Hi, everyone. I’m Julia Smith and I’ve been lucky to edit this blog over the past few years, working with our team to shed light on everything from idea-sharing potlucks to New Year’s resolutions for job seekers to tips for making the most of any conference you attend. Now it’s time for me to hand over the reins, and I’m thrilled to welcome Allison Jones, a longtime member of our community and one of the newest members of our staff. Read on to meet the communications champ who will be bringing you all kinds of blog goodness from now on!
Q. When did you first know you wanted to have a career with social impact? Is there a moment in your life you can pinpoint?
A. In high school I lived in a poor part of Brooklyn but attended school in a wealthy part of Brooklyn. The differences were shocking and upsetting; who knew the impact a zip code could have on someone’s opportunities? I loved my time in school yet always thought, “Why can’t my brothers and sisters at home have this too?” And so began my commitment to education equality.
Q. Almost all of your jobs have been at nonprofits, right? What have you found most challenging and most rewarding about working in the nonprofit sector?
A. Yep (aside from an after-school gig I had in high school where I worked in the home office of a retired investment banker!). I have been a nonprofiteer for much of my career. I arrived at the sector by cause: I have always been passionate about education equality and this passion somewhat naturally led me to the nonprofit sector. I stayed in the sector because of community: nothing beats having a network of nonprofit geeks and folks audacious enough to think they can change the world.
I am also excited by the changes in the sector. There is so much movement and conversation around what change looks like, what role nonprofits play in facilitating that change, and the potential of cross-sector work to bring that change to life.
Q. Do you remember when you first set up your old blog, Entry Level Living? What prompted that and how did it feel to click “publish” on your first post?
A. I started Entry Level Living because I wanted to write about my experiences as a nonprofit newbie. It was exciting but I honestly didn’t think anyone would read it. I had been blogging on LiveJournal and Yahoo!360 (service was shut down a few years ago – am I dating myself?) and the communities I built there were mainly of classmates and other casual/personal bloggers. I assumed my current blog would be the same thing; to be honest I was (and still am!) surprised by its growth since I started in 2007.
Q. Your blog has morphed over the years and is no longer quite so “entry level.” Can you share a little about how and when you decided to rebrand?
A. When Rosetta Thurman and Trista Harris were writing their book How to be a Nonprofit Rockstar they wanted to include my blog and a post I had written. When they checked in to confirm how my blog and name should be credited, it dawned on me that while I was sharing advice on starting a career, I wanted my blog to reflect my professional growth; I wasn’t entry level anymore and had a growing network of peers which lead to a variety of experiences in what it means to make a difference. I didn’t want a huge departure from my original approach but I did want to tighten up my writing and vision, hence my tagline “Helping Millennials put their passions into practice.” Although simple, it acts as a launching pad when producing content. Some of the most popular posts since then have covered the role of college in your career, social entrepreneurship, and nitty gritty job searching tips.
Q. In this new role at Idealist you’re going to be eating and breathing a lot of online networking. Can you share one of your social media “lightbulb moments”?
A. I have had many lightbulb moments, most of them offline, in particular working with parents and students in schools. My work in education has taught me the importance of the phrase “meet people where they are.” Though the phrase is often used to encourage people to adopt social media to connect with new staff, donors, allies, and organizations, it is really reminding us to put people first and to communicate with them on their terms, online and offline.
Q. What made you decide to apply for this job? What are you most excited about now that orientation is underway?
A. [Idealist’s Executive Director] Ami once called me an “accidental techie”: I kind of fell into social media and technology through my love of blogging and the excitement I feel from connecting with people and learning about the world around me. But there is something amazing about being able to focus intently on how social media and tech are being used to make the world a better place and being able to throw myself into that conversation. And I just love Idealist.org. Seriously – the service it provides, the message it sends, and its plan for world domination really appeal to me. Plus, I truly believe that writing and editing are art forms. You can make magic happen with words.
See why we feel lucky to have Allison on board? Leave a comment below to welcome her! She’ll also be the human behind our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest accounts, so feel free to introduce yourself.