Why Learning How to Tell Your Story Can Help You Align Your Purpose and Your Paycheck

Over the last year of remote work, Zoom school, and simply trying to stay healthy, many of us have been wondering about our careers, and about whether our current job allows us to be the best version of ourselves – for ourselves, for our families, and for our communities.  Some of us have lost the jobs and titles that seemed to define us and are reflecting on career issues as a matter of necessity.  But the solitude and isolation that we all experienced has brought up, even for many whose careers seemingly remain on track, questions like “What is my purpose?” and “Could I earn a paycheck in a way that enables me to fulfill that purpose?”

I have been in the position of asking similar questions at various stages of my life.  In my first job after undergrad, as a Marketing Specialist at Digital Equipment Corporation, I saw colleagues with 20+ years of experience caught up in a mass layoff through no fault of their own.  Several years later, the apparently solid and stable consulting firm that employed me was completely shuttered owing to its association with a major corporate scandal.  During the 2009 economic downturn, my own consulting business abruptly lost 60 percent of its client base.  Most recently, I found myself pondering these questions when I came to realize that my purpose had evolved beyond the executive role that I had held for four years with a particular nonprofit organization.

At each of those turning points, I took stock of my situation – seeking inspiration from a favorite author, guidance from a mentor, enrolling in a seminar, or working with a coach – and spent some time assessing my strengths and weaknesses, where I wanted to go and how I might get there.  I also thought through how to re-position myself for my desired career move: by refreshing my resume and LinkedIn profile, of course, but also by generating content to support my new positioning, by seeking out speaking opportunities to build visibility in the new conversations that I wanted to participate in, and by re-sharing older material that I had written or in which I had been quoted.

The last time I began such a process was in 2018.  At that time, I observed that many people had been seeking me out for career guidance and for assistance with their LinkedIn profiles and with matters related to their careers, businesses, or organizations.  Looking through the content that I had created over many years, I realized that everything I had done throughout my career – from working as a Marketing Specialist in the information technology industry to teaching nonprofit leaders about Digital Storytelling at New York University – had always been about helping others to tell their stories for maximum effect.  That realization led me to form two new businesses.  Through the first of these entities, called Liz Ngonzi Transforms, I work with leaders looking to clarify their purpose, develop their story and communicate it effectively to stakeholders such as clients, partners, investors and potential employers.  Through the second, called The International Social Impact Institute, I assemble teams of trusted collaborators to deliver training, consulting services and events that are meant to amplify the voices and impact of purpose-driven leaders from historically marginalized communities – enabling them to clarify, develop and share their stories with stakeholders such as prospective funders, partners, and employees.

I would like to inspire you to undertake a similar process of clarifying, developing and sharing your story with the goal of aligning your purpose and your paycheck.

Find out more here.

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Mother’s Day Tribute: Avoid “Dream Killers”

10 years ago, I wrote a piece for Leading-Women.com (as part of its Personal Heros series), honoring my mom, Hilda Rwabazaire Paqui, an amazing Ugandan-born global citizen, who has been a mother, mentor, inspiration and advocate for many, during her lifetime.

I wrote the piece to share her story, because of how she is the embodiment of the African Woman of Distinction whom people seldom hear about and from whose wisdom many can potentially benefit. While the piece was written ten years ago, the timeless wisdom still applies and could be helpful to those who are seeking to improve their engagement with their stakeholders (e.g., clients, customers, students, employees), understand their purpose, and thereby increase their impact.

How to Align Your Purpose and Paycheck to Build a Career with Social Impact in 2021 and Beyond

As we close out what has been a challenging and in many respects, an eye-opening year, you may be wondering about how to align your desire to make a difference in our world, with your need to earn a living in 2021 and beyond.

Last week, I had the honor of speaking on the Cornell University alumni panel, Purpose and Paychecks: Building a Career with Social Impact on how to align one’s purpose and one’s paycheck with Lauren Braun, MScPH (founder of Alma Sana Inc.) and Dan Schiff (Assistant Director of Institutional Development at Martha’s Table), and moderated by Mike Bishop (Director for Student Leadership in the Cornell University Office of Engagement Services).

This Cornell Alumni News article, Finding Your North Star: Aligning Your Purpose and Your Paycheck, highlights what we shared about our individual journeys, as well as resources we provided to the 175 webinar attendees.

Below are quotes from each of us (also included in the article) that might be helpful as you think about your own journey:

  • My advice on the importance of proactively sharing your story – a key element of your personal brand that helps to facilitate your career pivots, “By not sharing your story with others, you’re actually depriving those who could potentially be inspired by, partner with, or hire you, of the opportunity to learn about what you uniquely bring into this world. The failure to share your accomplishments, though it may be inspired by humility, is actually an act of selfishness.”
  • Dan Schiff on how to pivot into a social sector career: “Find a way to volunteer, write a blog, or do whatever enables you to tell a new story about yourself that allows you to pivot”.
  • Lauren Braun’s advice for those considering a career pivot, “Don’t be afraid to challenge what you think you wanted and what you think it says about you and your values. We want and need different things at different stages of our lives. It’s ok to change your mind—that’s how we evolve.”

As I also shared on the panel, one does not necessarily have to leave a corporate job to create social impact. Here are two of my presentation slides providing the spectrum of organizations and funders that provide opportunities to do so.

Finally, in this eCornell Keynote presentation, Your Personal Brand: Leveraging Your Unique Knowledge and Experience that I recorded earlier this year (LINK), I provide strategies and tactics to help you think through how to develop your own impact-driven journey, as well as develop your personal brand.

Finding Your North Star: Aligning Your Purpose and Your Paycheck

Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi MMH ’98 is founder and CEO of The International Social Impact Institute™, which is currently developing training programs and events to help non-governmental organizations in under-resourced communities in the U.S. and around the world rebound from the pandemic.

“Now is the right time for all of us to get involved and engaged,” she says. “What’s seemingly impossible is possible if you focus on what you want to do and why you’re doing it. You are able to create a lot of change.”

“You don’t necessarily need to leave your corporate job to have a social impact,” Liz says. “There is a spectrum of organizations you can get involved with.” She notes that these include existing non-profits, such as Cornell University, for-profit corporations with a social impact mission, such as Patagonia, and funders, such as foundations and venture philanthropy organizations.

How This iSchool Alum Uses Digital Skills For Social Impact

If there’s anything you should know about Liz Ngonzi (’92), it’s that she’s bold, she’s courageous, and she’s devoted her life to strengthening the social impact ecosystem around the globe.

But her path to a career as a social entrepreneur, educator, and international speaker didn’t take the direction you might expect.

It’s true that Liz has always been a bit of an entrepreneur. By the time she was 14 years old, she had created a babysitting service and scaled to at least six different client families. It was a “baby empire,” as she describes it.

When she came to Syracuse University in 1988, however, she didn’t major in business. Instead, she started out in visual and performing arts. About mid-way through her freshman year, a mentor introduced her to the iSchool. She was hooked and decided to transfer in the following semester.

“I barely knew how to type!” Liz said, “[But] I loved the fact that you could solve problems with technology and information.”

In 1992, the year Liz graduated, the country was in the midst of a recession. While many of her peers took jobs waiting tables just to get by, she graduated with five job offers in hand. She started receiving some of them as early as the fall of her senior year and credits the real-world skills learned in her major with making her stand out in a struggling economy.

Liz ended up taking a job in marketing with Digital Equipment Corporation, the legendary computer company founded by Ken Olson and Harlan Anderson. They had recruited her as one of 16 people nationwide for their exclusive Marketing Development Program, a rotational program which exposed her to areas such as aerospace marketing, corporate communications and sales. Following that, she worked in B2B sales for MICROS Systems Inc., the leading provider of hospitality Point of Sales Systems in the world, where she learned about the hospitality industry through her clients, ranging from independent restaurants to amusement parks.

Program Empowers Aspiring Black Entrepreneurs

Startup founders who are black receive less than 1% of venture capital funding annually, according to research from Crunchbase, Kauffman Institute and CB Insights.

Cornell’s Black Entrepreneurs in Training (BET) – founded in the spring of 2018 as a student club to inspire and inform black student entrepreneurs – is aiming to change that through the establishment of workshops, guest speakers and entrepreneurial mentorship.

BET, which runs from October to April, aims to increase the participation of students of color in Cornell’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and generate an active and visible group of black alumni who’ve founded successful companies. Each fall, the program accepts students of color who are passionate about entrepreneurship, and offers networking events and workshops.

“Connecting our BET participants with successful alumni is an invaluable learning experience, and enables them to envision their future as startup leaders,” BET co-founder Jehron Petty ’20 said.

Petty – with co-founders Ansumana Bangura ’20 and Julia Reeves ’20 – reached out to Andrea Ippolito ’06, M.Eng. ’07, lecturer in Cornell’s Engineering Management Program and program director of W.E. Cornell to establish a partnership with the Center for Regional Economic Advancement, which would allow the program to grow after the founders graduate.

Teaching Why Storytelling, “Tribes”​ and Diversification Are Critical to Entrepreneurs!

I had the honor of returning to my alma mater, Cornell University, to address and advise the first official cohort of Cornell Black Entrepreneurs in Training. This was one of several events planned by the organizers to “stimulate creative ideation and problem solving,” as part of a program whose ultimate vision includes preparing black entrepreneurs to found startups focused on some of “today’s most pertinent problems.”

I was there to teach the participants about self-awareness, finding purpose and founder-opportunity fit, defining and developing one’s story, finding one’s “tribe”, and navigating the business (nonprofit to for-profit) and funding (donations to equity investments) model spectrum and the plethora of programs (e.g. incubators, accelerators and fellowships) through which one might develop a new venture.

The members range from undergrads to professional and graduate students, and the majority are studying engineering, with a few in business and science majors.

What became evident to me after spending time with these extraordinary students — both while leading the workshop and while meeting with them one on one during office hours — is that we all need the occasional reminder of our own greatness and a framework for sharing our visions and stories in a manner that honors our unique gifts and identities.

They are working on some awesome venture ideas that address real gaps in the market.

I can’t wait to see what’s to come next semester when they begin working on their Minimum Viable Products (#MVP).

No matter which professions the cohort participants ultimately choose, having an entrepreneurial mindset and approach to problem solving is critical to achieving success in any area. And even if they do not choose to pursue their startup ventures on a full-time basis, the participants might reasonably continue working on those ventures as supplementary/alternative revenue sources. As I’ve learned repeatedly over the years from various contributors to Black Enterprise Magazine, it is wise to lay the groundwork for a diversity of revenue streams, including at least one “side-hustle” that can be developed into its own full-time business.

Learn more about Cornell Black Entrepreneurs in Training: https://crea.cornell.edu/project/black-entrepreneurs-in-training/

How To Find A Job In Africa

Names listed in order of appearance:

40 0ver 40: Liz Ngonzi Uses her Super Powers to Solve the World’s Problems

Elizabeth Ngonzi has superpowers. She can listen to others and recall even the smallest details. This allows her to be an idea making machine, a force to be reckoned with in the nonprofit industry. She is  the CEO of the North American operations of Afrika Tikkun, a nonprofit that serves underprivileged communities in South Africa. Her work through Afrika Tikkun has revolutionized solutions to the problems that plague the world.

GIBS Business School Interview in South Africa: Elizabeth Ngonzi , CEO of Afrika Tikkun USA

Elizabeth Ngonzi is the CEO of Afrika Tikkun USA, the US affiliate of Afrika Tikkun, a South African NGO which assists more than 19,000 of today’s disadvantaged youth. Here she advises other NGO’s on how to raise funding and meet their strategic goals.

University of Limpopo South Africa Announcement: Brand Management Strategies with USA Businesswoman: Elizabeth Ngonzi

The University of Limpopo R40 Conference Hall was packed with students who were eager to learn about strategies of becoming successful entrepreneurs from an international renowned business woman, Elizabeth Ngonzi -Chair of an International NGO Africa Tikkun USA. Her visit is part of the IIP program run by United States of America Embassy in South Africa.

By the end of her presentation, students were able to:

  • Understand of what makes a brand;
  • Grasp how digital footprints shape virtual brands;
  • Tips to manage  virtual brand;
  • Examples of how to curate the virtual brand  needed to successfully pursue  goals; and
  • Means to measure  virtual brand reach.

According to Elizabeth, Social Media platforms are the best tools to use, especially when you are just starting to promote your brand. Touching on the element of a brand, she quoted Maya Angelou when she said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” In a nutshell, be careful how you position your corporate identity – brand reputation.

In this regard, students were encouraged to build a strong virtual brand that will create  positive digital footprints.  If one is to post any violating information, images and videos online; that could have a negative impact and could ruin their reputation in the future. Nowadays people, organizations or companies use online searches to verify your information and learn more about you.

Elizabeth was born in Uganda and raised in the United Nation. She is an inspirational speaker, entrepreneur and an education activist. Her organization focuses mostly on developing disadvantaged youth in the fields of TRADE and Innovation, Entrepreneurship etc.

Newsroom: African Women’s Leadership Summit

It is the 21st century and most countries allow freedom and opportunity for all races and sexes to achieve any goal they set out for themselves. We see this as women have taken up senior roles within large corporations. But we still have a long way to go, And one Summit that has shed some light on How we can IS: the African Women’s Leadership Summit that took place in Kenya.

Joining us in studio today is international speaker, Elizabeth Ngonzi, who spoke at the summit. Ngonzi is also the CEO of a non-profit organization Afrika Tikkun USA. This organization invests in the development of disadvantaged children from early infancy through young adulthood and into the world of work.

South Africa – Invitation to Roundtable Discussion on Women and Business/Entrepreneurship

We would like to invite you to a Roundtable Discussion on: Women and Business /Entrepreneurship and Advocacy Challenge on fewer women leadership roles.

The discussion will include various women entrepreneurs and part of the panel will be Elizabeth Ngonzi, the CEO of Afrika Tikkun USA which is the US affiliate of local NGO Afrika Tikkun, which has been going strong for 20 years.

Ngonzi is in the country to meet with various stakeholders both in the public and private sector.

She will be part of the panel discussing how despite the growing number of initiatives and resources made available to develop women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries, women still own and manage fewer businesses than men, they earn less money with their businesses that grow slower, are more likely to fail and women tend to be more necessity entrepreneurs.

Some of the questions she will be assisting in answering is:

1. What are best practices and instruments of private sector development programs that are effective for women entrepreneurs globally that can be adopted with our context.

2. What works in terms of collaboration and market-driven practices for women’s entrepreneurship promotion?

3. How do we measure women empowerment impact, and what is the return on investment in women entrepreneurs?

4. How can entrepreneurial ecosystems support startup, growth, and sustainability of women’s entrepreneurship?

#WhenIWas15 Estée Lauder Inspired Me to Become an Entrepreneur!

#WhenIWas15 I loved to read and according to several journals from high school that I recently found, I particularly loved autobiographies, despite apparently not being very keen on the literature assigned to me by my English teacher. I still love autobiographies to this day, but until I found the journal, I had forgotten what an impact Estée Lauder’s story had on me. I now remember reading her eponymous book about her journey to become a successful business woman, at the helm of an international beauty empire. Interestingly I have moved several times since I first read her book at the time of its publishing (more than a couple of decades ago) and have since gone through many purges…yet I have kept Estée’s book (although I could probably have done a better job with preserving its cover).

For those of you unable to read my 15-year-old handwriting in the image above, below is what I wrote:

” The most enjoyable and thought provoking book which I have read this year is an autobiography by Estée Lauder (Estée, A Success Story). Her story is that of a self-made make-up mogul in a male dominated industry. In reading her story she became my idol and a symbol of what hard work, perseverance, and innovative ideas can achieve. This story was so significant because it was directed towards a reader such as myself who is interested in becoming an entrepreneur. Mrs. Lauder describes every step she [took] to reach her success. I was able to identify with her [pursuit] of perfection which is indeed a quality that one must possess to reach premium achievements.”

Incidentally, it was around that time that I began my first venture– a babysitting service with about six or so families, which included a steady client whose son I babysat several days (cash flow management) after school and various clients who booked me on Friday or Saturday nights at a premium (demand-based pricing).

I have since been involved in a few ventures including selling Mary Kay Cosmetics on the weekends to help me gain sales experience and supplement my first job out of undergrad, as a tech marketer. After working in Corporate America for about a decade, I founded a consulting firm which I ran for 12 years and as a social entrepreneur, most recently led the re-boot of the North American representative of a South African NGO. Beyond that I’ve also had the privilege of guiding and teaching budding entrepreneurs as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at my alma mater, Cornell University, where I had the honor of mentoring Karim Abouelnaga— the founder of Practice Makes Perfect (“an evidence-based, full-service summer school operator for K-8 schools”)– who even as a university junior demonstrated a tremendous amount of potential as an innovative social entrepreneur.

My entrepreneurial journey continues as I embark upon its next leg inspired by Estée and other great entrepreneurs, more experienced, wiser, and with a continued commitment to innovation, impact perseverance and hard work!

Cornell University Dyson School Event Announcement:

As a part of our Spring 2015 Africa Week celebrations, the Coalition of Pan-African Scholars welcomes you to Afropreneurship, a discussion about developing enterprises in various African countries. The event will highlight presentations from current Cornell students and will feature Elizabeth Ngonzi, MMH ’98, the CEO of Afrika Tikkun USA. Included in the event will be a question and answer session with Ms. Ngonzi and an entrepreneurial brainstorming session. This is a Dyson Women in Leadership sponsored event.

International Fundraising Congress (Netherlands) Workshop Presenter Annoucenement

Inspire. Connect. Transform. This year’s IFC programme is themed around creating inspiring connections between fundraisers, and between fundraisers and donors. It reflects the increasingly interconnected world we live in  culturally, politically and technologically. The IFC takes place from 14-17 October 2014 and brings together over 1000 delegates from 60 countries, providing them with the opportunity to network with, and learn from the brightest fundraising minds on the planet.

Featuring over 100 sessions of plenaries, workshops, masterclasses and networking events, the IFC 2014 provides opportunities for learning new fundraising skills and improving leadership skills as well as interacting with international speakers such as Bernard Ross, Liz Ngonzi and Phil Woollam.

Delegates that register before midnight UK time (GMT) on Thursday, 15 May 2014 will receive an early bird discount of £60. Visit resource-alliance.org/ifc to find out more and register today!