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.

Why So Serious? Lessons from New York

I had the wonderful privilege and honor over the weekend to celebrate my sister who is getting married in just a few weeks. We decided to do a girl’s trip to New York for the Bachelorette party. It was my first time being in the Big Apple. New York was a steady mix of everything I expected and nothing like what I expected.

I learned several important lessons from the Concrete Jungle such as:

1. Be ready to spend loads of money. It’s an expensive town so breathe deeply after the sticker shock to calm yourself then go on living. A New Yorker (former Chicagoan) who moved there recently had this to say when we met up: “Welcome to New York. It’s going to be expensive but you’ll have fun” —–he was right about it all.

2. Taxis and Uber are convienent but walk or ride the subway as often as you can especially if your party is bigger than 2 cab-fuls.

3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. It was so hot and I spent a lot of time dehydrated and trying to catch my body up on water.

The best thing I learned which brings me to my post topic was…Don’t be afraid to have fun.

Friday night we reserved a table at an impressive posh rooftop bar in the meatpacking district.

The space had beautiful views of the city. At first we were a little put of because there are so many layers of security that it feels like you’re applying for a job at TSA. Once we got through that, it was alright.

The bar was full of people throughout the night. We had an area reserved for our group of 10.

The music was great for dancing to but we were the only people actually dancing in the whole place. We also seemed to be the only ones truly enjoying each other’s presence.There were entire groups together and people weren’t even talking to each other. They didn’t look like they were having fun. They looked like they were so bored.

We didn’t care what everyone thought while they stared. We didn’t fly all the way from Chicago to not have the time of our lives. People were sitting in large groups staring at their phones it was ridiculous.

It felt like a similar experience I had in Miami. Connects to VIP in a hot night club and people seemed more concerned about looking cute instead of having a good time. I remember very similar bored faces. Beautiful people in a place created to have a good time and they seemed lifeless.

We had such a fun time dancing and laughing. We were the liveliest bunch there and people were staring in hopes we would acknowledge that’s not how things are done. Towards the end of the night a few strangers joined our group looking to take the pressure off and relax enough to have fun. They did.

Maybe what we saw is not an accurate impression but the differences were largely clear in the moment. If you find yourself in the same kind of situation when you hang out with friends, whether at a club, house party or dinner together, here is a way to get them to have a blast. Maybe everybody just needs to remember life is short so they can ease up a little.

The perfect way to achieve the fun is to create a No phone zone.

I love taking pictures and being in them but in order to really enjoy the company of those I’m with, I became the no phone police. At some point in the night when all the statuses were updated and enough pics were taken, there came a time when I requested we put the phones down completely.

It helped us connect and have a blast. We can all stand to lighten up a little.