A fresh new outfit, memories of the summer, and spunky Lisa Frank school supplies. All of these were tools and treasures of a dorky school girl, aka me as a young girl. As much as I was excited about the learning aspect of going to school, I was always nervous for the first day. I had butterflies in my stomach each year and didn’t know what to expect. I was always amazed by my outgoing peers in my classes who assimilated so quickly into a new setting, unlike my extremely shy little self. It seemed impossible to be like them!
As I grew older, I slowly crawled out of my introverted shell and became comfortable with entering a room of new people. It was scary but over time I started to love new social experiences and thrive in those environments. As I look back at mine and other young people’s experiences on the first days of school, I see these memories as an analogy for professional networking. Some people are terrified of the newness and figuring out how to fit in and others can jump right in as if they are right at home. Everyone is different, but, with practice, it is easy to find a personal way of fitting in. Networking events can appear to be your greatest social enemy but in the end can truly be your biggest ally if you embrace yourself and the experience.
A big role of my Regional Coordinator position is to engage and inspire AmeriCorps members in our program. The great thing is that through my position I can connect them with each other and help them create partnerships that will better their experiences and organizations they work for. Earlier in my service year, I thought about how it would be even better to introduce them to more AmeriCorps members outside of Volunteer Maryland, and with that idea came about the development of a statewide networking event for national service participants in Maryland.
Along with the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism (GOSV), I am enthusiastically working on a free social event that will follow a great (and free!) volunteer management conference hosted by the GOSV. My hope is that this event will bring together hundreds of members in Maryland to not only learn more about what others are achieving across the state but to enhance networking skills that will be powerful for future career ventures. Even more importantly I want this to be an event to celebrate their accomplishments and have fun! We are hosting the event during AmeriCorps Week, an annual appreciation of the awesome work members are doing throughout the country. I am working with not only the VM and GOSV staff to pull off this event but 9 fabulous state and VISTA members to pull together creative ideas. It’s really exciting to be planning such a large event with this great team and I will definitely be sharing new experiences as time goes by.
If you are an AmeriCorps member in Maryland, I look forward to seeing you on May 13th! We will have small and large networking activities, games, food, and prizes. More information and an invitation (with registration) will be available soon. And, I promise this will be the best first day of networking school that you will experience- no awkward first day jitters! 😉