RealJobs: Meghan Baldelli

Well, Wednesday was a day of letters. Every time either the Fellows or the Women In Leadership interact with a community member, FOCUS St. Louis® sends a thank you note. This means that in the course of a month, I send hundreds of thank you notes. Unfortunately for me, all of those notes landed on my desk this morning—needing to be written, sent over to both the director and the executive director to be signed, sealed, and dropped into the mail.

Sometimes, the administrative tasks (which are undoubtedly a little mundane) are the ones that keep you the busiest. At such a small organization—FOCUS has ten full-time employees—everyone pitches in. We have mailing parties, where we sit around the large conference room table, chat, and stuff envelopes for a big mailing. The best part is the sense of community and camaraderie that this provides—and it seems to me it is unique to such a small work environment. I started here only about five months ago, and I already know everyone’s life stories and feel very much a part of the FOCUS family.

My interest in nonprofits, as I have mentioned before, grew out of my first internship right on the Boston College campus, at the Center for Corporate Citizenship. Located across the street from the main campus on Lee Road, the Center represented to me the ideal work environment: small team, easy commute (a five minute walk from the Mods), relaxed atmosphere, and a sense of ‘giving back’ to the world inspired by the Jesuit values instilled in me at Boston College.

So it may come as a surprise to you that my first job out of college was working for a large office supply company an hour away from my parents’ house (lodging I promptly resumed as soon as college was over), in a hectic marketing department where long hours were the norm. What can I say? The pressure to find a job right out of college seems enormous. I took the first job I was offered, bought my first suit, and got used to two or more hours of driving a day in order to get to the job. I worked hard and was undoubtedly not the most contented person in the office. So if there is anything that my first year of real-world experience taught me, it’s that you cannot be afraid to take a risk and try a new adventure. I wasn’t happy; I wanted something new. Something different. Something more like my internship.

So when the chance to move to St. Louis opened up, I jumped. A lifelong Boston native, this was way outside of my comfort zone. I moved with no job, no plan, and no health insurance. I arrived with everything I could possibly cram into my tiny car and not much else. I researched local nonprofits; I had a helpful mentor who set me up with some good people.

I came into FOCUS for a simple informational interview with our executive director—and walked out with an interview set up and a handful of flyers clutched in my right hand. I happened to come in at the right time, and a position had opened up for a Program Coordinator. The building was beautiful, the office was bright and full of good people, and the work fit my dream of giving back. It was my internship all over again.

I knew it was where I wanted to be.

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