Staying at a company for years can sometimes be a challenge, given that work environments can come equipped with tough personalities and difficult experiences. But Weedon threw a few words of caution to those contemplating jumping around. He explained that it's always a red flag for him when he sees several nine-month and one-year tenures on a resume.
On the contrary, Bridget Kelly, director of district engagement at City Year, a nonprofit organization that partners with school districts to offer student support and interventions, talked to attendees during the breakout sessions about the benefits of having worked in several different jobs over the past few years. Her stints include serving as a program officer for the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top program and working for uAspire, an organization that helps make college affordable for students.
"I think my experiences represent different dimensions of how I have come to add value to an organization," said Kelly. For Kelly, her jumps from being a journalist to teaching English in Honduras to working in education policy have all helped her narrow her direction and added to her growth as a dynamic employee. YEP-DC also proved to be an effective networking organization for her, as she was introduced to City Year through someone she connected with at a YEP-DC event.
Kelly encouraged the professionals at her table to seek out and jump into new initiatives because they allow individuals to truly show their creativity and fortitude. Individuals are more likely to pave their own paths and determine the direction of a program when it’s a new initiative that isn't yet established, she explained.
Toward the end of his keynote, Weedon summarized what his 20-plus-year career has taught him in five bullets, offering words of advice to a roomful of young education professionals ready to network:
- Find your personal compass. Make an effort to know what makes you happy and who you are. Identify your personal strengths and weaknesses.
- Set professional goals and revisit them on a regular basis.
- Surround yourself with people who support you. Find mentors.
- Let no one be a stranger. Build networks. Volunteer, join boards, and find like-minded people.
- Keep your eyes open for unexpected doors and walk through them. Take that risk.
Francesca Duffy is a communications and advocacy specialist at a national association for school superintendents. She can be reached via email or Twitter.