As I embark on the second cohort of Mid-Iowa Health Foundation’s HealthConnect Fellowship, I reflect back on moments in my career journey that have been pivotal for me. Moments, much like HealthConnect, that have given me the courage to do new things, courage to continue forward when challenges arise, and courage to take a new direction.
As a person who likes to collect quotes, here are three of the best pieces of professional advice I have ever received.
Late in high school, speakers were presenting to a leadership group I was involved with. More than two decades later, I can’t tell you her name or her business, but I remember clearly a speaker saying to us to “find work that lights the fire in your belly.” She talked about finding passion in your career and living your professional life that fulfills that passion. What is that work you have to do? That’s how I feel about system-change work—the work that we are engaged in, collaboratively and individually, in HealthConnect.
Fast forward about five years or so: I am sitting in my first social welfare policy class in graduate school. My professor told the class that he viewed social work as a calling. The work can feel too hard, too exhausting, too frustrating, so he encouraged us to think about why we came to the field and to view our work as a calling. I have reflected on the idea of my chosen path as a calling often over the years as a gut check on whether I am doing the work I am meant to do or as a lens to ask if the work I am doing has a purpose. HealthConnect has reinforced for me that supporting the work of Iowa ACEs 360 is the work I am meant to do. Even more so, I am inspired to sit in a room of professionals doing the work they are meant to do.
Fast forward another five years, and I was in a room of early-mid career professionals listening to our national affiliate CEO give this advice on career development: “Community First.” He stated that we should make sure the work we do is based on what the community needs above any other interest. This has been a guidepost for me in many decisions over the years, even guiding whether I should consider a new career direction at times. This advice is particularly relevant to Iowa ACEs 360 today, as we refocus our efforts to ensure the voice of lived experience in decision making.
Key moments from the HealthConnect will stay with me. Check back in a few years and I am sure I will have a quote or two I revisit.