This season of The Defectors is sponsored by The Defector Academy Suite, a series of coaching activities designed to help you discern your path. If you’re even thinking about a life beyond campus, explore the trio of options available to you to work through these thoughts and ideas with me as your co-pilot! Don’t want in, but still love the series?Consider donating to keep it going!

wooden post fence, surrounded by flowering trees, with "The Defectors: Women at Work" overlaid in white text

Today’s Defector Woman at Work is Laura DeVeau. As the founding principal of Fortify Associates, Laura is another former campus-based professional who elected to go out on her own. But her path to the experience is different from most others, and so I wanted to share it with you all- and I’m pleased she agreed to participate.

When I talk to people who are curious about defecting, one fear they voice is leaving the security of a full-time role. And while we know it intellectually, those roles are not always as secure as they seem. Departments can be downsized. Roles can be eliminated. And in rare cases, an entire institution can go away. Laura’s story is one of taking that traumatic experience (and yes, these things can be traumatic) and finding a new way to, as she borrows from one of her – and my, come to find out! – favorite books The Cider House Rules, “be of use.” I think you’ll enjoy her story- and the counsel she shares along the way.

(Captions available; Get a transcript of our conversation here)

Laura has so much wisdom to share; she offers her contact information at the conclusion, and I highly recommend you take it! Reach out to her via email, or connect on LinkedIn.

Takeaways from Laura D.’s Journey

  • Roles on campus can be a deterrent to making big leaps because they feel safe. But they’re not as secure as they might seem. If your job, your department, or your institution were to disappear tomorrow…what would you do? It’s more than okay to not have the answer just yet, but it’s always worthwhile to think about.
  • Change feels scary in the moment that we make it. And frankly, that feeling is often correct. But that doesn’t make it wrong. Making a move somewhere new, be it to a new functional area or to a new physical area, might feel daunting. But it could be the key to finding new opportunities.
  • Wherever you are, whatever you do, make yourself a part of the community around you. Meet people off campus and outside your work ecosystem. Create new circles of friends. Volunteer (a tip that Laura shares explicitly that I wholeheartedly second). These communities not only fortify – pun recognized – you personally, but they can come to professionally fortify you when you least expect it.
  • Laura lives by a quote from John Irving’s The Cider House Rules: “be of use.” As you ponder and eventually execute a pivot, this is an excellent guiding principle. Where do you feel you can be of use? As you showcase the skills, abilities and experience, how can you do so in a way that clearly demonstrates you can be of use? These answers, and this perspective, can change everything as you put yourself forward for new opportunities.