In my experience I’ve found that careers are kind of like shelter dogs. You don’t actually pick them; they pick you.

In my 23 years of living in New York City, I’ve been a fundraiser, communications strategist, office manager, advocacy campaign director, government liaison, bartender, bookkeeper, marketing consultant, event planner, counselor, graphic designer, small business owner, brand strategist, focus group moderator, door girl, corporate partnerships manager, executive coach, mentor, board of directors chair, account executive, senior account executive, account director, director of communications, senior development officer, coat check girl, handler… the list goes on from there.

I’ve been asked, more times than I can count: “So, what exactly do you do?” I can’t blame anyone for their confusion.

My name is Lara, and I am a Serial Interloper.

Rowdy the shelter dog

Rowdy, my beloved shelter dog

Believe it or not, all of these jobs have pretty much required the same skill set. Really. The insight and skill set you need to help position a non-profit for greater fundraising success is not miles off from working for tips as a bartender. My resume is not a case of running from job to job with no sticktoitiveness — to the contrary, my professional experience includes a number of positions that span five plus years. It’s just that I tend to find myself attracted to roles in which I’ve had to wear a variety of hats. (The most important of which, I hasten to add, is “Mama.” Don’t even get me started on that list.)

 

This variety of career experiences has required an agility and an adaptiveness that my clients value. Interloping into sectors not necessarily in my wheelhouse has made me feel comfortable bringing an outside perspective that organizations often lose over time. I’ve learned how to cross some boundaries in search of greater results. And I just can’t get enough of the high that comes from learning new things and meeting new people.

So in 2010 I founded Bergen Street Strategy, my own consulting practice, to fully embrace interloping as a strategy. My varied work experiences mean I’ve absorbed the culture, challenges, and strengths within many different fields — arts, education, research, public service. I bring with me the full depth and breadth of perspectives, approaches, and values required to truly see where and how any company or enterprise needs to shape up, and I have a team of brilliant fellow interlopers who do the same.

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The insight and skill set you need to help position a non-profit for greater fundraising success is not miles off from working for tips as a bartender.

An outsider’s eye is often just the fresh perspective my clients need — cutting through old, inefficient practices that exist just because it’s they way they’ve always done things, or uncovering areas of opportunity that have been overlooked. My teammates and I have spent enough time as the outsiders that we’re sensitive to the challenging dynamics that can arise in the office when someone new is suggesting change, and we’re thoughtful about how we survey and draw conclusions. We’re careful to assess the capabilities a team has right now versus what works best for a successful organization four times (or half) the size.

So begins my blog about Bergen Street Strategy, my experiences, and my opinions. I hope you’ll follow along as I attempt to steer this away from self-indulgent jabber and work on capturing some pearls of wisdom from my shelter-dog career as a professional interloper.

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