Networking in Action: Valuing Community Connections

Photo: Julie and Kristian Smith-Diaz, Community Support Facilitator, in action at the Northampton Community College Career Fair

At Values Into Action, our vision is a world where people with disabilities are accepted and welcomed in their communities. Our simple goal to hire people who align with this vision brings challenges. We continually assess best ways to find talented individuals whom we trust to provide services in true partnership. We have discovered that connecting with our communities is an approach that works.

We attend college fairs as part of the resourcing stage of the recruitment process. Sometimes it’s a member of the Culture & Talent team. Often, a Community Support Facilitator will join us. We aim to have a person accepting our support be present at these events in the spirit of coproduction. This is networking in action and strengthens our visibility in diverse communities.

We promote Support Partner opportunities as a way to gain skills while earning a living wage. We focus on students majoring in healthcare, psychology, education, and social services. Students are aware of the organizations that will be present at the fairs. Students research companies that interest them and this leads to discussions. During a recent event at Ursinus College, a senior approached our table. She was majoring in History and International Relations. She had spent a summer writing a research paper on disability history. My conversation with her was energizing – she was passionate about civil rights. Although she wasn’t ready to apply for a position, I know our interaction had a positive impact on her future.

Another student approached the table who overheard us talking. He said, “I didn’t realize these services existed. I still thought people with disabilities lived in group homes.” I usually bring up Lois Curtis to discuss how recently segregation existed in the US. I receive strong reactions – shock, sadness, anger – this student had tears in his eyes and said, “Wow, I had no idea. Thank you for your time in talking to me.”

It’s in these moments that I realize the power of networking at live events. I talk to everyone about our supportive organizational culture. I direct students to our blog so they can read about our core values in action. I answer questions and introduce new concepts related to self-advocacy. I collect resumes and encourage people to view our open positions. I offer gratitude to each person who took the time to learn more about the concept of everyday lives.


Resourcing also involves spending time and money to find talent on recruitment platforms. In January alone, the Culture & Talent interns reviewed and prescreened 450+ applicants. It’s a complex process that requires efficiency and intuition. We are thankful for the dedication from interns who handle the volume of applicants. In a world of endless digital interactions, it takes effort to personalize online conversations. It’s not quite the same as a candid interaction that occurs in person. That’s why we expand our resourcing efforts to include personal and community networks.

Recently, we’ve hired Support Partners whom we found through referrals. We encourage the entire Values community to share our job opportunities. Through our collective efforts, we will continue to build and sustain strong teams. Networking in Action begins with believing that every conversation about our mission counts.

Please visit Work With Us to view all open positions and to read our full guide to Recruitment and Hiring.