Switching Gears

Valerie Cole-Davis, 58

A longtime fund-raiser rethinks her career goals—and her closet.
Valerie's story:
After a tough year petitioning cash-strapped donors, Valerie was laid off from her job with the United Negro College Fund in May. Not one to dwell, she dreams about all the things she still wants to do in life. "I never would have left my job in this market," she says. "But the truth is, I was feeling rut-ish."

What she's looking for:
She hopes to start her own business one day, but until then, Valerie needs a full-time job, since she's helping her 34-year-old son who was diagnosed with a chronic illness last year. She'd like to leave the nonprofit world for corporate philanthropy, where she'd be doling out money rather than asking for it. "I want to be the person you're happy to see," she says, "instead of, 'Hold on to your wallet, here comes Valerie!'" As for her age, Valerie isn't concerned. "I'm youthful in my attitude—I'm very high-energy. Age is just a number."


Career strategy:
With corporate philanthropy hard hit by the economy, Valerie needs to formulate a backup plan, like sales, says Safani. She also advises Valerie to work her fund-raising contacts, even if they're not current. When Valerie expresses trepidation—"I can beg for a charity till the cows come home, but it's hard for me to ask for me!"—Safani reminds her that she's asking for information, not a job. "You're building relationships, learning about the industry, and asking if they can introduce you to other people who might lead you one step closer to a job." Technology makes it easier: "Instead of calling people you haven't talked to in ten years, start with a less-intrusive method, like LinkedIn."

Résumé strategy:
Fletcher trims Valerie's résumé, which currently reads like a laundry list. To divert attention from Valerie's age, which some employers may think will mean she's too expensive, Fletcher removes dates from her education history.

See Valerie's amazing new look


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