New Program, Who Dis?
By Erica Warren, WEN board member
Who offers a new program no one has heard of in the middle of a pandemic? Well, we did.
Before the pandemic, WEN events had always been in person. There is an energy that flows from events where professionals share food and engage with dynamic speakers and ideas. At these events, personal connections and friendships are made, jobs are offered and a spark for the future is lit.
In March of 2020, WEN pivoted to conducting virtual events in order to continue providing opportunities to connect and build leadership. We did a number of events, which offered support and countered the isolation encountered by those who were surprised by a layoff or otherwise stymied in their professional development. The response was amazing. The new format spoke to many members who could not engage fully at our in person events. Seeing this, we decided to offer a series that we had been planning for a long time, but never imagined would be entirely on Zoom.
WENtorship was an ambitious effort and a success from the get go. Our goal was to engage 25 women in cohort based peer to peer mentoring workshops with weekly gatherings to connect and build capacity. It would include talks and breakout groups for exploring job searches and other career development.
WENtorship participants had many reasons to pursue the program: recent job loss, job transitions that were prolonged by the pandemic, unhappiness at work, lack of diversity, a need for connection, and a desire for a professional community. These insights drove the design of the program and allowed us to pursue the right speakers.
We had participants ranging from women entering the sustainability field to women nearing the end of their careers who were looking for meaningful ways to contribute and apply their technical prowess. Many wanted to enter new fields and apply communications, policy and advocacy skills to address the ills of our society and collectively build our green future.
WENtorship was made of five skill building meetings with two happy hours in between that allowed us to practice these skills and connect. Each of the 90 minute meetings covered a key topic in career development: values-driven job searches; resumes and LinkedIn; tools for addressing bias in the workplace; telling our stories to be most effective in interviewing; engaging in volunteerism to make a professional transition. We featured dynamic speakers and activity facilitators who introduced these topics with heart and compassion and professional tact and skill.
Values driven job search: Marie Washington of Canadian Solar started us off with a wonderful exercise on identifying and leaning into our values when we search for opportunities.
Resumes and LinkedIn: Suzanne Campi empowered us to face our fears of applications head on-and provided insight into some hard truths, such as the ways women tend not to see themselves in new leadership roles or apply for them! – unless they have accomplished 80% or more of the tasks in a job posting. (For men, the threshold for applying is more like 20%.)
Effective Interviewing: We had three dynamic leaders for Interviewing: Rebecca Busch and Nicole Frick covered being prepared like a boss, and Laura Paradise of Paradise Coaching covered the art of the brag.
Volunteering: Finally, we featured the work of Mackenzie Feldman, the founder of Herbicide Free Campus and Isle Villacorta, a WENtorship participant who did an exceptional job at presenting the value of being engaged, making a difference and joining activist movements to better the environment.
The joy of doing skill building in a cohort while fulfilling our own purpose was the central theme of WENtorship. Seven Zoom calls later, members were making friendships and informational interview appointments with the same ease. At WEN, we consider ourselves fortunate to have been able to design a program and a way for them to connect with each other.
In 2021, we will be offering two cohorts in the spring and the fall. Watch this space for more details.