Paige Souter. Executive Director. Dress for Success Toronto

Experts in non-profit series: One of our charity crushes is Dress for Success, not only because of their focus on careers but also because of the amazing work they do in our local community. They were our charity of choice for our #givingtuesday pledge back in December and we were fortunate enough to have had the chance to speak with Paige Souter, the Executive Director and the woman leading the charge in Toronto. Her career story demonstrates the benefit of finding meaningful work that aligns with your personal values, making non-stop work days more fulfilling and fun. Meeting professionals like Paige remind us why we created Bmeaningful in the first place. 

Can you describe your job in a nutshell?
I’m the Executive Director of Dress for Success- but I like to think of myself as a bridge builder. Building the bridges our clients need in order to achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves and their families; building the bridges between the charitable work we do and the corporate sector. And building the bridges that ensure we are an integral part to having a positive impact in the greater community.

What’s a typical day like for you?
I’m at work anywhere between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., and it’s nonstop from the time I get in. It’s everything from phone calls to emails, chatting with new people who think they may want to partner with us, supporting the team developing the workshops, recruiting and assisting the clients, working with our sponsors to develop new activations and promotional activities, and then just being a general manager, making sure all of our safety policies are in place and we’re doing all those things we are doing to be good stewards. I’ll head home around 5:30 p.m.  to my other full–time job as mom and wife and go to bed after sneaking in another hour of work.

How did you get your current job?
I was at a place in my career where I needed to make a change. I was tired and burnt out where I was but had no idea what I was going to do next. The former Executive Director at Dress for Success was going on maternity leave and somebody suggested that I apply. I did because I thought it would be a good opportunity that needed my varied skill set and since it was interim it would allow me to see if I wanted a senior level position that is more focused on the mission.

Can you describe your career path?
This is a tough question for me because I wouldn’t say I have a career path per say. I have a BA in Urban Planning and an MA in PoliSci but really I have done a whole bunch of different things and go where “I’m called to go”. I’m really focused on building communities and I go where I can have the most positive impact.

I started my career in the private sector, doing market expansion and community building. After my first two children were born, I decided I was going to go into the charitable sector and help build communities with the set of business skills I’d developed. After I finish building something I move on to something else, waiting to see what shows itself next.

What’s important to me is to make sure there’s authenticity in my career choice and alignment with my personal values.

What advice would you give someone looking to break into the non-profit sector with a business background?
Be prepared for a salary cut. That’s something you have to be conscious of and be willing to live with. The mindset in the non-profit sector is vastly different than in the private sector and it should be because the work is inherently different. But there are still lessons to be learned that are transferable to all different career paths-. When working in the non-profit sector you have to be focused on the mission and be open to learning how the sector works. No matter where you work you have to have fun with it.

What skills do you need to be an effective Executive Director?
You need four things:
i. Patience.
ii. Good financial management skills.
iii. To be a strategist and a tactician- because you need to plan on moving forward while also getting the work done today.
iv. Board management abilities. You need to know how to deal with a Board, and if you don’t have a good Board, get one.

Favourite interview question: What makes you tick?
Best thing about job: The people

Dress for Success is hiring an Office Manager:

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