Alumni

Keeping and Utilizing the Fellowship Network

We’ve all heard about how invaluable our network is and how nobody finds a job without LinkedIn these days. And, in some ways, staying in touch is far easier for our generation than those who came before us. But how many of your Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections would you feel comfortable calling up on a whim? Or asking if you could come take their portrait like this artist did? Luckily, we all have some sort of network we’ve built that we do feel comfortable reaching out to, and that’s a good place to start. There are certainly innumerable resources out there about how to best build and foster your network, but I’m hoping to share a few quick things I’ve learned in the time since completing my FAO Fellowship.

CONNECT WITH INTERESTS

If you feel comfortable enough to reach out to someone via email or the phone, chances are you also know something about their interests. One of the best go-to ways to stay connected with someone or to start an email that contains an ask is to include something you’ve heard or seen lately that you think they would be interested in. Just listened to a podcast about an organization like theirs? Read a news article that was about their hometown? Share a link and let them know you were thinking of them. (Quick tip: make sure this isn’t about their sector being a total scam or their hometown mayor laundering money… positive is always better).

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK…

It’s cliché for a reason: the worst someone can do is say no (or, more likely, not respond to your email). The important thing is to be clear about what you’re asking for and try to ask for something that won’t be a huge inconvenience. If you’re reaching out to try to further your career or ask for help, you should be the one doing most of the work. If you’re hoping to meet up, pick a location convenient for them and offer specific times. If you’re interested in their field of work and you’ve already heard all about their job, search LinkedIn for someone they know in a position you would be interested in and ask for an email introduction. Better yet, offer to send a paragraph for them to include in an email introduction. I won’t go into it here, but Vu Le has some great advice for you once you’ve secured that coffee date. Also, be sure to say thank you to both the person you met with and the person who arranged it. They’ll be happy to know you followed through and connected with someone in their network.

EVEN WHEN IT’S BEEN AWHILE

One of my personal struggles is staying in regular contact with those in my network. I try to follow great tips like using holidays as an excuse to reach out and being intentional about refreshing my network, but I never do it as often as I should. A couple experiences over the past few years, however, have taught me that shouldn’t stop you from reaching out when an opportunity presents itself. If there’s a job posting at an organization where someone in your network used to work or you’re thinking about transitioning to a new field where an old fellowship connection has experience, it’s worth reaching out even if you haven’t stayed in touch. And if you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to be up front about how long it’s been and give a reminder of how you know one another. Chances are, they will be able and willing to help if you approach with a manageable ask. Even if they aren’t, this can serve as a great touch point. Take the opportunity to reconnect and catch up.

Overall, I’ve learned in recent years not to think of my network as something separate from the rest of my life. The people I completed my FAO Fellowship with, the Executive Directors I met on retreats, the fellowship Trustees I met at dinner, they are all people I have something in common with. They serve as resources for me, just as I can be a resource to them. And if I ever get too hesitant about reaching out, I think about whether what I’m asking for is something I’d be willing to do if the situation were reversed. Staying connected with your network, both personally and professionally, will be beneficial to your career and to your life. The best time to start is now.

Dawn casual head shotDawn Lavallee is a 2018 MBA Candidate in the Public and Nonprofit MBA program at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. During her fellowship, Dawn worked at Playworks New England developing Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum and helping young Playworks Junior Coaches to make a successful transition to middle school. When she’s not doing classwork, she can be found running, hiking, crafting, or volunteering with local nonprofits.

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New year, same game: Staying on with Strong Women, Strong Girls

When people ask me how my “new job” with Strong Women, Strong Girls is going, I tell them that almost nothing has changed! I was the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow for 2014-2016 at Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) in Boston, and officially ended my fellowship in June 2016. The previous fall, conversations with my supervisors began about what it would be like for me to stay on in a long-term staff role following the end of my fellowship. Eventually, things became official, and in June, I became a Program Manager with SWSG. In this role, I continue with the same responsibilities that I had during the second year of my fellowship: Managing partnership with SWSG’s college- and university-based chapters, elementary schools, and community centers; leading SWSG’s Junior Mentor Program; coordinating relationships with peer organizations; contributing to our research project on girls’ experiences with mental health and body image; and supporting mentor training, special events, and Development.

All in all, the transition was very natural. Fortuitously, the transition happened to coincide with my three-week vacation to Colombia. I left Boston as an FAO Fellow, and returned as a Program Manager. It was the longest vacation I had taken since beginning my fellowship, and allowed me valuable time to reflect on my experience with SWSG thus far and my intentions going forward. There is nothing like explaining your job in Spanish in a completely different cultural setting to help you pause and reflect!

There are two significant differences that I would note between my pre- and post-fellowship experiences: A greater sense of confidence and security, and deeper consideration of my next career steps. As a fellow, I was constantly taking on new projects and roles as I shifted from a Development- and adult volunteer-focused role in my first year, to a program management-focused position in my second year. I was always the “new person,” and always learning. Now as a Program Manager, I am certainly still learning; however, I have the familiarity and trust of established relationships in the community, greater certainty in my skills, and greater efficiency. I continue to be challenged by staff transitions and the growth of SWSG initiatives; yet, it takes me less time to get up-to-speed.

In terms of my perspective on next steps, the offer from SWSG to stay on as a Program Manager really forced me to consider and re-consider my aspirations. Before a staff departure started the conversation about me staying on, I had envisioned graduate school being my destination post-fellowship. Since undergrad, I’ve been interested in pursuing a Masters in Social Work, but decided to get some work experience before going back to school. Both while at SWSG and in my previous job, my supervisors have primarily been social workers, and I have really enjoyed learning from their approach. When I was offered the Program Manager role, I reasoned that some additional, deeper exposure at SWSG would only help me strengthen my future academic experience. Plus, I could save more money to have while in school (and living off loans!), and put me on track to get an even better job after completing my Master’s degree. Now, in my third year with SWSG, the question I am considering is simply when—and where—to go back to school, and what kind of Social Work, Education, and/or Nonprofit Leadership program is the best fit for me.

Working at Strong Women, Strong Girls has been an absolutely unexpected blessing, challenge, growth opportunity, and true joy in my life, and I am proud to be working here for a third year.

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Here I am with SWSG staff and a family that is part of our Junior Mentor program at Jump into Peace, an event in August 2016 organized by the office of Boston City Councilor-at-Large Ayanna Presley to promote peace and girlhood.

 

Sarah Kacevich is the Program Manager for  Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) in Boston, an organization that empowers girls to imagine a broader future through a curriculum grounded in female role models and delivered by college women, who are themselves mentored by professional women. Outside of work, she loves to hike, run, do yoga, make art, cook, and travel. She is a Class of ’16 FAO Schwarz Alumni Fellow.

 

Three Tips for Current FAO Fellows from a Supreme Fellow

Fall has begun, which means it’s time to congratulate our first years as they transition to the second year of the fellowship alongside welcoming our newest cohort of FAO Fellows!

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As a Supreme Fellow, I would like to extend my congratulations and welcome by complying with my millennial ways and writing a Buzzfeed-esque blog post highlighting 3 tips I wish I would have known when I started the FAO fellowship two years ago.

Your education continues — push yourself to learn as much as you can even when it is outside of your own “expertise”.

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By the time I was a senior in college, I was already itching to leave the classroom and begin my career as a young professional. The discussions and content I picked up in the classroom seemed detached from the real world. The minute I began working at my fellowship site, I began to gain a different form of education; I learned about systemic issues like high school access in New York City as well as more subtle yet enriching skills such as how to manage college students or my personal favorite, how to create organized systems between your personal life and work life. #worklifebalanceisreal

One way I continued to pick up this unofficial professional development was by signing up for any opportunity I could get in my new job. Extra work event where I would support with registration? I am there. A team member from the operations department needs support? Sure, I can help! In these moments I was able to observe how events worked, why operations is the foundation to any organization and what specific projects I enjoyed.

Quick random tip: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! As a fellow this is your moment to ask, given that you can use the fellowship as an excuse to learn more about the organization. People love to talk about themselves and their work!

Take yourself seriously by calculating and documenting your work outcomes.

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By the second year of my fellowship, my responsibilities extended much farther than the original job description. My work expanded into recruitment, sustaining school partnerships and writing a semester’s worth of curriculum; valuable skills I am grateful for practicing.

Because I was so immersed in my work, when I started polishing my resume it was hard to think of all of my professional outcomes. So tip #2: As you work on these additional projects and continue to develop your professional skills, write them down onto your resume and make sure to add your results!

Organizations today are goal-focused and are looking for the quantitative impact you made with your work. For example, on my resume, instead of Wrote and instructed 8th grade curriculum; I typed: Wrote, developed and instructed 8th grade curriculum composed of a total of 12 workshops (over 18 hours of instruction) with the goal to produce top quality high school applications. Organizations want to hear that you are all about results. Let the numbers speak for your work.

Use your network within the FAO fellowship!

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Do not get it wrong. Just because I am writing advice to you today doesn’t mean that I have it all figured out. During my fellowship, I struggled with creating a work/life balance, learning how to manage up, and everything in between.

Fortunately, I had another fellow in my cohort that worked at my same organization which helped a lot when I needed to talk to someone. This experience taught me that if you ever have these struggles, do not hesitate to use your network because you are not alone. The first network you automatically have when you are a part of this fellowship is your FAO crew, current cohort and alums! Invite someone to coffee or reach out through an email; our FAO fellowship community is always out to support a fellow!

Good luck!

Gabriella Gómez is the Academic Coordinator at the Harlem RBI South Bronx site, a year round development program that incorporates academic, social-emotional and baseball/softball enrichment. During her fellowship, Gaby worked at Breakthrough New York as the High School Placement Coordinator. When she is not writing curriculum, visiting schools, or facilitating workshops with her middle schoolers, she can be found carefully updating her Spotify playlist, working on her bullet journal or playing with her most adorable 2-year-old nephew, Diego.

Refining Your Core Values

I’ll never forget that first retreat with the Fellowship in the fall of 2012. As we all sat down in JumpStart’s conference room in midtown Manhattan, we introduced ourselves and the mission of our host organizations. I do remember those introductions to my new-found colleagues well, but perhaps what struck me the most about this first meeting—believe it or not—was the décor of the conference room. Surrounding JumpStart’s walls were huge posters that stated its values: learning, connection, joy, and determination were among them.

As we traveled from Philadelphia to New York City and Boston, I saw how other excellent, youth-serving organizations articulated their core values and lived them out well beyond the classroom walls. In their cubicles they crafted impactful narratives for funding, and in meetings they discussed how their specific projects reflected the nature of the organization’s mission. Each organization provided living proof that core values matter for all people at all positions. They were the guiding force for the organization’s culture.

If successful non-profit organizations take the time to craft its core values and make every effort to live out these values within each facet of their work, then surely as a Fellow it was important for me to consIMG_6175ider the guiding principles of my own career trajectory. Many of us have a sense of the driving factors that motivate our decisions, but have you taken the time to intentionally write them down? Have you reflected upon them in the light of your professional decisions? Doing so can help you not only to live more fully into your own life, but can also help you to clearly see why your specific function within your organization matters. Here are a few guiding questions to help you craft your own core values:

  • What have been the most life-giving projects of the past year?
  • What are the strengths that your teammates consistently call out in your work?
  • What are the areas of your job that give you life?
  • What led you to pursue a job at your organization?
  • What are the challenges your organization is facing?

Once you’ve jotted down a few answers to these questions, it’s time to start connecting the dots. What are the common threads between your answers? How might your strengths meet the greatest needs in your organization? By mulling over such questions during the Fellowship, I am now able to articulate my own core values—leadership, togetherness, empathy, and hope—that guide me in my pursuits for equity and justice. More specifically, my own core values have led me to Princeton Theological Seminary where I am strengthening my theological and organizational skills to lead within faith-based organizations.

The opportunity to see myriad strong non-profit organizations intentionally live into their core values helped me to refine my own and thoughtfully consider the guiding principles of my career. The moments of reflection we give ourselves throughout our career can tremendously help us to be the best version of ourselves so that we can better serve those around us. I have the Fellowship to thank for that valuable lesson!

Kayla Peck is a Masters of Divinity student at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ. She enjoys studying the intersection of spirituality and social justice. This coming year, she will serve at a local episcopal church as they seek to be a good neighbor within their community. More specifically, she will help with a variety of community outreach opportunities, including representing the church on the city’s affordable housing committee. When she isn’t studying, she is planning her upcoming wedding, learning how to knit, and hiking in the Adirondacks. Kayla was a 2012-14 Fellow at Strong Women, Strong Girls in Boston. She occasionally tweets glimpses of her journey at @kaylajpeck.