Although I have been interning at PLEN for only a couple of weeks, I have seen the amazing benefits of working with such a transformational organization. Two very important things I got to experience through these weeks was learning the inner-workings of a nonprofit and ways to network better. After graduating college, I was greatly interested in nonprofit organizations, especially with how they were run hierarchically. Little did I know, that behind an organization there is a board of individuals, where each and everyone of those individuals have specific responsibilities. I got to see first hand the board of directors meeting and it was very informing. I must say that I felt empowered from just being in the same room with all these professional women. These are women who have families, have a full time job, but somehow find time to be part of an organization like PLEN. The whole time I was present at the meeting, I was wondering what drove these women, and after hearing them speak I could hear in their voices and see in their faces the passion for this organization and its mission. These women have different responsibilities but come together every now and then as a powerful entity.
Following the board meeting later that day, I had the chance to help with an event to thank all of the PLEN mentors, board members and alumnae involved with PLEN. For the longest time I was always so nervous about attending networking events; I would find myself not wanting to engage with others, and tended to stick around the people I already knew. PLEN helped me get out of my shell; at PLEN's Thank You for Being a PLEN Mentor event, I found myself chatting with numerous individuals who all had amazing stories. Not only did I find the courage to introduce myself and hold a meaningful conversation, I was also able to follow up and reach out to some of them and now consider myself friends with some of the women I met that evening. PLEN has resources and connections for students to use, the Executive Director Sarah with managers Hayley and Sujan are happy to share information and help the interns and students with any questions. PLEN has the power to change the lives of the women that attend seminars and participate within their organization.
Few steps that I learned from these networking events were:
- The importance of being a good listener and actually being present in the conversation
- Having a positive attitude when interacting with others, be sincere and be yourself. This has really gotten me far, because people love authenticity and will remember you and how you made them feel during the conversation.
- It is paramount that when you are attending these events to be approachable, so yes, put your phone in your wallet or pocket because Instagram will still be there when you're done.
- Learn to give and not only take. By this I mean share a story of yours and your identity, something that represents you and don’t only focus on the business card they will give you at the end of the conversation.
- Lastly, and the most important thing of all, do not forget to follow up. In a metropolitan city like D.C. people meet, greet and have conversations with many people throughout the day and week, so don’t be the person who waits for the person to reach out to you. The rule for me is to make the first step and reach out to them.
These are some of the steps that have helped me, and I really hope they will help you too. One thing is for sure: PLEN pushes you out of your comfort zone, but is also there to catch you if you need help.
Ana Marku is a recent undergraduate student from Old Dominion University with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations, and a minor in Women’s Studies. Ana is PLEN’s Summer 2018 Communications Intern.