When's a Career Fair Not a Cattle Call?
Net Impact Boston career summit breaks the mold
One week after Nemo shut down the city of Boston with over 25 inches of snow, Net Impact members and supporters alike gathered to participate in the first ever Net Impact Boston Career Summit. In typical Net Impact fashion, this event was far from your average career fair. Born from Net Impact Boston’s desire to strengthen relations with the host of graduate student chapters in the area, the Boston Career Summit is a great example of network collaboration done right.
Armed with challenging questions and, of course, business cards, the intentions of the attendees were clear: to learn from and connect with local professionals and organizations committed to social and environmental impact. The concept was simple and quickly took the shape of a mini Net Impact conference – combining networking, interactive panels, a workshop, and a lively expo of local businesses and organizations. A famous line among Net Impact advocates is that if we could bottle our conference, it would tell the story of who we are better than anything else. On the cold but clear Boston morning of Feb. 15, it felt like the secret formula might have been applied just right.
How to throw a career fair, not a cattle call
Many Net Impact chapters host conferences and career fairs, so you might be wondering why this one is so noteworthy. I would sum it up in three words: collaboration, rock-solid advice, and preparation.
Step 1: Collaboration
Although the concept originated from a single local chapter, the planning and execution was an effort of combined forces from not two, not five, but thirteen local chapters. Sharing the workload was an obvious perk of collaboration, but the meatier goal for the day was to build a strong bond, and sense of community and camaraderie between local chapters while offering a valuable member experience.
Step 2: Compelling content
Instead of diving head first into the often dreaded networking sessions, attendees warmed up to each other by selecting one of three panels. Session topics ranged from the role of impact investing in New England to achieving impact across the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Keeping topics diverse led to a mix of locally-focused yet universally relevant conversations.
The panelists were able to advise from a position of experience and to clearly present what a career in their role and sector looks like, the path they took and the skills needed to be successful. Attendees broadened their understanding of the shape that impact careers can take while noting the key messages and direct advice from the experts.
In his final remarks to the crowd during Achieving Impact Across the Public, Private and Nonprofit Sectors, North Shore InnoVentures VP & COO Tom Kinneman stressed that instead of looking to fill the undetermined needs and jobs of the future, we need to “figure out how to develop [our] skill set and connections.” Skills such as listening, teamwork and adaptation were echoed among panelists and offered a perfect segue into the featured workshop.
Step 3: Practical resources and tools
Now equipped with advice from the experts about how to become an ideal candidate for a social or environmental impact role, what’s next? Attendees ended the Summit with a fast-paced workshop led by former Net Impact board member and co-founder of More than Money Careers, Mark Albion. The framework Albion uses to guide students and professionals to find social impact work that pays the bills and puts their values to work is what he calls, “Getting clear, getting connected, getting hired.”
In addition to highlighting the coaching modules he has developed with his MTM co-founder, Dr. Mrim Boutla, Albion noted the free self assessments available on the online Career Center at netimpact.org. Available to anyone, not just Summit attendees, these tools help people identify their ideal “triple fit,” which includes identifying what type of impact you want to have, discovering the community of companies and organizations that you should get involved in, and pairing your skills and education to pinpoint the functional role you want.
A room full of “the right kind of people”
Although Net Impact isn’t new to Boston (the chapter started in 2005), many of the Summit’s attending organizations were new to Net Impact. Due to the intimate nature of the event, exhibitors were invited to attend the panels and participate in the conversations in the first half of the morning before taking up their posts, which gave prospective employers an intimate look at the Net Impact approach to impact work. For anyone who has been to a typical career fair, they’re usually known for long lines at the popular booths, short and generally unmemorable conversations, and the ever popular question of “are you hiring?” The expo at the Career Summit was nothing of the sort.
Exhibitors gushed over the professional appearance and demeanor of the attendees, as well as the high caliber of candidates they’d met throughout the morning. Unlike other career fairs where the interactions resemble a conveyer belt of students handing in resumes and swiftly moving on, exhibitors were able to speak with attendees for several minutes at a time, engage in real conversations about the career opportunities at their organizations, and discuss the strengths and expertise they look for.
With such a high caliber of speakers and attendees, interactive discussions, and a feeling that achieving impact throughout one’s career is not just possible, but imperative, the Boston Career Summit was able to endure the storm of the decade without a hitch. Bravo, Boston!
The Net Impact Career Summit was organized by the following incredible Net Impact chapters: Net Impact Boston, Net Impact Babson, Net Impact Boston College, Net Impact Clark, Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Club (affiliate), Net Impact Hult Boston, Net Impact MIT Sloan, Net Impact Northeastern, Net Impact Simmons, Net Impact Tufts, Net Impact UMass Amherst, and Net Impact UMass Boston.