Hired! A Teaching Moment, an Ideal Job

Renea Morris, a PR director, waited for the right opportunity to make a difference.

artInterviewingWhen Renea Morris saw the job listing for an executive director of communications and marketing at Ohio University, she knew it was the job she wanted.

“That job started to speak to me; it was exactly what I wanted to do in terms of level of responsibility, and what they were looking for fit my background,” she said. “I thought it was a match made in heaven.”

She threw her name into the pool and received a call from the recruiter. “After that conversation, I said, ‘This is where I need to be.’ I didn’t apply for another job.”

Morris, 44, began her job search after coming to the realization that it was time to start thinking about what to do with “the second half of her life.”

This was not the first time the public-relations professional (who most recently had held the position of director of PR at Convergys, a human resources and customer relationship-management consultancy in Cincinnati,) had thought about the next step in her career. A few years ago she started a job search, using MktgLadder and other job sites to look for a new position.

“I realized I wasn’t ready,” she said. “I hadn’t quite honed in on why I was looking for a job. Sometimes you have a bad day, and that turns into a knee-jerk reaction.”

Morris thought about all her work experience and realized that it was her work at a non-profit organization in Los Angeles, as manager of corporate communications for the Youth Job Awareness Project that had left a lasting impression on her.

“The experience in that non-profit, which allowed me to try to save the world, taught me something about myself: I’m mission-minded, and I do like having a cause that I’m passionate about.”

Morris’s experience working with inner-city high school and college students in Los Angeles prepared her for the working world and she considered it “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” but she left when her husband was offered a job in Cincinnati.

“Life happens,” she said. “We had two little ones, and Cincinnati is a great place to raise a family.”

Once they landed there, she took a job with Cincinnati Bell that led to the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new company called Convergys, which was spun off from Cincinnati Bell. In her 13 years at Convergys Morris worked her way up to director in the marketing and communications department, handling media relations, crisis communication and internal communications for 75,000 employees. She enjoyed the job, but there was still that little voice telling her that there was something more she could do.

Morris’s two oldest children were now in college and two younger children in high school. It was a good time to return to “mission-minded” work. After the false-start job search a few years ago, “I did a few things differently,” she said. First, she made an investment in the job search.

Getting up to speed

“I got my accreditation in public relations (from the Public Relations Society of America ), so I could brand myself, so I could get ready to go out there and see what I could do,” said Morris. “I got my resume together, and did all those normal things like posting them on several boards, including MktgLadder. My husband looked at my resume and said I should rethink it. So I used MktgLadder’s service. The questions the person at Ladders asked me helped to make it shine. It really did tell a story in a way that I thought, ‘Wow, this is going to get the attention of someone for a higher-level position.’ ”

Once she got the attention of Ohio University, she strategized. Going after one job single-mindedly was a risk, but Morris had a secret weapon: her husband, who acted as her job coach.

“I had never been involved in an opportunity with a higher education executive search,” she said. “He put me through what questions to be prepared to answer and what to ask. Also, because Ohio University is a public institution, this wasn’t a completely confidential search. I could see who I was competing against at various stages of the interviews. Working with him, I was able to pull together a strategy for how I would approach the interviews.”

Morris says her husband, who works in sales and has helped friends with job searches in the past, treated her like any other person who would come to him for help. “If I wasn’t doing something in the best way, he would tell me.”

The recruiter called her in October; by the end of December, she had accepted the position, overseeing a staff of about 25 and reporting directly to University president Roderick McDavis. She’ll start in early February.

And in joining the staff of Ohio University, Morris will close the circle she started many years ago in Los Angeles. “The implications of what I can achieve at Ohio University are far reaching,” she said. “My position affords me the opportunity to bring the world to Ohio University, whether through its students, faculty, academic or research programs, and leave a legacy full of promise for future generations.

“I didn’t go into this with stars in my eyes,” she continued. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done; a lot of challenges ahead. But oh, what a great opportunity.”