Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Volunteer Leader, Andrea Berkman blogs about her first experience leading the Profesional Networking Workshop

I have been volunteering for a relatively short time (a few years, if that) and was introduced to Met Council through New York Cares. Both are extremely dedicated organizations whose primary goal is the betterment of others in the community. I'd met Shifra Elman a couple of months back and was honored when she asked me to lead one of the Professional Networking Workshops – an event I had attended a few times before.

The goal of the Professional Networking Workshop is to teach people how to, well, network. The focus has nothing to do formal interviewing but rather informational interviewing and the soft skills that make people you meet want to help you… "soft" being the operative word.

Fast forward to my workshop, shall we?

The night began like this… I left my meeting in midtown and arrived at Met Council just to find that I'd left both my wallet and my cell phone at my client's office. $60 later and a half hour behind schedule I arrive at Met Council and see Shifra sitting at the head of a table of women. These were not just any group of women; these women, although quite lovely, were the "fire" in that old phrase "I was thrown into the fire.”

The women were first generation Russian immigrants seeking positions in nursing. They were in need of help but were quite resistant to the idea of… how do I say this…? They were resistant to the idea of not kvetching about their predicament and being open to a new way of interacting with people who may be able to give them support. Either directly because they work in the medical field or indirectly because they hit it off with someone who may know of someone who can help.

After two rounds of networking with one round of feedback in between, I was exhausted and thinking that maybe I was in over my head. My confidence in my ability to lead the event and make it worthwhile was in question… or so I thought.

As I mentioned, the group of women during this session were not the easiest to communicate with and earning their trust was difficult. However, at the conclusion of the evening a few of the women said that they really enjoyed the session and found it to be useful! I thought I misheard until Shifra confirmed this for me later.

In conclusion, my first go-round as a Volunteer Leader was amazing. These women were able to teach me how to be more accepting of barriers while I, along with the other amazing volunteers, was able to help these women open up to what may be around them. I honestly walked into the event thinking "I'm in Sales, I can sell these women on how to network and why it's important" but I was completely wrong. So thank you to the ladies, the volunteers, and Met Council for allowing me to lead this workshop, as well as be led.

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