This article originally appeared on the Net Impact website.
Our team recently caught up with Shannon Houde, a longtime advisor and friend of Net Impact, and owner of Walk of Life Coaching, the leading talent and career advisory service in the impact and sustainability sectors. Here, she shares why she comes back to the Net Impact Conference year after year, how students and professionals can make the most of their Conference experience, and why it’s one of the best investments anyone can make in their social impact career.
DON'T MISS OUT
ON MORE FREE TIPS
Sign Up For Our NewsletterSign up
Net Impact: There are so many like-minded social impact organizations out there. Why have you remained so committed to Net Impact through the years?
Shannon Houde: When I arrived at Thunderbird for my MBA in 2002, there were no formal programs or curriculums for sustainability, corporate responsibility, or impact. We had a track called International Development, but that was it. I met an alum who said that the Net Impact chapter there needed new leadership, so I jumped at the chance to reignite it, became Chapter President, and with my Chapter, ended up hosting the first corporate citizenship conference on our campus in 2003.
When I later started my own business at Walk of Life Coaching, I strategically chose Net Impact as my community partner because our missions are so aligned, and I love enabling recent graduates to be their authentic selves in converting their passion and purpose into pay. Seventeen years, many custom-tailored workshops, six conferences, dozens of coaching calls and career courses later, I think my commitment to Net Impact speaks for itself!
NI: As a busy career professional (on the other side of the globe!) why do you keep coming back to the Net Impact Conference year after year?
SH: There are so many reasons! Here are my top four:
- For more than 25 years, Net Impact has created change leaders at the university level and beyond, making it not only a pioneer in this space, but a preeminent Conference for career changers and graduates looking to learn, grow, and network for their next dream job. Programs like Career Central create an open environment for people to connect, exchange business cards, and recruit, while the interactive sessions and keynote speakers educate and inspire attendees to get busy creating world change.
- The Net Impact Conference is a safe space to come and meet like-minded people who could be in your circle of influence for years to come. Networking there is easy because everyone shares a similar passion and purpose for making a difference. The experts in attendance are extremely knowledgeable, open, and engaging, and they truly want the best experience possible for Conference attendees.
- The Conference is the annual landmark event that lures many of us professionals away from our busy desks, from across the country and globe, because we want to enable and empower young professionals to leverage their passion of making scalable change a reality. We want to make it easier for them to carry forward the torch of change, and, we’re equipped to help them do so. I walk away each year feeling not only inspired by new content and issues that get me fired up, but also, feeling energized in that I’ve helped a group of committed students and professionals blossom and develop.
- Every year, the Conference feels like a family reunion. It’s so invigorating to reunite with my people year after year, and the networking opportunities from both the professional and student standpoints are simply unmatched. There’s just nothing like those face-to-face conversations, brainstorms, and discussions about everything from diversity and inclusion to clean tech to sustainable coffee.
Just last year, at one of our annual reunion dinners that has become a longstanding tradition, I sat next to a pioneering academic, thought leader, and Net Impact Board Member, Stuart Hart, whose work I have been following since I decided to get my MBA in 2001. I reached out to him by phone a few months after the Conference, and he has since hired me on as University of Vermont’s Sustainable Innovation MBA’s Launch Careers Director. This is an incredible career opportunity for me to work one-on-one with 30 students who are eager to disrupt traditional business to create a more sustainable world. These types of career opportunities come from the meaningful, personal interactions that a Conference like this provides.
NI: What advice do you have for someone attending the Conference for the first time?
SH: Whether you’re a student, an activist, an early career professional or a seasoned one, have your elevator pitch ready! Do your homework on each of the people you want to meet. Do as much “pre-networking” as you can via email, LinkedIn, or other social channels. Find a place to meet people for a quick hallway conversation or coffee and schedule it with them in advance. Don’t be afraid to ask for others’ phone numbers and connect in real time. Plan which sessions you want to attend, and reach out to the speakers in advance if there’s something you want to share with them. Introduce yourself to the speakers just after their session if time allows. Most of all, come with an open mind, network better than you flirt, and be eager to soak in one of the best professional experiences you could ask for!