Monday, June 9, 2008

From Corporate Raider to Nonprofit Recruiter

At age 50, Scott Kariya left behind a successful career as a headhunter. He was tired of the long hours and short-term satisfaction but soon found that being idle wasn’t the road to happiness, either: “I was good at every job I did except retirement.” After reading about Reserve in the New York Times, he came looking for part-time employment—with a resume printed on recycled paper. He wound up not at another nonprofit but with ReServe’s three full-time program officers doing (what else?) matching human talent to need, though he finds it much more low-key and personally fulfilling.

Like most ReServists he works three half-days a week, which he says is perfect because he wants time to learn to relax, a discipline he is trying to master. He has left behind 70-hour work weeks as a corporate headhunter, but continues his commitment as a certified member of a Red Cross emergency response team and advocates with a group to promote bike riding and mass transit. He recently added a one-man conservation campaign because, he says, he hates waste, which explains why he uses scrap paper for his resume, and why he’s first to switch off unused lights in the office.

Kariya, now 52, is a Japanese-American who grew up in Leonia, NJ, a small town in Bergen County near Fort Lee, and graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics. His grandparents immigrated in the early 1900s. They, along with his parents and other relatives were sent to internment camps during World War II but they harbored no bitterness. In fact, his mother, an octogenarian, still speaks in high schools and takes part in panel discussions about her camp experience. “They recognize,” Kariya says, “that it was an unfortunate time in American history, that it is important to remind people about it so that it does not happen again. But they are willing to say, ‘It’s over.’ ”

Like corporate waste, Kariya doesn’t like to see human potential unrealized and skills not maximized just because they don’t fit the bottom line. “It just galls me to think that there are all these valuable things that people have that are not being used. In the old days people used to ask me, ‘Don’t you feel good about getting people positions?’” But that really wasn’t what mattered to him. Now it is. “These non-profit organizations are so grateful to have highly skilled, experienced people who, quite frankly, they would not be able to afford at regular market rates.” ReServists contribute and the non-profits benefit. To a former corporate headhunter, he says, “That’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

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