This week I had the opportunity to chat with Marc Allen, a strategy consultant to social impact and development funders worldwide, advising them on how to create greater human impact with their investments. We talk all about why skills are valuable. Namely, how we can look at the skills we’ve acquired, instead of the career we’ve pursued, in order to help serve us in our next projects.
I love this episode because it is all about self-reinvention and seeking purpose. While those are both tricky paths to navigate, Marc’s own journey shows that with some resilience and open-mindedness, it’s not as impossible as we like to think.
Marc worked as an attorney for four years at one of the top law firms in the UK and Paris. But after taking two thought-provoking trips in 2014 to Iran and New Orleans, it was clear to him that he didn’t want to be a lawyer. He witnessed so many people harnessing their skills to wear different hats and be useful in their communities. It was eye-opening to take note of people who were in very adverse situations making due with their circumstances. They used what they could offer the world in unorthodox and slightly creative ways to get around systems that aren’t always inclusive. The inspiration to quit stemmed from these micro-case studies of progress despite the environment. Marc had to quit. In 2015, he finally did without a real plan or clear idea of what was next.
For the next two years, he tried out different careers and spent time on his passion project, a blog called The Great Everything.
By focusing on the skills he had and the various facets of his personality, Marc finally found a career that he loves. He retrained as a strategy consultant to philanthropies. He is now able to spend his days helping large funders create the biggest impact with their money.
I got to talk to Marc about how the skills he acquired as a lawyer serve him in his new role. We dive into how he first sensed doubt when his work began to feel unimportant. He was not connected to the outcomes of his cases. But instead of spiraling and worrying that his next move absolutely needed to be in law, he opened himself to a ton of new opportunities.
First, he evaluated the skills he built over the years. As an attorney, Mark developed a strong and unwavering work ethic. He also developed a strong backbone and self-confidence. He also navigated difficult internal power dynamics to get to the opportunities he wanted with tact and patience. All of these characteristics aid him in his role as Engagement Manager at Camber Collective. Marc manages strategy and coalition design for companies, countries, funds, and philanthropies looking to outsize their social impact. He has found the perfect fit BECAUSE of all the skills he has acquired through his career.
The thought of starting over is daunting, especially if you are going into a field where you have little to no experience. It’s easy to fall into the trap of self-doubt when you realize that you are starting from a novice level. But, as Marc puts it, take an honest look at your life and think about what you’re going to regret when you’re 75. When you’re in a difficult place, think about, “Would I rather stay here and hope my situation improves? Or am I going to be brave and actually go out and do something about it?” Are you willing to be uncomfortable for a bit and set up challenges and force yourself to rise to the occasion?
When we embrace the idea that we are so much more than one job or one interest, we open ourselves up to immense personal growth. Gratitude for our skills and our gradual evolution will help us push forward and overcome negative self-talk and open ourselves up to different opportunities.