Start the year with these professional development opportunities

Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360, Creative Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360, Creative Commons/Flickr

Yes, it’s cliche, but January is the perfect time for resolutions, goal-setting, and making plans to better yourself throughout the year. Here are some events, webinars, and other activities of note to help you with your professional development this month.

Job-Hunting Help. If you’re on the hunt for a new job, and one-third of employees are, look for online resources to help you make the most of social media and learn more about potential future careers.

  • Learn how to leverage the new LinkedIn profiles in a paid webinar from Jason Alba, the author of I’m on LinkedIn—Now What??? on January 17.
  • Join #JobHuntChat on Twitter, Monday evenings from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. EST.
  • @HFChat (Hire Friday Chat) also hosts #HFChat with career experts on Fridays at 12:00 p.m. EST.
  • NY Creative Interns hosts Creative Q&A virtual events, and on January 16 at 8:00 p.m. EST, Tina Yip, community manager for R/GA will talk about getting into and advancing in the social media industry.

Local Events. If you live in one of these cities below, check out the interesting workshops and panels taking place during January.

Free Online Events and Resources. No matter where you are located, you can easily attend several free webinars in January related to nonprofit management and operations.

Conferences. Do you have the time and money to attend a conference that’s not in your zip code? Plan ahead with a couple conferences set for early February.

Fellowship and Mentorship Programs. If you’re looking for something a little more in-depth and long term, there are several fellowships and internships in public service, government, and more that have January deadlines.

Management Training. Even if you are a bit farther along in your career or more set at your organization, there are still ways you can grow and learn.

And don’t forget to volunteer. Volunteering during your free time is definitely be one ongoing way you can boost your career, especially when the career is in nonprofits. Martin Luther King, Jr. day is Monday, January 21, and there are many volunteer opportunities available on Idealist and elsewhere for that three-day weekend.

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Cementing the connection: Four steps to build your network after a conference

We’ve written before on what to do before and during a conference to meet people and expand your network. But what do you do after a conference to keep the conversation going? Today, we share a few tips on how to take those initial meetings and greetings to the next level.

by Eleanor Whitney

This time of year is always a whirlwind of conferences, panels, plenary sessions and meetings. As you’ve dashed from event to event, surely you have met new people, made conversations, pitched your ideas, and collected business cards. So what’s next? How do you make the most of these new connections after you’ve taken the time to get out there to meet, greet, and connect?

Below are four steps to follow up with people you have met so that you can continue and deepen the initial connection you have made and turn conference connections into successful network building.

Photo credit: Kramer Family Library, Creative Commons/Flickr

Step 1: Organize your contacts

It’s important to remember where you met someone and what you spoke about.  If you’re like me, after a busy conference you are left with a stack of business cards and an inability to connect names to faces. After you meet someone, take a moment to write down on their card where you met them and a few notes to remind yourself what you talked about.

For example, after I went to South by South West last year I simply wrote, “SxSW” on all the cards I collected. I also noted the panel, meet and greet, or concert where I had met them and wrote down and if I had promised to follow up on a conversation item with them.

Step 2: Establish an initial connection

To ensure the cards you have received don’t collect dust after the event, use social media to connect with the people you have met. Add them on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter.  Include a personal note such as, “Nice to meet you at the conference, I look forward to staying in touch,” when sending a follow request.

I tend to reserve Facebook for my personal family and friend contacts, but if you feel it’s appropriate, you may also reach out to them on that platform and be sure to “Like” their organization or project’s page. If they have a blog add it to your reader and comment on an entry or two you find compelling.

If you talked with someone about an article or resource that you promised to share, be sure to send it to them!

Step 3: Move the conversation offline

If you made a strong connection with someone and you want to learn more about what they do, invite them for coffee or lunch to continue your conversation.

Before sending an invitation, decide on your purpose for connecting with this person. Are you looking to get insight into how to advance in your current field? Do you want to learn about a new career path? Are you looking for someone to collaborate with who has a different skill set than yours?

You goal for connecting with your new contact will shape your conversation and the structure of your relationship, as least at first.

Send a friendly, concise email letting the person know it was nice to meet them, reminding them who you were, and asking if you might be able to talk further because you found their ideas, work or expertise compelling.

Step 4: Meet up again

Before meeting with your new contact, prepare yourself to make most out of your short time together. You want to make a good impression and be able to find out the information that you need. To prepare:

  • Craft a sentence long pitch about yourself: who are you, what do you do and what you are looking to learn about. For guidance on creating and refining this pitch refer to Dixie Laite’s column about building your personal brand for the DIY Business Association
  • Be genuine, positive and on your best behavior. You want to build a positive image for yourself. Networking is not a time to vent your frustrations. You know never who someone is and who they are connected to
  • Come up with a few questions to ask in advance and be sure to listen to the answers
  • As about further follow up, such as “Who else do you suggest I talk to about this?”
  • Follow up with a thank you email or note

Michael Royce, the Executive Director at the New York Foundation for the Arts, suggests you treat everyone nicely when you network because you never know who they are connected to. To his advice I would add that networking and follow up are successful when you are both nice and strategic. When you reach out to a new connection, you also offer them your ideas, skills, and thoughts. Approach your follow up conversations with an open mind and a willingness to be generous and collaborative.  The energy and time you take to genuinely connect will make you the kind of person people will extend themselves to help and that people want to meet.

What steps do you take to build your network after a conference?

Eleanor C. Whitney is a writer, arts administrator and musician living in Brooklyn, New York. She currently is a Program Officer at the New York Foundation for the Arts and is the author of the forthcoming book Grow: How to Take Your Do It Yourself Project and Passion to the Next Level and Quit Your Job, which will be released in the spring of 2013 on Cantankerous Titles

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Discount tickets to Personal Democracy Forum in NYC


For the third year in a row, the organizers of Personal Democracy Forum (PdF) are offering a discount on registration to members of the Idealist community. (If you’re reading this, that means you!)

PdF is a two-day conference exploring and analyzing technology’s impact on politics, government, and civil society. This year’s event takes place June 11-12 in New York City and is centered around the theme “The Internet’s New Political Power.” Speakers will include:

  • David Boyce, CEO of Fundly, the largest online social fundraising platform in the U.S.
  • Sara Horowitz, Executive Director and Founder, Freelancers Union
  • Van Jones, president and co-founder of Rebuild the Dream
  • John Perry Barlow, Co-Founder & Vice Chairman, Electronic Frontier Foundation

…And many more.

Planning to attend? Receive 15% off the nonprofit rate with coupon discount code IDEALIST2012.

You can also apply for a Google PdF fellowship for a chance at free registration. According to the site, they’re “looking for innovative people who are trying to tackle big, meangingful problems. Are you trying to change government? Shaking up the non-profit world with a promising new start-up? Blazing new trails in online politics? The Google PdF Fellowship could be yours.” Learn more and apply by Wednesday, May 9.

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How to make the most of a conference, part 2

I’m sitting in the lobby of the hotel where the Nonprofit Technology Conference will officially kick off tomorrow morning, back with more tips for conference survival and…thrival. (Did I just type that? I blame the jet lag.)

My post last week focused on what to do before you go. Here are some suggestions for what to do once you arrive.

Be realistic about email.

Think you might neglect your inbox a bit? Don’t forget to put up an out-of-office auto reply. Before the NTC, the smarties at NTEN provided boilerplate text that attendees could copy and paste into their email auto-responder (which deftly include information about the live stream of the conference). You could be cryptic, but Sarah Durham of Big Duck advocates that you share “that you’re out, when you’ll be back, and whom to contact in your absence.” And why not take the opportunity to show off your organization’s personality a little bit?

Remember who you meet.

Trish Tchume, National Director, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network:
I know this is an old trick, but I do still write a brief description about every person I meet on the back of their business card that includes where I met them, one physical detail, one professional detail, and one personal detail that will later jog my memory of who the person is. Hence my rolodex (yes, I still use one) is full of cards that say stuff like, “Chicago IS Conference, cool glasses, been at X org for 2 years, joked abt 4th season 30 Rock.”


Not feeling a session? Put one foot in front of the other, says Amy. (Photo: CarbonNYC, Flickr/Creative Commons)

As my yoga teacher would say, “Create your own experience.”

Amy Sample Ward, Membership Director, NTEN:
Remember the law of two feet: if you’re in a session, a social event, or anywhere else and it isn’t the conversation or topic you thought it would be, feel empowered to leave and find the people and conversations you’re after. Every conference tries to cover many topics and create opportunities for all the various goals participants may have, but participants also need to feel free to make the conference what they want it to be!

Building on that, a tip from me (
Give yourself permission to leave and breathe. I’ve arranged to meet up with an old friend in the city for dinner one night. At the end of a long day of nonprofit tech immersion, I’ll have a chance to unwind, talk about totally different subjects, and see another neighborhood. (I’ll probably forget to take off my conference name tag. She’ll probably make fun of me. I’m OK with that.)

Share power…literally.

Jereme Bivins, Social Media Manager, Foundation Center (who left this comment on our last blog post):
Running around the hotel and conference rooms all day does a number on your mobile devices, and you rarely find yourself seated next to a power outlet during the sessions. So I try to be very conscious about which devices I have on/running (vs. which I’m actually using), I optimize my devices’ power settings, and I always keep a spare charger in my bag.

Also, if you’re a super-networker, power makes friends – and not in the Machiavellian way. People with power strips, back-up batteries, iPhone/iPad chargers, etc. are always great folks to have around; so if your primary goal at a [high-tech conference like the NTC] is a ton of ‘Friend’ requests, nothing says ‘Like’ me quite like a spare laptop charger…

Keep ’em coming!

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to this mini-series. Please keep the tips coming in the comments. And if you’re at the NTC, check out the session I’m co-hosting Tuesday, April 3 at 1:30.

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How to make the most of a conference

It’s conference season! Next week I’m heading to San Francisco for the annual Nonprofit Technology Conference, which boasts thousands of attendees and countless opportunities for networking, skill-building, and…sheer exhaustion. To prepare, I asked a bunch of nonprofit leaders how they make the most of big events like this. Here’s part 1: what to do before you leave.

Do you really want to do this?

Ami Dar, Founder and Executive Director, Idealist:
Think twice—or three times—before signing up. It’s tempting and easy to sign up for a conference that’s happening a few months from now, but pretend for a moment that the conference is happening tomorrow or next week. Would you still want to attend? If so, go for it!

Make a plan.


Does this make you want to run for cover? (Photo: Enterprise 2.0 Conference via Flickr)

Amy Sample Ward, Membership Director, NTEN:

Create a schedule for yourself ahead of time. Don’t budget every minute of every day, but do outline any sessions you know you want to see, and add in a block or two of time that’s free time so you reserve flexible time to meet up with new friends or explore the city.

Allison Jones, Fundraising and communications professional:
While I may blog and have an online presence, I am at my core an introvert. Large group settings make me uneasy so I always feel incredibly nervous before a conference…But I build a ton of relationships online, and conferences offer an opportunity to strengthen those relationships face-to-face. [Arranging ahead of time to] connect in a small group or one-on-one feels less random and less “networky”; these interactions invigorate me and allow me to connect with people in a more meaningful way. Plus, by planning time to meet others, it makes it harder for me to run into a corner and hide!

Trish Tchume, National Director, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network:
If the conference posts a participant list beforehand, go through the list and make note of who you want to catch up with or meet. Once you decide on those folks, PICK AN ACTUAL DATE, TIME, AND PLACE TO MEET. The best way to not actually meet up with someone at a conference is to just plan to “grab each other” when you’re there.

Creature comforts, AKA “Your body and soul”

This one’s mine:
On my packing list for this trip are comfortable shoes, workout clothes, healthy snacks to help me avoid a conference pastry overdose or overpriced airplane snack pack, and a travel mug or water bottle.

One thing I didn’t do that required advance planning: Sign up to volunteer. If your conference includes optional service opportunities like the NTC does, why not take them up on it?

Think (way) ahead.

Farra Trompeter, Vice President, Big Duck:
Block out time on your calendar now for AFTER the conference to process all that you learned and actually implement some of the bright ideas you’re certain to pick up in the sessions and in your conversations.

I’ll be back soon with Part 2: What to do while you’re there. In the meantime, have you tried these strategies? Do you have other “know before you go” tips for conference-goers?

Ed. note: Read Part 2, which covers ways to survive and thrive at big events like this!

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Discounted price for the NextGen:Charity conference in NYC

We’re partnering with NextGen:Charity for this year’s leaders in nonprofits and philanthropy innovation conference, November 18-19 in the heart of Times Square. Our founder and executive director Ami Dar will speak at the conference, and our blog readers can register for a discounted rate.

The conference is oriented towards leaders of the world’s top nonprofits and “aimed to help you run your organization more effectively and efficiently, and connect with donors and your community more powerfully.” Other speakers will include our friend Nancy Lublin, founder of and author of Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business; Randi Zuckerberg from Facebook; and Scott Harrison, founder and president of charity:water.

To learn more about speakers, workshops, and attendees, click here. And if you want to be there yourself, buy your ticket through this link for 20% off the standard entry rate.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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Career Corner: Contact Management

By Meg Busse.

Usually, I get back from a conference, unload the 2-3 inch thick stack of business cards I’ve amassed, begin wading through my overflowing inbox, promise myself I’ll get to the business cards once I’m caught up, and then stare guiltily at the pile for the next few weeks (or months). Sure, I follow up with the folks I need to; but I haven’t been so good at having a deliberate, conscious plan for the rest of the stack.

From Jonathan Strauss (Flickr/Creative Commons)

I figured I’d see what the experts do. I found two articles that provide a good list/overview of how to follow-up with folks you’ve met—after a conference, a dinner, or just serendipitously. None of it is rocket science, but it was a good reminder of how the process can be (read: should be) intentional.

Here are the two posts that propose relatively simple plans that I think (just maybe) I can work with:

Beth’s Blog: “It’s Harvest Time for Networking and Tomatoes”

Lifehack: “Post Conference Follow-Up Hacks”

What works for you?

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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