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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

How a Career Coach Helped Me Go From Working in Nonprofits to a Job at a Cruise Line

Nicole Mesko
Nicole Mesko

Two daunting words: changing careers. Some of us want to do it but don’t know how, others wish we could but can’t seem to convince ourselves to take the leap.

So when we hear a career change success story at The Muse, it truly warms our hearts. Because even though their story might not be your story, it’s proof that anything’s possible with a little bit of help and hard work.

Nicole Mesko has one of those stories. She’d been working for nonprofits in the arts world for years and was ready for something new. We talked with Mesko about how she reworked her LinkedIn and resume and landed a job she loves with the help of The Muse Coach Connect.

How did you hear about The Muse Coach Connect?

I’m a Muse reader, and had seen the section of the website related to coaching and toyed with the idea of giving it a try. I spent the past six years in the nonprofit industry working with museums and arts organizations, and decided to pull the trigger and enlist the help of a coach when I began searching for a job in the for-profit world a few months ago.

Who did you meet with, and what program did you choose?

My coach was Theresa Merrill, and I chose the Resume + LinkedIn Review package.

Why did you sign up for a coaching session?

I signed up because I was in a bit of a rut with my job search. I thought enlisting the expertise of a coach could be helpful in providing me with a new and different perspective as well as an understanding of how to best approach the job search process and tailor my resume accordingly to get the results I was seeking. As someone who was looking to switch industries, I also felt the knowledge and experience of a coach would be beneficial in helping me best highlight my transferable strengths.

How did you feel going into your coaching session?

I was excited and curious. As soon as I got the confirmation email after signing up for the session, I received a message from Theresa asking me to complete a brief assessment with career-related questions. She also had me read one of her helpful articles related to personal branding, watch a great TED Talk with Simon Sinek, and with those items as a basis, start to come up with several elevator speeches for my LinkedIn profile.

It’s really an understatement to call what I had with Theresa just a “session.” We had several phone calls as we went through the process of retooling my resume and LinkedIn profile. She really pushed me to think about how I wanted to position and brand myself and how to say the important things in a succinct manner. It was actually tough work! Theresa really coached me along the way and taught me a lot. She always made herself available and was an invaluable resource.

What was the most meaningful thing you got out of your career coaching?

Theresa is the maven of LinkedIn optimization and branding. I learned loads from her about how to structure my LinkedIn profile, what keywords to use, and how to utilize the platform most effectively. I would say that the most meaningful thing I learned from her were useful tips on how to continue to improve my networking skills. You need to be out there talking and connecting with people—that’s the best way to get your foot in the door.

What was your favorite part of your career coaching?

Definitely the attention and detail that Theresa put into everything she helped me with. I felt like every touch point with her was structured, productive, and moved the needle in terms of the material we were working on.

How did you feel afterward?

I felt equipped—with a retooled resume and LinkedIn profile and some networking tips—to continue to hit the pavement with some new and improved assets and a bit more confidence!

What happened next?

I took the advice I got from Theresa about leveraging the power of LinkedIn and ran with it. I had some great companies in mind that I knew I would love to work for, and through a connection of a connection of a connection (something like that) I saw a post from an in-house recruiter at Royal Caribbean Cruises indicating that they were looking to fill positions in early 2019, so I reached out and sent my information. It all played out from there.

What’s your job now, and what does your day-to-day work look like?

I’m a program associate for Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD., working in the newbuild and innovation department. My specific team provides project management support for fleet modernization efforts that revitalize our current ships. I’ve only been with the company for a month, so I’m still learning the ropes, but currently a day in the life involves working on several strategic, portfolio-level initiatives, assembling status reports on all current projects, and working with project teams to ensure tasks are moving forward and project benchmarks are being met.

What do you like most about your current company?

I admire Royal Caribbean Cruises and love being a part of the company because I truly believe we are continuously innovating and pushing the boundaries of what is possible with product, technology, and building innovations. Our focus on providing an elevated customer experience is at the heart of what we do, and this commitment is evident across our brands. I believe all these aspects combined are what truly make us a leader in the industry.

What’s your go-to activity for a work break?

Our offices are located at the Port of Miami and have beautiful views of downtown. It’s always bustling here, and most days I can see cruise ships out our office window. There’s nothing quite like driving over the bridge to get to work and seeing these massive, fantastic ships. When I need to step away during the day, I love sitting at the lunch tables outside our office buildings and looking out at the bay. On a sunny day it’s a great way to decompress and relax for a brief moment.

Is this the kind of job you thought you would be doing several years ago?

Not necessarily—but in a way it all kind of makes sense when I consider the things I’ve developed an interest in and the direction I’ve been moving in the past few years. During my time in nonprofit administration, I was involved in setting up systems, processes, and reporting to help teams operate more efficiently, and helped steer a number of projects from inception to completion. I found I really enjoyed these aspects of project management, particularly the opportunity to think strategically about project plans, work with different stakeholders to move a project along, and find ways to operate more efficiently and effectively.

How long was your job search, and how did you destress during it?

My job search lasted about five or six months from the time I really started looking in earnest. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated at the lack of results, when you’ve been looking for a while.

I think the best way to destress is to be good at planning and compartmentalizing your time. Set aside a certain amount of time daily or weekly for the effort, and then put it aside and dedicate time to other interests and hobbies. Make sure it doesn’t consume you.

What advice do you have for someone who’s stuck in a tough job search?

Don’t give up! I know it’s easier said than done (trust me, I’ve been there), but remaining positive and not seeing rejection as a setback, but instead as another step closer to your next opportunity, will help you keep a level head and not get discouraged.

Surround yourself with friends, family, and colleagues who believe in you and will support you, give you advice, and perhaps offer suggestions and a new perspective.

Talk to employees at companies you’d like to work for, professionals in jobs that interest you, and individuals in industries you’re seeking out. Every conversation with someone can be valuable and teach you something new, and you never know what doors it might open.

And don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask. Harness the incredible power of networking.

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