Lou DiRupo has three words for everyone considering a big career change:
“Follow your heart.”
When the longtime commercial banker joined Cooperative for Human Services as an Individual Support Services (ISS) Manager, the change was both intimidating and invigorating.
“Working in a corporation meant I had to do what I had to do for my family, grind it out at the bank for a long time,” said DiRupo, who worked with several nonprofit organizations in his time as a banker. “I really respected the work that those organizations accomplished, and always had it in the back of my mind that at some point in my life or career I would like to be a part of something like that. It got to the point where the kids grew up and left home. I experienced some health issues, too, and it changed my perspective on things.”
That’s what led him to take a sabbatical from the bank – time that he spent volunteering for several nonprofit organizations, including CHS.
“I started to feel really good about that,” he said. “In working with CHS, I thought that it would be a really good fit. Not only was the mission of the organization great, you could literally see the impact that you make every single day, which is awesome! It is intimidating to walk away from your comfort zone, something you’ve done for 34 years. You know almost everything about the job, then step into an organization where you know literally almost nothing.”
DiRupo quickly learned, however, that certain skills are transferrable between organizations, like management and supervisory skills acquired over the years.
“You won’t know all of the specifics, you have to learn them, but basic skills like delegation, time management, teamwork – all these are transferrable across industries,” he said. “It was also invigorating to learn so much that was new. It’s always exciting to learn new things and it’s definitely a challenge. At the same time, to be out in the field and see the immediate impact of what you do every day, right away, is rewarding.”
The human services sector overall offers a wide array of meaningful career opportunities that have immediate, positive impacts on people’s lives. While many of the positions, like DiRupo’s, provide direct support to individuals with developmental disabilities, there also jobs – such as finance, IT, facilities, maintenance and compliance – that do not.
“With the number of people in the workforce declining, we are actively recruiting people from other industries who love people and want to contribute in a more meaningful way,” said Kevin J. Leahy, CEO. “We encourage managers from sectors such as retail, food service, banking and other service industries, to know that they can leave jobs that are less satisfying and transfer their supervisory skills to the incredibly rewarding work in human services.”
DiRupo has advice for people who are considering a career change, or want to try human services as a volunteer.
“I think people have to just get out of their comfort zone a little bit and really take a perspective on what you think is really important, not only to you but to others around you,” he said. “Don’t be intimidated because you’re stepping out of one industry to the next. Instead, think about the things and skills that you have acquired over your lifetime that would allow you to go into another work situation and succeed.
“What I saw at the bank for so long is people just grinding it out, saying ‘I wish I did this; I wish I took that path.’ It’s never too late! If you’re really unhappy with what you are doing, then why continue? If you never try, you’ll never know what you would really love to do.”
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