Q: You work in a non-profit organization. What sort of job do you have?
Marion: Today, I work raising funds for PEPS, a local non-profit organization that brings parents of young children together in community-based discussion and support groups. Community organizing is my passion. Our Program for Early Parent Support believes that when parents connect, kids benefit. We focus all of our efforts towards supporting parents by creating community. In today’s society, fewer parents have the advantage of neighbors and extended family to call on when they need help. PEPS works through advocacy, collaboration, and direct services to ensure that parents have the resources and community support they need to be successful. As Development Director, I work to raise funds and ensure PEPS has enough money to offer our resources to local parents.
Q: How did you get into your current line of work?
Marion: Originally, I came to the U.S. from Germany with three other students to study a discipline called Community Organizing in Chicago. We took all our learning back to Germany, published a book, and basically started a Community Organizing movement in Germany. Community Organizers can help communities change for the better – generally working with groups who are somewhat disadvantaged and need assistance in getting trained to work on their own issues. It’s really an empowerment training field. I was first schooled in social work, but I would rather work with communities than one-on-one with individuals. I feel strongly that for things to change, systems need to change, so I really found my passion in this field.
Q: Was Fundraising part of your career plan from the start?
Marion: I always wanted to do Fundraising. It’s such an important part of Community Organizing. We have to have money to do things in the non-profit world. Yet, I don’t feel that becoming a Development Director was ever a very formulated goal. I never sat down and created a 5-year plan, but I did have a vision about what I wanted. Whenever I sit down to make a plan for my future, nothing seems to come out of it. It has always been more of a natural flow for me where I feel it just happens. There is always a phase of not being satisfied with what I do. Then there is a clarity phase of knowing what I would like and admitting to it. For example, my work at the YWCA was a very fulfilling job.
Yet, I knew inside that I wanted to do Fundraising and so I voiced this intention to people I worked with at the Dress for Success program. An opportunity opened up soon after for me to go to the University of Washington and study Fundraising Management. It was wonderful; my employer paid for it, and I ended up organizing the merger of the Dress for Success program with the YWCA and working as their Development Manager. It seemed a very natural flow. It felt like it just happened. But I do believe I got the ball rolling and things fell in place after voicing my intention and putting it out there.
Q: What advice do you offer women in directing their own careers?
Marion: I always encourage people to take time off and do what they like to do. I strongly believe that having an intention and putting it out there works magic. First decide what you want, and as soon as you talk about it, things will start to open up. When we work busy, stressful existences, it can be difficult to really know what our own intentions are without stopping and taking the time to do what we really want to do – whether that is to go on vacation to Mexico, have a child, or just garden, travel, or experience ourselves in the world.
I come from a culture where there is a lot of focus on working hard. Germans work very rigid and strict schedules. But I think it’s crazy that people in America only get two weeks off. Flexible time has always been more important to me than having more money. And it was actually during a break from work, while I was visiting family in Germany that I decided I wanted to work less and make more money. And it was during that time that I heard about an opening at PEPS. I applied from Germany, returned to Seattle, interviewed for the position, and got the job! I believe by regularly taking the time to figure out what it is that we want, we can help to attract it and to create the lives we truly desire. I encourage all women to give it a try. Life is too short to spend it all at the office or stressed beyond our limits.