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Berkeley-Haas Research on the Rewards, and Costs, of a Cross-Sector Career

Haas School

Two noted researchers from the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business (Berkeley-Haas) recently published a study on the advantages of a cross-sector career.

Paul Jansen and Nora Silver, both professors and members of Berkeley-Haas’ Center for Social Sector Leadership, studied the career paths of over 2,000 executives.

The most successful and respected leaders had experiences that spanned the nonprofit, corporate, and public sectors. They reported not only impressive résumés, but a high degree of satisfaction with their paths. One executive who participated in the study, Alberto Ibargüen, followed what may seem like a circuitous path to achieve his current role(s).  The former publisher of The Miami Herald, Ibargüen was recently appointed as CEO to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

While serving in this position for one of the nation’s largest nonprofits, Ibargüen also serves on the boards of American Airlines and PepsiCo. He says, “I never had a master plan…I built on myself, thinking about what kind of activity this new role would engender, whether it would allow continuous engagement with the community, and whether it is an organization I might want to lead someday…[my network] helped to create a flow of very interesting opportunities.”

This level of cross-sector achievement, the authors were careful to note, does not come without a price. Leaders reported a large amount of sacrifice and a dearth of time as downsides to their success. Acknowledging the clear reality of the modern economy, Nora Silver said,”To have a great career you sometimes need to get out of your comfort zone and tap into the opportunities you only ever see by having a diverse network… There is no longer a stable career marketplace.”

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About the Author


Maggie Boccella

Maggie Boccella, a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, is a freelance writer, artist and photographer. She has consulted on various film and multimedia projects, and she also serves as a juror for the city's annual LGBTQIA Film Festival.

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