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A Networking Success Story

April 10, 2012


Networking: to interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.  

During my career at Goodwill, I have experienced networking in a very broad sense.  I have learned that some of the most life changing networking opportunities didn’t begin in a conference room or at an official networking event, but they can happen at any moment.  My opinion is that connecting (or networking) is most successful when there is a genuine passion for what you do and for the goals in life you want to achieve.  Networking, for me, has happened at the grocery store, in the doctor’s office, at the mall and most recently for me, at church.

I met Nikki Ellis a few months ago at a volunteer orientation at our church.  We had an opportunity to share a little of our stories with each other and talk about what had led us to become involved as a church volunteer.

Nikki had the amazing courage to share with this group of strangers that she had recently been released from an 18-month stay in prison for failing to report fraudulent activity at her company.  Nikki talked about her difficult struggle to find employment since her release.  Nikki had many skills and strengths, but her criminal record became a significant employment barrier for her.  She was just broken in spirit.

Liz stands with Nikki at her graduation ceremony

Immediately, I knew that Goodwill would be able to help Nikki.  I wasn’t exactly sure how, but I was confident we would be able to give her hope again, a support network and a renewed sense of confidence as she continued her job search.

I introduced myself to Nikki, embraced her and encouraged her to seek out Goodwill’s services.  The next week I brought her my business card and then every time I saw her after that I asked if she had stopped by the Career Development Center.  It took a few months, but she finally showed up. In March, Nikki graduated from Goodwill’s Banking and Customer Service training program, and she shared her story with a room full of graduates, their families, and community connectors.

Nikki represents her class at Goodwill's Occupational Skills Training graduation ceremony

My advice for networking success:

  • Remember that networking is about connecting. If you help connect others, you will inevitably build your own network and gain access to opportunities you didn’t have before.
  • Take Action! Don’t worry about timing, because opportunities pass us by every day.
  • Don’t get weighed down by the incorrect idea that networking only needs to happen from 9-5, Monday thru Friday.

We all have the power and the passion to change a life for the better, whether it’s through networking, donating, or volunteering your time.  I witnessed the impact of a seemingly random conversation with one person. Regardless of whether you can see the results of networking, know that you have the power to help change people’s lives!

– Liz Foster

Liz Foster currently serves as the Vocational Coaching Services Manager overseeing two of Goodwill’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation contracts. She has worked for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont for four years, and spent two years prior to that working with Goodwill Industries of Central Virginia. Her career with Goodwill has encompassed both Workforce Development Services and Retail Management, and she is passionate about Goodwill’s impact on people in our community.

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