Build Your Career HERE – Learning New Skills

Part of securing yourself in a job is having the skills to go all the way. Yes, you need to know the essential functions of a job before you sign on the dotted line, but if you really want to succeed, you should also know how to communicate, how to be a leader, and how to fail gracefully. Depending on your comfort zone and your age, there are a variety of different ways for you to go out and find a little leadership coaching.

Age has been on my side, and I have been afforded the opportunity to be a part of the Emerging Leaders Alliance through the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. This group’s mission is to develop a community of future leaders in Northeast Indiana and create opportunities for action, growth, and regional pride. We do this through working on Vision 2030 committees, hosting social and professional development events, working on strengths training, connecting with our community leaders with professional development book clubs, and of course, supporting our entire region however we can.

Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI) similarly affords this to me. While it is meant for a larger audience and a broader age range, it has different focus areas and many leadership roles for those who are interested. The opportunities to be vice chair of Living Fort Wayne (part of YLNI) and secretary of the ELA were only because I stepped out of my comfort zone and went out and looked to make myself and my community better. Luckily, many people were there to hold my hand, figuratively.

Not everyone is in their 30s and able to dance between the kids and the adults. Some of us have more to lose and need to get the skills and networking now. I went back to the same experts I talked to last week and asked them about where you need to go in order to go far.


What are the best networking groups in the area?

I will tell you this now because three people said it, but First Fridays is the place to be. According to Karl LaPan of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center(NIIC), Theresa Steele of Steele Business Coaching and Jim Johnson of 3 Rivers (also one of the founders), it is the best networking experience in town. According to Karl LaPan, “it is more than a networking group, it is also solid leadership development, so First Fridays is exceptional. This monthly meeting is a high return on investment. On one of my visits, I had five meetings and lunches as a result of attending and participating in the monthly event. The content and people are amazing. According to Jim, “There are many events and forums available in our area. Some charge a fee for participation. Some do not. I’m partial to First Fridays – the networking forum that my brother and I created.” I think we all are too, Jim. Just in case you can’t get away from work on a Friday morning, check out Shane Grantham and his networking rules of engagement, Business Network International (BNI), Greater Fort Wayne, Eventbrite, and the NIIC calendar of events for networking opportunities for women and entrepreneurs.


Where can you learn new skills?

Anywhere and everywhere,” according to Sonya Snellengberger- Holm. “I think it’s important that people look at all opportunities they’ve been given as a way to learn a new skill. I’ve sat in meetings that I really have no business being in (because it’s out of my wheel house or I don’t have the authority to make decisions on that specific topic) but I don’t look at those opportunities as a waste of my time. I see them as a way to look at what I hope my life/career will be like in a decade or so. I also think this community is designed to help people learn new skills. You can be a part of YLNI’s Leadership Institute, NEIRPs Emerging Leaders Alliance, people have access to almost all the CEO’s in the region, we have great universities that offer continuing education. I also think the more involved you are in the community the more you will learn. I’ve learned a ton of new things by being involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters, being a mentor at New Tech Academy at Wayne High School, and definitely as a board member.”

Some other experiences can be had remotely. According to Karl, LinkedIn Learning is quick and easy to use, and Global Leadership Summit, while it is a 2-day session, is held remotely in Fort Wayne so you don’t have to drive out to Chicago to see these amazing speakers. I can say that seeing Sheryl Sandburg and Lazlo Bock even remotely at a satellite location was worth it. The NIIC also provides some great professional development industry association meetings, university continuing education programs, and workshops.

It is hard to talk about developing new skills and not talk about furthering your education. If you are going through a career change for whatever reason, it may be a great time to consider furthering your education. Jim’s advice is “from auditing courses at local colleges to working on a new degree, you can gain much from more schooling. My brother represents Indiana Wesleyan University and they have many programs geared towards the adult learner. If more schooling is not for you, then commit yourself to learning from reading, podcasts, and the endless amount of resources found on the internet. Self-education is more than possible.” Similarly, Theresa recommends IPFW (soon to be Purdue Fort Wayne) Continuing Studies or Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation has their seasonal Fun Times brochure, depending if your interest is education or hobby related.

Now you have plenty of options and plenty of people that have invited you to First Fridays. When I moved to Fort Wayne 11 years ago, I didn’t know a single person. Now I can sit at a table a play 2-degrees from just about anyone. It took work, it took countless coffees, networking events, meetups, book clubs, and of course work and my groups that I belong to, but I am secretly a more confident person for it. Just don’t tell my friends. If I can email any of these people after meeting them once or never and ask for advice, you still have hope.


The fun isn’t over for us. We still have one more journey into learning about the best industries that our region has to offer and what resources we have if we decide to start our own business. Tune in next week!


Victoria Sarjeant

Author: Victoria Sarjeant

Victoria moved from to Fort Wayne from Greentown, IN in 2007. She received her BA in Political Science. She presented "Building Affinity Groups to Engage a New Generation of Alumni" at 2015 CASE V Conference and "Regional Talent Retention" at the 2017 CASE V Conference. She received the 2016 IPFW Distinguished Service Award, and was a director-at-large for IPFWAA Board of Directors. the secretary on the Emerging Leaders Alliance Executive Committee, vice chair of Living Fort Wayne Committee, a member of YLNI, a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and she runs her own business in her free time. She also owns I'm Not Wining, LLC and is an independent distributor for Young Living Essential Oils.

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