At Wheaton College in Massachusetts, Hope Ogletree was a true liberal arts student: she began as a music major and left with a degree in American Studies. She learned a lot about many interesting subjects, but her biggest take-away could not be found in textbook pages. Hope says that the college gave her lifelong confidence that with hard work and good humor she could deftly tackle just about any personal or professional challenge that would come her way.
Hope’s liberal arts background fostered an open mind and the conviction that she had to keep busy–but not necessarily on a predictable path. Several decades of volunteer and paid work unfolded—some very interesting, some more mundane—but all carefully chosen and scheduled around the needs of her family. There was work as an assistant portfolio manager, management of a small philharmonic, residential real estate, home décor sales at JC Penney, a Mary Kay entrepreneurial venture and local newspaper advertising sales.
There was also a 15-year workforce hiatus when Hope ran many major volunteer initiatives in her Fairfield, Connecticut home town—including a 26-committee team she managed toward the reopening of a long dormant middle school. Always true to her alma mater, she also gave Wheaton 25 years of ardent volunteer fundraising service.
And, wedged into one chapter of her life were, in Hope’s words, two very productive years at Yale Divinity School, when she thought the ministry was her calling. Though she never completed the degree, she credits the program for listening and relationship-building skills she uses every day.
When Hope’s children were in high school, she was ready to take on significant full-time paid work. With some trepidation, she brought her colorful resume mosaic to a career coach. Though Hope felt she had accomplished quite a lot since her college graduation, she had trouble pulling all her diverse experience together into one cohesive resume. She worried that her resume would appear scattered and random—and perhaps not as impressive as others chock full of big name corporate posts.
Like many women who want to start a substantial career when they are long beyond their 20s, Hope was also not quite sure which kind of job would capitalize on her multi-industry experience. She went to the career coach knowing she had sales skills, but hadn’t yet connected all the dots to see that some aspect of sales played a large part in most paid and unpaid jobs she had held.
Not only did the coaching sessions zero in on sales skills, they also prompted Hope to focus on her actual sales achievements—or the “metrics” she would need for her resume. In all of her sales jobs she had exceeded targets, even earning the big car and jewelry bonuses from Mary Kay.
Looking back, Hope says there was a bit of a spiritual element to the coaching sessions as well. It was a time when she accepted her resume mosaic, knowing that she chose work opportunities that offered flexibility—not necessarily prestige.
Armed with the decision that she was again headed in a sales direction, Hope pursued her passion for education. She then found yet another way to use her sales skills—in academic fund-raising. She was just promoted to Assistant Director, Major Gifts at Fairfield University, and she has used all her prospecting, relationship building and closing skills—as well as her ministry experience–listening to the life stories of potential donors and finding compelling ties with university initiatives.
In difficult economic times, Hope has raised at least $4 million for the university. Her success has roots in all her jobs and her longtime ability to find many different ways to lead, uncover the needs of a wide variety of people and, of course, sell.
Drawing from her ministry education, Hope advises women to do “personal work” before they return to professional work.
“Discover, understand, develop and embrace the unique gifts and talents that are central themes in your life and work story. All that internal work helps you find your authentic self and your true passions. It’s also what will bring you happiness and contentment because you’ll know you’ve built a solid foundation and found the right place.” —KAS
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