PLEN Provides the Support and Resources Needed for Success

The topics at the 2021 PLEN Women in Global Policy seminar were fascinating and introduced me to the inner working of global policies, which was highly informative. I am a nontraditional student, probably the most nontraditional student within my cohort of PLEN attendees. While many women my age are thinking about their retirement, I am more interested in furthering my career and getting involved in government policy. The PLEN seminar informed me about the many career resources available and made available advisors to help guide my path. I was unsure if I wanted to get involved in local or international policy building. But, by the end of the PLEN seminar, I solidified where to place my attention and efforts due to all the information provided by highly successful women, including women in Congress. 

For me, the Networking Roundtable was one of the most helpful sessions of the PLEN seminar. I have a master's in history, and much of my research involved U.S. immigration policies, specifically concerning children and education. So, attending the roundtable session with Hiba Anver on Immigration and Refugees was highly informative. I had the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the dysfunctional policies that oppress immigrant children.

We discussed the Family Educational Rights and Protection Act (FERPA), a federal law enacted in 1974 that protects the privacy of student education records. Although school officials are required to maintain the confidentiality of student records, there is no official policy or protocol for immigrant children's records. In "emergency" situations, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is allowed to request immigrants' school records, placing principals in a delicate position, caught between FERPA and the requests of USCIS. Learning about these issues helped me decide where to focus and know where I needed to get more involved. Creating policies that support school officials' decisions to maintain immigrant children's privacy and help immigrant children receive an education without fear of deportation is a critical and crucial need. 

Another highly informative session of the PLEN conference was the Resume Review Workshop. Treading lightly, my resume review advisor asked if I was a nontraditional student. After explaining that I was likely the most senior attendee at the conference, she then tailored her conversation to benefit my resume and provided interview strategies. The advisor discussed what I already experienced- ageism, which abounds within our society. This form of discrimination makes it difficult for women to succeed during their second, third, and even fourth acts in life. So, combining ageism with being a woman of color made me feel like I had little chance of starting a new career. However, after speaking with my resume/career advisor, I learned valuable strategies that made me feel empowered. 

Some of the strategies were enlightening, such as framing my resume with a quantitative outcome. In other words, show the results of my experience (i.e., show where there was a need that highlights experience, followed by showing the results). The quantitative outcome strategy is beneficial and suggested for anyone seeking employment. Another recommended resume strategy for a more "seasoned" person is to leave out the dates of employment. Dates give away a person's age that can potentially hinder any chances of an interview. For this reason, I feel that leaving out dates would also benefit younger persons, and quite possibly everyone. Ultimately, our resumes should not be about our age but instead highlight the experiences and expertise we have to offer.

One last strategy I made sure to note was to include my PLEN experience. PLEN is valuable for showing potential employers that we have taken the initiative to learn and become more than just complacent citizens watching from the sidelines. PLEN women are women of action, and we should therefore highlight it in our resumes under a leadership subheading. 

The women I met at the PLEN seminar were nothing less than extraordinary. They were women from all parts of the world who experienced failures and doubts, but they overcame them despite tragedies, losses, or disappointments. My PLEN cohort shared their stories and how they are using the lessons they have learned to change global policies so that others may not have to go through the same struggles. I found myself among women of the same mindset who used their life experiences to fuel their fierce passion for making our world a better place. I am proud to be among these victorious PLEN women. The connections made during the PLEN conference continue to this day. The relationships thrive through social platforms such as LinkedIn and GroupMe. The latter serves to strengthen the bonds of friendship created after spending five full days together in our PLEN meetings. 

By the end of the seminar, I felt that I had sharpened my networking skills. I also felt prepared for future interviews and better equipped to pursue a role with the government. I learned that women of color must work harder to obtain their dreams. Still, I felt supported by the knowledge gained in the PLEN seminar, along with its vast networking system and the established relationships among my peers. Adjourning the seminar was not the end but only just the beginning of a lifelong relationship with all PLEN alumnae, including my cohort and past attendees. After an entire week of learning about global policy, networking with highly successful women, and strategies for acquiring gainful employment, I can say without a doubt that PLEN is a valuable resource. It provides information on making a difference within global, U.S, and state policy and helps women obtain their dream careers. 

I began my PLEN journey unsure of where to get involved, whether in local or international policy building. But by the end of the conference, I knew that my talents and expertise would better serve my local government. PLEN not only helped me align my focus to a specific government area but also encouraged, empowered, and supported who I am as a person and the value I bring to the table.

This seminar inspired me to boldly go forth and change government policy to better today's society and future generations. PLEN taught me to know my worth and know that I am a highly valuable asset. 

Terri De La Cruz attended the 2021 Women in Global Policy seminar. She graduated this past May with a master's in history from The University of Texas at San Antonio. This Fall 2021, she will begin a Ph.D. program in Culture, Literacy, and Language.

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