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Interview with Jim Carroll

Posted By Nikki Enfield, Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Last week we launched our series of interviews with political operatives across the spectrum.  This week, we bring you our second interview with Jim Carroll.  Read it below.  And if you missed it, check out last week's interview with Matt Mansell as well as other career advice posted on GAINing Ground.
Jim Carroll is the Managing Director of Equality California, a statewide organization that has been building a state of equality in California for the past decade. In the past 10 years, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation. Jim has been with EQCA for the past five years.
1. Describe your job
My responsibility is to execute the tactics necessary to implement the Executive Director's strategic vision and make that vision a reality. On a day-to-day basis, that means allocating resources to accomplish our goals, including financial resources, human resources, technical resources, etc.
2. How would you describe your career path? How did you get started in progressive politics?
I was a commercial lender at a large bank. My portfolio included many non-profits, so I was required to understand the intricacies of non-profit accounting. This led to a job offer from one of my clients to help them straighten out their books. Non-profit money management and operations, more broadly - led seamlessly to non-profit fundraising. It turns out that non-profit development was a natural fit for my skill set since selling commercial banking services is similar to acquiring donations. In both cases a conversation with the client/donor is required to convince them that investing their money with the bank or non-profit is the place where they'll find the highest return on their dollars. The combination of Development and Operation skill sets gave me a good start; from there I learned the Communications and Program/Field components on the job.
I've had fifteen years to learn: Five years at EQCA, and before that five years at the Breast Cancer Fund and five more at PFLAG.
3. What are the three most important skills for success in the progressive politics?
Number One: Flexibility. You have to be willing to alter your approach, tactics, resources - to the opportunities that present themselves. Too many people stick to their plan, regardless of the outcomes. Too many more claim success when the available metrics don't support the claim.
Number Two: Clear Communication. So much of what we do isn't measurable - we're not creating shareholder profit, or measuring ROI - so you have to be able to communicate value in ways that are compelling across many different kinds of venues. Web, social networking, snail mail, face-to-face meetings, phone, events, etc. are all communications opportunities at their core.
Number Three: Leadership. It's a rare skill. The ability of senior staff to lead donors, stake holders, community, staff, board, etc. toward goals is the difference between good organizations and average organizations.
4. When you're hiring, is there anything in particular on a resume that makes you pick up the phone to schedule an interview? Is there anything that gets the resume tossed into the circular file post haste?
Misspellings and grammatical errors = doom. If the candidate didn't pay attention to their resume and/or cover letter, he or she won't pay attention to the things the organization needs them to focus on.
I'm most interested in candidates that have a variety of job and life experiences. The person who's been doing the same job forever and just wants to come do it with us is less interesting to me than the person who has a variety of expertise and experiences to bring to the table.
5. What would be your first next step if you were looking for a job in the progressive political world today?
The first thing I would do is pick the area or cause that is most important or relevant to me and/or most in alignment with my skills, be that an organizational area of expertise - Accounting or Web-based fund raising for example - or an issue area. I'd look for people or organizations doing innovative work in that area and get involved, even as a volunteer, to get that experience to bring to my next job. The most exciting change occurs in organizations and communities and from people seeking new and innovative solutions to problems. The government can sometimes implement creative ideas but those ideas almost always originate elsewhere. Government service is an honorable career but I'd rather be on the cutting edge.
Great advice- thanks Jim! 

Tags:  advice  job seeking 

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