Broaden the Community but Tighten Up the Network

One of the most challenging aspects of my work as a teacher has been helping students transition from school to career. As we all know, in our little corner of the non-profit world this transition can be a rough one. I often worry that my network isn’t big enough or open enough or deep enough to serve students adequately.

A couple of years ago, I asked students and colleagues with various perspectives to talk with me about possible solutions. These conversations led back to the same idea again and again: broaden the community but tighten up the network. (I still marvel at how simple the solution sounds compared to how difficult it is to actually do those two things at the same time.) With that goal in mind, “broaden the community but tighten up the network,” I started working with several teams to see if we could come up with an appropriate tool that would work for both students and professional mentors.

About a month ago, we quietly launched the beta version of a new network named InternActive (a salute to its interactive nature in facilitating internships). We’ve been watching the community grow, hoping for tight networks to emerge. This morning, the first gem arrived in my inbox:

Dear InternActive Staff,

I was one of the first student members of this site, and I wanted to let you know how helpful it has been! I found my summer internship here, and will be working at the Alaska Museum of Natural History for several weeks. I am beyond excited for this opportunity! I was really hoping for an internship somewhere out of state (I’m from Michigan) so that I could have a totally new experience, and this website was the best way for me to find those opportunities. I have recommended InternActive to my Museum Studies department at Central Michigan University, and to members of the Museum Club. I will definitely continue to refer friends, colleagues and classmates to this site. Thanks again for leading me to my internship!

Sincerely,
Hillary

I am thrilled that the first museum we heard about is located here in the West, and so it seems particularly appropriate to post this to the WMA blog. If you are interested in a broadening the community and tightening up your network, join us at InternActive.org and post a summer project. There are more than 200 students around the country looking for opportunities to collaborate and shape a great summer internship with you. (Just a friendly reminder: the site is still in beta release, so forgive us for the bugs here and there. We’re working as hard and fast as we can to get those ironed out!)

If you are interested in networking as an organizational concept, you may want to attend the upcoming Colloquium at JFK University on Saturday, April 30, 2011. Patti Anklam, author of Net Work: A Practical Guide to Creating and Sustaining Networks at Work and in the World and guest blogger on Beth’s Blog will be the presenter. (Space is limited.)

One more resource: AAM has scheduled a roundtable session in Houston on Sunday, May 22 at 4:15-5:30, Museum Internships: Today and Tomorrow. This will be another forum to broaden community and tighten up those networks!

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