By Keiko Huffman, Career Connections Intern, Global Ties U.S.
The COVID-19 pandemic, quarantine, and subsequent isolation from one another taught us all the value of in-person interactions and the forging of new connections. In 2022, as the world slowly opened up again, Global Ties U.S., in partnership with the Office of Alumni Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and two of our community-based organizations, Global Ties ABQ and WorldBoston, was able to support the return of people-to-people interactions by hosting three Career Connections events in Washington, DC; Albuquerque, NM, and Boston, MA. Career Connections events bring together alumni of U.S. government exchange programs (ExchangeAlumni) and leaders from a range of sectors to connect, learn, and build on their exchange experiences. As Rafik Mansour, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) said to ExchangeAlumni at Boston’s event: “We want to empower you with the networking, tools, and resources you need to be successful in your careers and in sharing your experiences.”
The in-person series kicked off July 29 with Careers in Federal Government, which took place at the George C. Marshall Center at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC. The full-day professional development event, which was the first in-person Career Connections event since 2020, featured many distinguished speakers including Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, Director General of the Foreign Service, and Lee Satterfield, ECA’s Assistant Secretary of State. Nini Forino, Acting Deputy Assistant for Policy and Director of Alumni Affairs in ECA, welcomed attendees, highlighting the importance of these events by saying “our relationship with our alumni is lifelong. It’s almost like a new beginning after the exchange experience ends.”
Career Connections DC was a highly anticipated four-part hybrid event that comprised two virtual and two in-person components. The Art of Networking took place online July 21 and helped alumni maximize their in-person and virtual networks and advance their career search. On July 28, the ExchangeAlumni Networking Hour provided an in-person opportunity for attendees to connect and grow their professional networks. The following day, Global Ties U.S. hosted Careers in Federal Government, a full-day event that welcomed 36 attendees and provided ExchangeAlumni with skills, resources, and ideas to grow professionally. This included a variety of interactive workshops, panels, and opportunities to utilize the in-person networking skills they had learned. The last virtual component of the DC-series took place August 4 and focused on Pathways to Careers with the U.S. Government.
The next Career Connections event took place from September 16-18 in Albuquerque, NM. Organized in partnership with Global Ties ABQ, this in-person event explored how diversity and global engagement can enhance their workplace. Programming for this event included interactive workshops on team building, mentorship, and persuasive communications; panels on diversity and inclusive programming; as well as networking opportunities and cultural performances. Speakers included New Mexico State House Representative Pamelya Herndon (D-28) who presented on how Albuquerque supports diversity, and Trish Lopez, founder of the social nonprofit Teeniors who gave a presentation on how social entrepreneurship and community engagement can help create a better world. The intimate venue, Q Station, enabled the 17 ExchangeAlumni in attendance to connect, converse, and create strong networks.
Career Connections Boston, October 14-16, wrapped up a successful year of Career Connections events. Local partner WorldBoston organized the event, which took place at The Fletcher School at Tufts University and engaged 33 ExchangeAlumni along with leaders in business, government, and civil society. This in-person event focused on how ExchangeAlumni could leverage their international exchange experiences to build their professional and community impact. ExchangeAlumni were able to participate in dynamic sessions on storytelling, mentorship, and global engagement. Speakers included Rafik Mansour, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at ECA, and Opeoluwa Sotonwa, Massachusetts Commissioner for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Memorable sessions included a Fireside chat with Boston Marathon bombing survivor Dave Fortier and former Boston Police Commissioner Billy Evans, both U.S. ExchangeAlumni, as well as the closing session with Wendy Swart Grossman who helped participants reflect on how they could apply the information they gained during Career Connections into their own lives and individual communities. Many participants used the event as a networking opportunity, and took to heart the advice of DAS Mansour who reminded ExchangeAlumni that, “You need a network in life. Don’t limit your imagination just to the program you participated in. The ExchangeAlumni network is 1.8 million strong.”
Career Connections are unique professional development and networking events that bring together people from a range of sectors to connect, learn, and grow. Following the events, participants reported feeling more confident in their ability to make a difference at a local, national, and global level, and said their communication skills, self-confidence, and resourcefulness were greatly improved by the educational and networking events opportunities provided by Global Ties U.S. and our partner organizations. Global Ties U.S. looks forward to hosting future Career Connections events and continuing to bring together U.S. ExchangeAlumni with leaders in business, government, civil society, and other diverse fields.