New York, New York

A week ago (boy time flies!) I had the delightful privilege and honor to stand before a room of my peers in the workforce development sector. I was invited to New York City to join JobsFirstNYC as a guest speaker for a group of seven organizations who focus mostly on helping young adults, who are out of school/work, build workplace skills and find quality employment.

These orgs are doing really powerful work so I’ll link them below. You have to check them out!

Anyhow, so when I got the invite to be flown in from Chicago and have my hotel taken care of in Manhattan hunni, I was like, “girl, yes!”

Sidenote: You never know who’s watching you and taking notes. You never know when – who you are might open doors you hadn’t considered.

This moment has been in the making since April 2017 and I didn’t even realize it. In early 2017, I gave a speech in Chicago about employer engagement, strategies to building and maintaining relationships and overall success driver best practices for doing good work, tracking good work and using data to make sound business decisions. I was introduced to a consultant, Marty, during that meeting.

In 2017 I got a call from Marty with a request to talk to some individuals from New York over the phone. We had a great conversation about emplyer engagement and data.

Several months later, I recieved a request to do an event for New York. They offered a phone or live video conference for me to present. Unfortunately my schedule was insane so it didn’t work out.

Fast forward to April 2018, I was contacted by that same consultant friend, this time with an offer to visit New York and it worked in my schedule!

Taking a Water Taxi past the Brooklyn Bridge

The whole event was amazing. There was a lot of community learning happening as organizations shared with me and each other. There were great takeaways and action planning. This learning community takes times on a regular basis to meet and share their wins and losses, lessons and challanges. Instead of being competitive, they intentionally choose to collaborate. It’s inspiring, not only in our work but in our world.

At the event, I used my time to give an overview of my work, my team, describe our culture of metrics/data and share strategies for strengthening key internal/external feedback loops. I wanted to learn too and in addition to answering questions throughout the day to help as much as possible, I also took notes on ideas a few in the group offered me because who wouldn’t hear of an idea that could increase productivity and efficiency then do nothing!?

Action Planning Session

PS. If you’re not familiar with the work I do, here’s your chance to learn a bit more about Cara Chicago.

Walking through Cara’s Service Delivery Model

This space of helping individuals with barriers to employment, not only get back to work but thrive and walk with them as they transform their lives is such vital work. To sit in a room across the country and experience the synergy between my work and theirs was encouraging! I hope my insight will indeed help some individuals who sat in that room, along in their personal and professional journeys.

View of Lower Manhattan from Water Taxi

Outside of this really stellar part of my trip, I also had a few hours each day to explore New York City and boy did I! I walked all over town through Midtown and Brooklyn, Chinatown and Little Italy, Soho and Tribeca, Hell’s Kitchen and Lower Manhattan to name a few. My little legs were tired from all the walking but so worth it. And I saw crazy things, ate good food and had fun along the way!

Brooklyn Bridge

Manhattan Bridge

I already have a list of places to visit for next time. I look forward to more opportunities like this, more speaking engagements (I had a blast) and more cities to explore.

Thanks New York!

Organization list/links as promised:

Madison Strategies Group– connects individuals with quality employment, maximizing their unique talents to achieve advancement and independence.

Seedconational nonprofit organization that advances economic opportunity for people, businesses and communities in need.

Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation – partners with transportation and culinary employers to offer credentialing options for young people leading to a career pathway.

Green City Force – with partners Con Edison, C+C Apartment Management, and NYCHA’s REES focus on career pathways in the sustainability sector.

The Knowledge House – partnering on the Bronx Digital Pipeline with Hostos Community College and Per Scholas, developing pathways into cutting edge technology jobs by mobilizing pipeline partners who contribute to the Bronx tech ecosystem.

Roundabout Theatre Company in partnership with the IATSE union and The Door provide training and job placement for young people interested in technical theatre careers.

Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center partners with employers to train for careers in hospitality and food service. Isaacs Center also offers trainings in community health and education and child development.

Never Too Late

It’s never too late to make life what you want it to be. 

This week I had a great privilege to do some public speaking as a guest for two different events. Both great opportunities for me to continue in professional career development but also a chance to do what I love best…coach others by sharing experiences, stories and advice. 

One of the events was an invitation for me to do a “Lunch and Learn” with a group of male and female staff at the University of Chicago. They asked questions about my career journey, how to network, what to look for in a mentor, how to break the glass ceiling in the workplace, etc. It was fun and insightful for both sides in the conversation. 

When I arrived they shared a short list of questions to have me think about. The meeting ran more like an impromptu interview with questions shot my direction from anyone in the room. 

One question on the list that no ome asked but I wish they had. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

When I first read that question I got chills because it made me so happy. I am just 5-6 weeks from being 30 years old and totally LOVE that I can still be asked that. To me that means I don’t have to have had it all figured out by now in spite of what societal pressure tells me. 

I mean by some standards technically I’m behind the ball if I’m not in my lifer career, married with kids, owning vs. renting and the list goes on. But screw that because I am happy and free. 

Earlier today I was online and saw this great post that I wanted to share about where others were when they started success. Some of the most successful people started on that path late in life. 

No don’t use that to create excuses for what you are capable of creating and controlling NOW but think instead, it’s not too late if you haven’t figured it all out. It’s not to late to make changes in your life and create the life you truly want if you’re dissatisfied in even some small way with the one you have. It’s never too late. 

Whether you’re 18, 25, 30, 50, 75, 90 or anywhere in between. When was the last time you thought about that question. Have you made it to where you want or is there more to come for you. What do you want to be when you grow up? 

I will leave you with this other food for thought:

At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.

At age 24, Stephen King was working as a Janitor and living in a trailer.

At age 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.

At age 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.

Vera Wang failed to make the Olympic figure skating team, didn’t get the Editor-in Chief position at Vogue, and designed her first dress at 40.

Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career to pursue acting at age 42.

Samuel L Jackson didn’t get his first movie role until he was 46.

Morgan Freeman landed his first MAJOR movie role at 52.

Louise Hay didn’t launch her publishing company, Hay House until she was 62.

This was also in the post and probs my favorite part.

“If you haven’t found your dream career yet, it’s not too late. You aren’t a failure because you haven’t found fame and fortune by the age of 30. Hell, it’s OK if you don’t even know what your dream career is yet. 

Never tell yourself you’re too old to make it.

Never tell yourself you missed your chance.

Never tell yourself that you aren’t good enough.

Whatever you were born to do, You can still do it.”

I am so grateful to have people in my life who encourage me to dream big in that way. 

Me with one of my Professional Mentors, Laura Hoke

#WomenAtTheTop: 5 Career Panel Take-Aways

I promised last week that you would hear more about my experience from Wednesday night moderating my first panel ever. I am delighted to share.

The panel was hosted by the Chicago Multi-Cultural Connections group.  I was fortunate enough to have the moderating opportunity thanks to my friend and colleague who made the introduction.

The theme was “Women at the Top”, a look into the journey of business women in celebration of Women’s History Month. The great thing is there were men in the audience too, giving outstanding support.

Women’s History Month highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. Events like “Women at the Top” are impactful and important all year long but glad we could participate in it this month, especially in the same week as International Women’s Day.

My moderating goal of course was to guide the conversation, get to know our panelists and engage the audience. I was terrified to try something so new to me. I was not sure how it was going to go and if I would naturally fall into a rhythm. I pursued the challenge despite the fear and I am so glad that I did.

The three panelists were amazing.

Dawn Steele Halbert, a Regional Director for the Hispanic Media division at Meredith Corporation. She is an African-American woman who has spent her life in media making a difference.

Lucy Diaz is the VP of Corporate Sales at Univision Communications. Univision Communications is the leading broadcast media company serving Latin Americans. Lucy works with ad agencies and businesses all over the Midwest. Lucy shared refreshingly honest stories and tips about her experience and what she has learned over the years as a mom and businesswoman.

Yann Woolley is the Owner of Pistachios Contemporary Jewelry. Pistachios lies in the heart of downtown Chicago on the famous Magnificent Mile of Michigan Avenue. Pistachios has been a Chicago staple for over 21 years and they specialize in contemporary jewelry design created by talented and cutting edge artists in the world. As an immigrant to the United States, Yann had made tremendous success and really struck great cords with the audience about how far she has come but how her journey has had such impact.

Each of these ladies were truly inspiring. I opened the panel with a few starter questions about the career journey and what added challenges do they face being women and minorities.

We talked mentors, future goals, empowerment, competition, balance, men and leadership on and off the work clock throughout the panel. It was a dynamic conversation and I learned so much from it. The audience was engaged and a few people asked great questions to keep the conversation going.

Some of my favorite sound bites were:

1. Make your voice credible. You have to work twice as hard to make your point. (In regards to discrimination against women in the workplace)

2. Everybody is dealt a different deck but you can use your strength to forge through, deal with disappointment and  adversity, to overcome, to try harder

3. Speak Up! This was shared by Lucy Diaz in regards to a question about what she would tell her younger self

4. Opportunity will come but you have to Be Ready

5. Promote Yourself and Network within your Company

After the event, I had so many attendees asking if I moderate for a living and when I told them it was my first time they were shocked. I was even offered a job by one of the panelists.

It felt good to take a leap outside my comfort zone and fly. I prepared for the opportunity and I was ready when it came. That’s not always an option though and I understand that. Even if it did not go well, I would have learned just as much about where I am and where I want to be. I have many more goals and seeing these women and hearing their stories, I found more drive in myself.

I look forward to taking more risks, diving right in and continuing to live in my purpose.

L to R: Lucy Diaz, Me, Yann Woolley, Dawn Steele Halbert