Sarah Pumroy is the Communications Associate for Birthright Israel NEXT. She was participant in The Kivun Intensive 2010. Kivun, which in Hebrew means “direction,” is a five-month intensive professional development program for exceptional young professionals in the Jewish communal sector.
The Kivun Intensive blends skills trainings, reflection exercises and net-working opportunities to empower participants with the tools to become leaders and change-makers in the Jewish non-profit sector. Applications are now open for the 2011 cohort—apply today!
I was one year into my first “real” job as a communications associate at Birthright Israel NEXT when I started The Kivun Intensive.
By then, I had developed many of the hard skills needed for my work, such as writing, editing and navigating social media, but I struggled with other, more general professional skills, including time management, prioritization and budgeting. I understood that “networking” was deemed important by much of the working world, but to me it was still abstract. So when I hopped on a train to the first Kivun retreat in Maryland, I hoped it would be beneficial, but I didn’t realize it would have a major impact on my personal and professional growth.
The first retreat and semi-monthly webinars covered many skills I found helpful. I learned about “Inbox Zero,” which drastically affected the way I stayed on top of the flood of emails I receive daily. I became more organized after learning new tactics for keeping track of open projects. And I was empowered by a new time-management strategy that dictated there is no task that can’t be accomplished in a 1-hour chunk, which made looming, long-term projects seem manageable.
In hindsight, the greatest gain I got from Kivun was understanding the power of having a strong professional network. Just within our small cohort of about 25 people was a wealth of information, resources and skills. And each one of those people had an entire network of other people with a wealth of knowledge and skills.
It was on the last day of the second retreat—essentially our “graduation” day—when I fully realized the meaning of it. We were all standing next to the wall in a large open room with a piece of easel-sized notebook paper taped on the wall, and we were instructed to write a couple of ambitions on our piece paper—people we wanted to meet/network with (e.g., communications director) or things we wanted to learn how to do (e.g., create a marketing plan). For the next hour, everyone walked around the room and answered the “questions” on other people’s pieces of paper—someone who could teach the desire skill or someone who would be a good contact. At the time, I was the only communications professional at my organization, and it felt really exciting to know that there were people in the room who could help me reach my goal of networking with others in my field.
Since then, I’ve co-founded a formal network of communications professionals at Jewish non-profits. Via a listserv and monthly calls, we share information, brainstorm and discuss challenges. This network is extremely valuable to me, and I don’t think the idea would have dawned on me without my experience at Kivun.