Courtney Spence on Learning to See Networking as a Positive Pursuit

In Chapter 16 of 19 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit executive Courtney Spence answers "How Are You Learning to Make Your Professional Network More Useful?"  Spence shares her personal and professional transition from being internal focused to being more receptive of external pursuits, in particular networking.  Over time she starts to push away from seeing networking in a negative connotation toward something positive.  Courtney Spence returns to CYF for her Year 3 interview.  As Founder and Executive Director, Spence leads non-profit Students of the World to empower college students to use film, photography, and journalism to tell stories of global issues and the organizations working to address them.  Spence graduated with a BA in History from Duke University.


Erik Michielsen: How are you learning to make your professional network more useful?

Courtney Spence: The last 2 months have been very external for me. So we were internal, figuring out our vision, what we’re gonna go do? How are we gonna go do it? Who’s gonna do it with us? And really, you know, the end of 2011 was very internally focused. I didn’t travel as much. I didn’t take meetings. We did retreats and we, you know, we just built our team. And the whole concept was we would build our team so that come January 1, 2012, Spence would get out on the road and start to – not just raise money, but raise partnerships, like as we scale and grow, we want to do it with others. I mean there is such power in collaboration – what we do by nature is collaborative and we’re not gonna go do the big things without really great partners and purpose. So I’m not just out trying to raise donor dollars, I’m really trying to raise partners and bring more people onto our side and our team, and what’s been really exciting about being in that very external phase is that I have started to really expand our network and also started to see ways in which people connect.

I think one of the things I would love to do in the next couple of months is actually visually represent who is the Students of the World community and network, because dots are starting to connect in places I never would have dreamed. And I think there’s something about that kind of synchronicity that’s very encouraging and exciting, but you have to be in the right place and with the right frame of mind to see those connections and appreciate them. I think network prior to this phase that I’m in, network and networking had a very negative connotation for me. I think I really thought of it as a wheeling and dealing and – for some reason, it just didn’t – it didn’t sit right with me.

But I’ve realized it’s about we have something that we think is really important and we wanna go do. And we have to do it with other people, you don’t achieve success alone. And the only way we’re gonna bring the right people on is by being out there and being -- and networking, and by really figuring out who are the people that believe in this and want to be part of it. It’s a very positive thing, it’s not a negative thing, it’s very positive. So that’s been a pretty big transformation for me.