As promised, here is the second half of the conversation between Allie Krumel, Copywriter at M&C, and Chanelle Zak, Director of Communications & Community Engagement at Bishop Sullivan Center. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and have a read…about finding the right path, seeking out continuing education, and networking for young professionals.
Allie: I’m interested in your thoughts on this. You chose a career in the nonprofit sector because you’re passionate about urban poverty. What things do you think young nonprofit professionals need to look for when they’re considering a job or career path?
Chanelle: I see opportunities to incorporate your values and a drive for social justice into just about every career, and I think everyone can and should strive to find that in their work. Even though I landed in the nonprofit sector, that’s obviously not the only place from which you can work to make a change. If people from Wall Street to Bishop Sullivan Center have an ethical, equitable perspective, we will be able to create systemic change.
Allie: Do you have any tips for finding the right path?
Chanelle: Besides developing relationships with internship supervisors and professors, I would encourage college students to seek out events that are tied to the causes they’re passionate about. For example, I’m passionate about racial justice – I loved getting to run into you at the SURJ KC event last night! So obviously, when you go to those events, you tend to run into people who care about the same things you do. Your networks, knowledge, and opportunities build when you show up with a heart to learn.
Allie: We’ve both made new friends just from getting involved in professional and social groups. I think one of the best things about my first year in the professional world has been the continuing education from these groups, and the friendships I’ve made. And I think it’s important to touch base with your employer and find ways to make those things part of your work experience, while seeking them out for yourself. I attended a workshop on organizational storytelling at Nonprofit Connect with Monica, the Creative Director at M&C, a few weeks ago. Even amidst the day-to-day business at our office, we made time for it.
But to take that one step further, I think seeking out groups like The Open Table and SURJKC has helped us be well rounded in our lives outside of work.
Chanelle: Building a life that upholds our values. I feel most like myself when I’m doing at least one thing a day that’s connected to my core values. Going to community events is an important part of this, and I use Facebook to find out what's going on in Kansas City.
Allie: You mentioned using Facebook to look up different events.
Chanelle: Yeah, Facebook’s my go-to.
Allie: That’s a cool way to use social media.
Chanelle: Yeah! It’s actually been one of my favorite things lately. There are a lot of opinions out there on social media, and sometimes I don’t really have the emotional bandwidth to give the attention that all these big issues need. So for a while, I stopped using Facebook. But lately, I’ve been viewing it as a tool that can connect people.
Allie: That’s great. Something else I wanted to bring up…how do you feel about networking? What has helped you make it meaningful?
Chanelle: The word “networking” makes me nervous, and I think it makes a lot of people uncomfortable. To me, it has a transactional connotation. And I worry that, as a young grad, I don’t have something to “give” to a new contact. But, if I meet someone and learn about his or her passions, I’ll definitely think of them the next time I hear about something they would be interested in. I think networking is more meaningful if both parties think of it as an opportunity to build a relationship.
Allie: I also wanted to ask about your hopes and plans for the next few years. I think you and I are in a similar position in that we see a lot of different opportunities ahead. I really enjoy interviewing people and writing stories, but I could see myself continuing down the agency route, being a travel writer, or working for a newspaper someday. But, I want to continue honing my writing, while developing new skills. What do you see on your horizon?
Chanelle: I do plan on getting my Master’s degree at some point. I would like to continue working in programs and community engagement. I’m excited to see what opportunities arise to serve our city and work alongside marginalized communities. I don’t know what the future holds, but I want to be right where my passions and our community’s needs intersect. I plan to keep learning and growing as much as possible so I’m ready for wherever this path takes me!