As part of my internship with the National Forum on Higher Education, I helped staff the mid-year retreat for the New Leadership Academy (NLA). NLA is a program that works to build better leaders in the field of higher education. Higher education professionals from UofM and other universities receive training on how to be a leader as they navigate their careers, learning about ways to spearhead efforts that contribute not only to the benefit of students in colleges and universities, but the public good as well.
My main role in this program was to be a driver. I was basically an Uber driver for the whole week, driving participants and program coaches from the airport to Ann Arbor and from their hotels to the different locations that the program took place in. I drove to the airport so many times during the program that it got to be second nature–something that came in handy when I had to drive my family to the airport during the same week. I didn’t mind all the trips, though. It was nice to sit in an air-conditioned car during the hot weather (since I was dressed in business casual for the entirety of the program) and I like driving anyway, so I enjoyed the rides.
The part I enjoyed most about my job during the program, however, was the talks that I had with my passengers. Some individuals were a bit snobby, others were more down to earth and excited to learn about me. Some gave me career advice, some just wanted to know about what I liked doing for fun, but by the end of the program everyone knew my name. In college, it’s seemed like networking has been just a buzzword. However, during the NLA program and during my summer in general, networking has paid off. Networking has helped me to find the internship that I’m at right now, as well as set up job plans to help forward my career in the fall. These trips to the airport were just like small networking sessions for me. I learned about the people I was driving, and they learned about me. But most importantly, I learned how to navigate conversations with professionals and make sure that my personality came across and that I was memorable for the person I was talking to. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to meet so many professionals in higher education, and maybe some day I’ll get the chance to utilize the network that I built during NLA!