My first experience with PLEN was attending a seminar during the second semester of my freshman year. After four days of eye-opening panels, workshops, and networking events with a variety of women working in international policy, I felt so much more confident in my newly-declared political science major. More importantly I felt like I had a vision of what I could do while I was still in school in order to follow in the steps of some of the amazing women we heard from. As I began winding down the second semester of my senior year, I had heard over and over from roommates and friends who had attended PLEN’s “Women, Law & Legal Advocacy,” “Science & Health Policy,” and “Women’s Leadership in Public Policy” seminars that they had felt much more prepared and confident in their postgraduate possibilities. I decided that attending the PLEN Nonprofits seminar at the end of my senior year would be the perfect thing since I had gained such valuable career skills and perspective when I first attended, but now it would be even more relevant as my imminent graduation date raced closer.
Once I made it through the snow storm to the seminar, I was constantly blown away by the diverse backgrounds of all the women we heard from. In those short two and a half days, I went from knowing very little about the nonprofit sector to having connections with prominent women in advocacy, communications, coalition-building, direct service, and international work. I previously had not really considered all the possible career opportunities under the wide umbrella of “nonprofit work,” but the variety of experiences and advice we heard from the women panelists at PLEN completely opened my mind to where I didn’t even know I was limiting myself.
Perhaps most importantly, the workshops on interviewing, resume writing, and LinkedIn gave me the tools I needed to capitalize on the tips I had learned from all these women. I had been to resume and interview workshops through my school’s career services office, but nothing is as beneficial as women already in the field who have insights specifically for what these skills look like for a woman in public policy in Washington, DC. While I was in the city I had the opportunity to put some of these skills into practice as I met with two contacts who had offered to help me in my job search. Leaving the PLEN Nonprofits seminar, I felt infinitely more prepared and more confident in what I could accomplish as a woman in public policy, and I know the skills I’ve learned, from freshman year to senior year and beyond, will continue to serve me well.
Caroline Lanford received a PLEN scholarship to attend the 2015 Unlocking Nonprofits seminar. She attended this seminar as a senior at Tulane University.