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Filtering by Tag: professional development

2018 National Smart & Sexy© Day Highlights

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The Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits

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The Alliance of  Career Development Nonprofits (ACDN), through its partnership with Smart & Sexy© Lingerie empowers and supports its member organizations with tools to deliver an annual full- or half-day professional and personal development program to celebrate National Smart & Sexy Day. During March, Women’s History Month, eleven of our member nonprofits hosted National Smart & Sexy Day events for nearly 400 women and helped prepare them for employment.  Smart & Sexy© Day is an official holiday noted in the Chase Book of Holidays and recognized annually on March 13th. 

Smart & Sexy© Lingerie allows ACDN Members’ job seekers to be empowered from inside out. To that end, ACDN and Smart & Sexy© Lingerie sponsored a #SupportMeans hashtag contest to invite job seekers to define what “support means” to them.  Winning quotes were selected at each location and are highlighted throughout this piece. 2018 marks the 7th year of the National Smart & Sexy© Day event and to date over 1800 self-identifying women have attended. Many of the event hosts also received proclamations of “Smart & Sexy Day” by their city or state entities. 

We invited the Smart & Sexy Day hosts to share a short summary and highlights of their celebrations:

Click on the links below to read all blog contributions:

Bottomless Closet - New York, NY

Contributed by Alison Zaccone, Bottomless Director of Communications

I am very grateful for the informative sessions, lunch and gifts, all in an effort to make women feel more informed, confident and positive about themselves.
— National Smart & Sexy© Day participant

Bottomless Closet held its annual Smart & Sexy Day on March 13, 2018 at the Viacom Headquarters in New York City. The event was attended by nearly 50 women who enjoyed a full day of women empowerment and learning.

The first presentation of the morning was by Alyssa Gelbard, an Executive Career Consultant, Personal Branding Expert and Speaker, as well as Founder & President of Point Road Group. Alyssa talked about “The Power of Your Personal Brand” and the importance of being aware of the image you project to the world in all sorts of different professional and social situations, both in and out of the office.

The next presenter was long-time Bottomless Closet Volunteer Roberta Dougherty, who spoke to the attendees about “What to Wear: Office Culture and your Wardrobe.” Many times it’s challenging for our clients to decode the subtle differences between everything from ‘Business Formal’ to ‘Business Casual.’ Roberta did a great job of breaking down all of the different types of workplace dress codes and how to ace them.

The final presenter of the day was Anisha Bhasin Mukherjee from the blog Dress For The Day, who spoke about “How to Dress for an Interview On a Budget.” Anisha gave the women all of the best tips and tricks for where to shop in the city, where to find the best deals, and how to find great, affordable work staples.

Throughout the day, the women enjoyed participating in the interactive sessions, raffles and giveaway prizes, sharing their favorite #SupportMeans quotes onthe wall, and networking with each other.  A couple of our favorite quotes included: 

#SupportMeans being there through thick and thin, especially when you are at your lowest.”

”#SupportMeans unconditional love.
— National Smart & Sexy© Day participants

Career Wardrobe – Philadelphia, PA

Contributed by Jacyln Schrauger, Career Wardrobe Program Director

Career Wardrobe’s Smart & Sexy© Day for 2018 was a lovely, intimate day! It was held on the University of Pennsylvania’s beautiful campus. After breakfast, catered by Bon Appetit Catering, we started with a welcome from our Executive Director Sheri Cole, and then moved into a workshop with the Philly Bra Lady, Karima Renee. She talked about how a bra should properly fit, common fit issues, different types of bras for different body types, and body confidence. All attendees, including Career Wardrobe staff, learned a lot! Then we transitioned into individual bra fittings of Smart & Sexy bras while Megan O’Neill, a wellness consultant, talked with our guests about how to maintain their body confidence and wellness on a budget, sharing tips about sleep hygiene, meal planning, free ways to exercise, and much more. A delicious lunch from Bon Appetit was enjoyed during this time as well. 

In the afternoon, we focused on the “smart” part of Smart & Sexy©, with workshops provided by the Wharton Women in Business organization. The first workshop focused on career mapping, where clients look at their skill sets, interests, and experiences and developed a pathway for themselves with one-on-one support from Wharton volunteers. Following that, Wharton Women in Business lead a segment on negotiation skills, and our clients got to practice one-on-one with them and flex their new skillset in a variety of role-play scenarios. 

#SupportMeans encouragement, hope, education, and networking! Being Smart and Sexy empowers me to be more confident and knowledgeable on my journey to success.
— National Smart & Sexy© Day participant

Our keynote speaker was the extremely motivating Nikki Johnson-Huston, who has experienced homelessness, dropping out from college, and poverty in her lifetime before she pivoted and re-entered college, earning not only her Bachelor’s but a law degree and launching her own tax law firm. She is now the Philly Tax Diva as well as a beauty queen as Mrs. Montgomery County. Her very inspiring and personal story encouraged our clients to share their struggles and triumphs with her as well, and the day ended on a note of strong support from each other. All clients and speakers received a gift bag from Career Wardrobe at the end of the day, which included gift cards, jewelry, and other tokens of our appreciation for their time and talents. 

Desert Best Friend’s Closet – Palm Desert, CA

Contributed by Connie Golds, DBFC Executive Director and ACDN Board President

Desert Best Friend’s Closet (DBFC) hosted it’s fourth Smart & Sexy© Day on Friday, March 9, 2018. This year, we opened the event to the public. Twenty-three (23) women applied and were accepted for the program; of this group, 17 women attended.

Our event kicked off with a keynote speech by Dr. Susan Murphy on “Smart and Sexy” self-esteem. Dr. Murphy has presented at past Smart & Sexy© Day events and is always very popular with the ladies. Veronica Vergne of Altura Credit Union presented on “Women and Money,” which was also well-received. Veronica shared that she never had a checking account until her late 20’s because her mother just used money orders and she thought that was how it was done. DBFC’s Matthew Campos presented on “Jump Starting Your Job Search” giving tips on how to effectively and efficiently search for work. Katherine Melbern of the Summit School of Protocol returned to present on how to give proper introductions. Each woman was able to practice and receive feedback from Katherine. Robyn Howard of Keys to Your Closet presented on how to “Build Your Wardrobe on a Budget” which included tips for dressing for your body shape and where to shop.

Two highlights this year were when the County Supervisor, V. Manuel Perez, came and presented a proclamation from the County Board of Supervisors honoring March 9, 2018 as Palm Springs’ “Smart & Sexy© Day.” The other highlight was two high school students from Cathedral City High School’s Digital Arts program volunteered to attend as our photographer and videographer. 

#SupportMeans building someone up; holding them in high regard and assisting where you can.
— National Smart & Sexy© Day participant

Jackets for Jobs, Inc. – Detroit, MI

Contributed by Alison Vaughn, Jackets for Jobs Founder/Executive Director

Jackets for Jobs’ 2018 Smart & Sexy© Day was a Success! 

Wednesday March 21, 2018 Jackets for Jobs celebrated Smart & Sexy© Day! We invited 31 ladies anticipating a few no-shows to have a goal of 25 women. 30 women attended our event on a beautiful sunny day. 

We opened the event with an ice-breaker, “What’s in your purse” game and served a continental breakfast. Our first speaker, Darlene Bulger motivated the audience with a powerful poem and speech about self-esteem and brought tears to many. Our second speaker Latrice Macon-Delgado was a familiar face to many because she is a regular guest on FOX 2 News regarding fashion. She gave good pointers about how to dress and fashion trends. The third speaker was very inspirational and a history maker of the sorts, Monica Morgan is an international photographer and speaker. She was also the personal photographer to the famous Rosa Parks. She has photographed everyone from the President of the United States to celebrities. She gave every guest a photo of Michelle Obama that she took at the first Presidential Inauguration. Everyone was so  excited to receive the photo. After Monica spoke, Alison Vaughn, Founder of Jackets for Jobs spoke over lunch about being “Smart & Sexy”. 

The City of Detroit’s Proclamation, proclaiming Smart & Sexy© Day in Detroit was on display for all to see and each participant received a bra/panty set and a gift bag. Jackets for Jobs staff and volunteers assisted each person with love and hugs. 

#SupportMeans...if you support me like a good bra I can conquer the world.
— National Smart & Sexy© Day participant

JLEP Career Closet – Cranford, NJ

Contributed by Florence Baker, Career Closet Co-Chair

On March 20, 2018, the Junior League of Elizabeth Plainfield’sCareer Closet hosted a celebratory event from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm at the Jumble Store located at 110 Walnut Avenue in Cranford honoring Women’s History Month.  Career Closet volunteers assisted women from three community partner organizations with selecting business attire. They also received a professional bra fitting and new Smart & Sexy bra, and training on building a resume, interviewing skills, and building a professional wardrobe on a budget.  The program included a presentation on social media and online tools to assist with job searches and networking.  A panel of professional women discussed how they were able to maximize the use of social media along with traditional networking tools in their careers.  The ladies also received a new computer tote, and a copy of Millennials in Wonderland: Coaching Grads at the Crossroads of Life and Careeralong with the clothing.  

#SupportMeans having the support of friends and family to take a leap of faith in a job change!
— National Smart & Sexy© Day participant

Ladies of Valor Empowerment (L.O.V.E.) – North Miami, FL

Contributed by Alourdes Pierre, L.O.V.E. Executive Director

The 2018 Women's History Month celebration was a quite a moving event for more than 100 members of the community who came out to support and celebrate with Ladies of Valor Empowerment (L.O.V.E.) as they saluted prominent local businesswomen in an annual program entitled "Women Lead with L.O.V.E. – Smart & Sexy© Day" All the action happened again this year at the City of North Miami Public Library. In keeping with its mission to inspire women and girls of all ages to achieve personal and professional success, the North Miami-based nonprofit presented its 2018 Woman Pioneer Award to Enette N. Henderson, State Farm Agent and Financial Services Specialist, and L.O.V.E. Board Member. This career-focused day of enrichment and empowerment also featured well-known community figures sharing stories of how they achieved success, faced challenges, and overcame obstacles as women leaders: including Evrose Philias-Noel, MSN/MPH, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist-University of Miami, and Haitian American Humanitarian; Diana Gonzalez-Whyte, County Court Judge the 11th Judicial Circuit for Miami-Dade County; and Michelle Garcia, ED. Dean, Dean of Academic Affairs, Johnson & Wales University, North Miami campus. 

"L.O.V.E.'s annual Women's History Month event allows us to shine a light of awareness to the important work of our dedicated members and the lasting impact they have on the lives of thousands of people in our community," said Alourdes Pierre, Founder and CEO of L.O.V.E. "It is our hope and desire that everyone left this celebration with greater confidence and readiness to start a new chapter in their professional lives." Participants received complimentary gifts from Smart & Sexy©. "We focus on helping women feel good about who they are, because feeling good is looking good," Pierre continued. "Such an event surely helps us to instill in the L.O.V.E. ladies the knowledge and confidence to achieve self-sufficiency through employment." 

#Supportmeans Ladies of Valor Empowerment, number one organization situated in one Of the largest Haitian American community who developing high risk teenage girls to become women leaders for tomorrow with donation of new beautiful bras, interview clothing and summer jobs for the YOVES and employment readiness for the LOVE ladies.
— National Smart & Sexy© Day participant

MadeIt! Foundation – Baltimore, MD

Contributed by Lisa Wingfield, MadeIt! Foundation Executive Director

Madeit! Foundation hosted their first Smart & Sexy© day on March 10, 2018. This event provided great information on issues which affect women daily. The day included women's empowerment sessions in networking, activities, seminars, and great conversation. We had several sessions that focused on health, civil rights, wellness, beauty, and careers. MadeIt! Foundation had great, local guest speakers such as Rebecca Schaffner LGPC, and Roche with Roshe Cosmetics, Keith Merkey MCCR, Chere Goode and our Keynote Dr. Roz of TV One.

Madeit! Foundation was able to serve and help twenty-two (22) women in Baltimore from varying backgrounds and ages. Our National Smart & Sexy Day was a successful event because of all the hard work of our Staff, Board, Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits, and Smart & Sexy© Lingerie brand. 

#SupportMeans success and achievement to reach empowerment.
— National Smart & Sexy© Day participant

Suited for Success – Oklahoma City, OK

Contributed by Susan Walton, Suited for Success Executive Director

Suited For Success celebrated Smart & Sexy© Day, March 20that our referral partner, OSU-OKC Project Reach and Project Reach for Work, from 9:00 am to 2:30 pm. The event was attended by 35 students/future clients, 4 instructors, volunteers, and amazing speakers. Smart & Sexy© Day is one of our most anticipated days of the year!

We held four principal sessions: (1) “Self Image,” with speaker Rita Maxwell, Executive Director, Wholistic Life Systems; (2) “Clothing Workshop” presented by Charlet Sauls and Maha Moorad, Personal Shoppers to Oklahoma City’s elite; (3) Keynote speaker Bansari Mehta, Medical Practice Administrator, spoke about the challenges she faced coming to America as a young single woman; (4) “Workforce Workshop” was presented by Rachel Rudisill, Director of Marketing, Express Employment Professionals; and the Smart & Sexy Bra-Fitting was lead by Susan Walton.

Attendees enjoyed the swag bags and prizes, but the beautiful Smart & Sexy bras were the best gift of all.  I would like to thank the Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits (ACDN) and Smart & Sexy© Lingerie for making this day possible. 

#SupportMeans encouragement; backbone; unconditional love; encouraging others to succeed; family; networking; always willing to help.
— National Smart & Sexy© Day participants

Tailored for Success – Malden, MA

Contributed by Elizabeth Hart, Tailored for Success Executive Director

Tailored for Success held its annual Smart, Tailored & Ready! /  Smart & Sexy© Day on March 27, 2018. There were 20 participants in attendance and they were treated to a light breakfast, lunch and goodie bags. The topics covered in this empowering workshop were: “Interview with Confidence,” where participants were given information on the various stages of the interview process; “Social Media & the Job Search,” to encourage those who were not incorporating social media in their job search to do so and how to develop a social media strategy and lastly, the participants were given information on the Massachusetts Pay Equity Law that will go into effect on July 1, 2018 and given information on how to negotiate for the best salary under the new law. 

#SupportMeans a “crutch” meaning that women have to support each other (e.g. give them a crutch to lean on).
— National Smart & Sexy© Day participant

Transforming Lives & Restoring Hope – Roanoke Rapids, NC

Contributed by Stephanie Credle, Transforming Lives & Restoring Hope Executive Director

Transforming Lives & Restoring Hope, Inc. was one of eleven ACDN agencies to host Smart & Sexy© Day 2018.  Our event was designed to empower women in the Roanoke Valley Area. The event was held on March 17, 2018 and was a day-long event.  The venue was the 2ndFloor of the Renaissance Spa, a full-service spa that is adjacent to Lily’s Boutique.  This year’s event included the following themes:

1.     The Importance of Having a Vision

2.     Insights from a Human Resource Manager (Resumes, Interview Techniques & More)

3.     A Professional Image on a Budget (Lessons from a Thrifting Socialite)

4.     How to Get Unstuck (Moving Forward)

Over 20 women attended the event. State and local officials lent their support.  The Mayor of Roanoke Rapids issued a Proclamation, proclaiming March 17th and Smart & Sexy© Day. 

#SupportMeans not just the foundation; yet I see or view it as my pillars between the levels keeping me up.
— National Smart & Sexy© Day participant

WHW – Irvine, CA

Contributed by Ileana Leos, WHW – Program Executive Assistant

WHW recently celebrated Women’s History Month by hosting Smart & Sophisticated/Smart & Sexy© Day, a full day of employment readiness training, professional styling and individual support for 26 job seekers in transition. The morning was kicked off with breakfast and an impactful and inspirational presentation on Personal Branding. With the assistance of volunteers from Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN) of PepsiCo, each job seeker was provided with professional clothing, accessories and foundation garments provided by Smart & Sexy© Lingerie. After a delicious lunch, job seekers participated in Interview Training and learned how to answer some of the tough interview questions. Everyone agreed that it was the perfect way to celebrate the month! One job seeker wrote, “Thank you for helping to empower us as women and for giving us valuable tools to launch us forward on our new positive path of life, success and happiness. WHW provides an amazing wealth of knowledge, support and strength!” 

#SupportMeans uplifting others no matter what. Being that person who encourages others to succeed & gives them the tools to do it!
— National Smart & Sexy© Day participant

Smart & Sexy Day 2018

Ariela Balk, CEO & Founder, Smart & Sexy

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Guest Blogger

Ariela Balk, CEO and Founder, Smart & Sexy 

Support means so many things to me. As a company, we make beautiful bras that support women and help them achieve their idealized physical shape. As a woman, one of my most rewarding responsibilities is supporting other women as they grow their careers and businesses, both financially and through mentoring. Helping shape the future, with more successful women, and women owned businesses is one of the most fulfilling ways to spend my time.

We take pride in supporting women all year round, but in March we get special the opportunity to witness our direct impact first hand. March 13th is officially Smart & Sexy Day and every March (Women’s Month), we team up with The Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits to host Smart & Sexy Day events in cities throughout the country. Smart & Sexy Day Events help give women the tools they need to enter, or re-enter, the work force. There’s more to being successful then just building an impressive resume, it’s about building confidence. Bras aren’t going to change the world, but the confident women who wear them will. Smart & Sexy Day events will inspire women - boosting their self-confidence so that they feel assured, confident, and most of all, employable.

Women who attend Smart & Sexy Day at a participating ACDN location will receive Smart & Sexy foundation garments from Smart & Sexy as well as job seeking skills training from leading local industry professionals and dedicated volunteers. Attendees will also be taught how to shop and build a professional wardrobe on a budget. This year’s events will be taking place at the following locations:

  • Desert Best Friend’s Closet (Palm Desert, CA) – March 9
  • Madelt Foundation (Baltimore, MD) – March 10
  • Bottomless Closet (New York, NY) - March 13
  • Ladies of Valor Empowerment (Miami, FL) - March 17
  • Transforming Lives & Restoring Hope, Inc. (Roanoke Rapids, NC) – March 17
  • Suited for Success (Oklahoma City, OK) - March 20
  • Jackets for Jobs, Inc. (Detroit, MI) – March 21
  • Junior League of Elizabeth Plainfield Career Closet (Cranford, NJ) – March 20
  • WHW (Santa Ana, CA) – March 23
  • Shining Success (Claremont, NH) – March 24
  • Career Wardrobe (Philadelphia, PA) - March 26
  • Tailored for Success (Malden, MA) – March 27

As Smart & Sexy day Marches on, we ask that you take the time to help empower women around you, starting with yourself.

CEO & Founder of Smart & Sexy

Ariela

What does support mean to you? Tell us in the comments below!

Mind the Gap - Learning on the job

Pedro Branco, Brazilian Filmaker + Educator

It’s not unusual for nonprofit professionals to operate out of their depth: on the one hand, they are constantly looking for innovative ways to deal with complex social issues that resist easy solutions. On the other, however, it might simply be the case that they lack appropriate knowledge or skills - in fact, there are circumstances where despite almost complete unpreparedness, one feels compelled (or even pressed) to get a certain job done. There’s just no one else to do it. One way of addressing these knowledge gaps is to learn by doing, to accept experience as one’s teacher. When you try your hand at something you’re prone to develop palpable intuition: one that is grounded on observations and lessons drawn from real cases. Over time, these lessons pile up and become interwoven, composing a sort of roadmap that can be used to drive sound decision-making. But while we agree that experience is indispensable for everyone’s professional development, it is certainly true that it is not the best teacher in every situation.

There are many reasons for that: one is that experience tends to most effectively teach through hardship, and learning what doesn’t work will not necessarily point you in the direction of what actually does. Similarly, negative experiences may prevent you from further exploring fertile - but highly nuanced - territory. Lastly, it goes without saying that learning from the experiences of others is what made humanity come this far: had every generation kept reinventing the wheel, we would not have invented the car. It is by recognizing where experience falls short as a teacher that we will be able to acknowledge where education (broadly defined as any form of enquiry that takes place outside of one’s realm of immediate experience) can be most effectively harnessed for professional development purposes. However, because education is broadly regarded as a positive thing, it’s tempting to overlook some vital considerations about how the learning process interacts with the day-to- day of a working professional, and with that of the organization itself. Here I devise a framework to help organizations effectively employ education for the betterment of their operations.

1. Identify the gap by articulating a claim of causality based on evidence

Sometimes there is a clear deficit in knowledge that needs to be addressed, often reaffirmed by accumulating negative experiences. Take the example of social media management. If an organization repeatedly fails to gain traction among its audiences despite having tried numerous approaches, it might then recognize a pressing need to qualify its staff through training. Often times, however, learning needs seem to be deeply entangled in the practice of one’s job, and are therefore less clearly acknowledged. An employee working directly with social media management may encounter difficulties on a daily basis which may be attributed to a personal lack of preparedness. In both cases there is a gap to be filled - what changes is its status within an organization. Defining such status is not as straightforward a process as one might think at first glance, and yet is vital for devising a productive framework that employs education for the purpose of improving not only the quality of one’s work, but the overall effectiveness of the organization’s operations.

Let’s return to the example of social media strategy. The inability to engage audiences may be composed of several different factors directly related to staff qualification, each requiring specific solutions. Perhaps the photos aren’t good enough, or blog articles are not well written, or the editorial schedule has been poorly designed. Perhaps the content you create is just not relevant to the audiences you target. It is evident that it would be inadequate to look for an answer to the general problem without first breaking it down into manageable pieces. Therefore, first you need to articulate how possible causes are related to the general problem and what evidence can be offered to support your claim, finally listing possible solutions to address such causes. For instance:

Lack of engagement on social media, possibly caused by bad photos (as evidenced by inferior engagement stats in photography-based posts on Facebook) can be solved by training staff in photography techniques.

By formulating a claim, you concretely relate problems arising within your organization with gaps in knowledge, and articulate how they may be attributed to specific people and current practices. Some problems are very easy to identify, such as in the example above; others, however, are entangled, and may span across different departments, involve several people, and consist of multiple gaps. This exercise of decomposing complex issues ensures that specific fractures are pinpointed, that conjectures are made based on evidence, and ultimately, that education/training is elected as the best avenue to solve the problem based on an informed perspective.

2. Consider the practicalities and share the stakes

Once the knowledge gaps are identified and consensus is reached that education or training is the appropriate way to address them, a set of practical questions arise: are your employers expected to invest their own time on pursuing training/education, or will they be allowed to carve out a couple of hours every week from their work schedule? What if it requires travel or periods of absence from the job? If monetary investment is required, will it be provided by the organization? It is important to be mindful of these practicalities even if the employee will not undergo a structured learning process, such as a course or training program. Education is widely available in today’s world and may come in different forms, all of which will require some sort of investment of the part of the learner. Situations where unstructured learning is sought are particularly prone to breed ruptures if not properly acknowledged and handled.

These and other practical aspects must be negotiated directly and openly between the people concerned, and may even open up interesting avenues for positive bonding between organization and individuals (an organization may be willing to underwrite training costs if the employee agrees to invest their own time - a mutually beneficial agreement that concretizes how each side’s compromises works toward the achievement of a collective goal). However, it may also be source of negative feelings (if, for example the employee feels it is unfair to be expected to invest their own time to learn something new in order to perform their job, or if the organization resents the employee for investing working hours in unapproved professional development). Clarity, openness, and agreement are therefore essential factors in defining the mechanism through which organization and employee will both commit, manage, and benefit from this gap-filling process. Moreover, this process should entail more than a simple fine tuning of logistics - it should be a moment where employee and organization agree to share the stakes in the learning process.

3. Do not relegate an employee’s learning process to the backstage

I contend that professional development and the performance of one’s job should not be split from one another, as dressing rooms are from stage. It is by investing in fluid congruence between them that organizations and individuals can benefit the most. The core assertion in simple: any given learning experience, by definition, should remove learners from their comfort zone and present them with ideas, concepts, and practices that challenge their current ideas, concepts, and practices. If not, it would be either superfluous or redundant. However, this process may uncover problems that directly relate to ideas, concepts, and practices currently established in their workplace that are unrelated to them and their work, resting under someone else’s auspices. When this happens, the solution to a problem will require deeper change in the organization.

If the organization is not ready or wiling to enact those changes, it then reaches a serious rupture. That is because education is not, in and of itself, the solution to any problem and organization faces, but rather an avenue to help point to concrete actions that, if enacted, can be reasonably expected to solve the problem at hand. The educated employee, having acquired the knowledge required to identify such actions, has moved away from the organization’s current practices, creating another gap. To close gap by moving the employee closer to the organization means, in effect, ignoring or suppressing the learning process they have undergone. Therefore, congruence between professional development and the performance of one’s job helps ensure that the learning process addresses the core issue it sets out to address and avoid fragmentation within the organization.

Quick case study

Imagine John - recently employed at an organization that sells low cost travel packages designed to provide young college graduates work experience at international nonprofits, John has been tasked with the management of online sales pipelines, with a clear directive of increasing lead conversion. John is himself fresh out of college and after grappling with the task at hand for a few months, notices very little improvement. After talking with the management team, it is decided that John will enroll in a course specifically designed to explore sales strategies for nonprofits. Practicalities have been discussed and agreed upon - everyone is onboard! Here’s the claim they came up with:

Low rates of lead conversion, possibly caused by John’s insufficient knowledge in sales (as evidenced by a few months on insufficient increase in conversion) can be solved by John taking a course in sales strategies.

John is excited - the course covers many interesting modules, one of which prompts him to think about the relationship between unsolicited emails, user responsiveness, and brand management. In this module, it is argued that mass unsolicited emails are cost-effective for the sender, for while the majority of users rarely engage with them, a few do - and despite representing a small percentage, these amass to sizable quantities due to the monumental number of emails sent. However, influential users that identify a certain organization with recurring spam emails are likely to defame it on social media, hurting its reputation and therefore hindering meaningful growth in the long run. In conclusion, despite some benefits that may arise in the short term, unsolicited emails should generally be avoided to ensure positive brand recognition.

John is now in a bit of a pickle - his supervisor had clearly instructed him to collect email addresses of recent college graduates from various listservs and send (unsolicited) promotional emails about their travel packages. John knows that a change in strategy at this point, while beneficial in the long run, is likely to reduce the amount of business done by the organization in the short term. In addition, John does not have the authority to redesign the sales strategy alone. When this issue was brought to the management team, the discussion was tabled. « We can’t afford to lose business » they said; « this strategy worked in the past, perhaps you’re just not doing it right yet ». It will be impossible for John to let go of what he learnt: he now understands how problematic spamming is and how it may hinder the organization’s future. He may actually even feel embarrassed that he himself has to engage with it. His learning process has been relegated to the dressing rooms, and John is expected to go back to the stage and continue his work as if nothing happened and demonstrate the improvement that was expected after having taken the course. However, his studies helped him articulate a different claim to address the original problem:

Low rates of lead conversion, possibly caused by inappropriate lead generation strategy (as evidenced by statistics and cases studied in class) can be solved by adopting a more focused lead generation strategy.

The solution to this claim is no longer education - it is a shift in the organization’s current sales practices. As we have seen, every claim whose solution is education is in fact the outer layer of another set of claims whose solution requires a change in execution. Often times, such change in execution will directly involve other people, interconnected routines, and ultimately call for a deeper reformulation in methods or systems than originally presumed necessary. Organizations must be ready to deal with this event should it be triggered by a learning process - odds are it will. Not doing so would not only defeat the purpose of using education to improve the quality of the organization’s work, but also fail to solve the original problem. 

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Pedro Branco is a Brazilian filmmaker and educator. Having previously worked as Director of International Partnerships for NYC-based nonprofit Filmmakers Without Borders, Pedro has recently stepped in as remix←→culture's Deputy Director. In addition to working in the nonprofit sector, Pedro maintains a strong presence in academia, having been a founding member of IRIS - the laboratory for visual anthropology at the University of Brasília, awarded the best laboratory of its kind across Brazil between 2010 and 2012.