)
-Staying at your current house/apartment vs. finding a new place to live in Cville
and perhaps most of all,
-staying in your current job situation vs. modifying your job situation or finding a new job!

I'm the Job Resources Chair for the Darden Partners Association, and I myself had quite the career decision to make when I came to Cville, so this last struggle is very close to my heart. I intend to write a future post on jobs for Darden partners, but for now I'll say there are lots of options and lots of scenarios that work. You  may have to get creative, you may have to take a leap of faith, you may have to grin and bear a less-than-ideal situation for a while-- you may even have to do all of those things, but I promise that you can make it happen and enjoy your and your student's time at Darden. It has certainly been worth it for us!

As I said, I'll discuss relocation and jobs for partners in a future post. But if you have any immediate questions about jobs as a potential Darden partner, feel free to email me at I'm happy to chat!

Again, congrats to accepted students and partners! Raise a glass and say Wahoo-wa!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Darden Family

Happy Halloween!

Yesterday, the LO and I attended a fun little Halloween party hosted by the Darden Partners Association-- our first outing as a family to a DPA event! I went as Hermione-- my default costume, since we're effectively the same person-- and the LO went as Piglet.

The Darden Partners Association, or DPA, is a network of spouses and partners of Darden students that provide community and support for one another. The DPA hosts events, fosters community, and creates resources for all kinds of partners, and is coordinated by a leadership team that covers social, family, hospitality, career, communications, and community service activities. I'm the Job Resources Chair for the DPA, a role into which I'll delve more deeply in my next post. The DPA's family activities are coordinated by the Family Committee, composed of four moms with kids a variety of ages. Their events range from playdates to apple-picking outings to yesterday's Halloween Party, and are open to all students and partners regardless of whether or not they have children.

Right now, there are four Darden families that I know of with kids 3 months or below-- three second-year and one first-year. It was amazing to see all the older kids running around today at the Halloween party and realize that I was entering into a whole new part of the Darden community-- although I've been closely connected with Darden families through my friends and at the many family-friendly events that the Darden Student Association (DSA) and DPA host. Plenty of non-parent partners were at the party, too, especially international ones. Since most international partners are here on visas that don't allow them to work, many of them are very active with the DPA and attend family events, which is wonderful!

The outpouring of support that came from the entire Darden community when our LO was born  was fantastic and has helped sustain us during this challenging time. The DPA Family Committee organized two weeks of meals for us delivered by students and partners, and as a result we have been incredibly well-fed and didn't have to rely on expensive take-out when it would have been impossible for us to manage cooking. In addition to all the love we've felt from our friends, we've also received good wishes from the Office of Student Affairs and a number of professors.

It's amazing what a great community we have here at Darden, and what a blessing it is to have such a close "family" when our family is growing!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Baby Means Business!

A truly Wahoo maternity shoot in Pavilion VIII from this summer-- Photo by Maria Hudnall of Hudnall Photography
This blog is still under construction, since we've just welcomed a new addition to our family and she is taking up much of our time! I'll be focusing here on the joys and challenges of having a new baby and a husband at Darden, all while living in a 600-square-foot one-bedroom apartment. My husband Andrew is a second-year student (section C!) and I work in fundraising for a medical research nonprofit, the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. The little one arrived very recently and has turned our lives upside-down in the most fantastic way. Now it's time for Andrew and I to navigate the seas of balancing schoolwork and home life, and eventually my work, in a way that is true to what we really value. Here we go!
Andrew reads cases to the LO (little one, not Leading Organizations!) in the hospital