By Ashley South
Since 2020, things are different. We’ve started seeing The Great Resignation in full swing. People are looking at their lives afresh—personal and professional. The Career & Networking Center with Kim White is Naperville’s answer to helping with career transitions and providing needed professional services to individuals and businesses.
Kim White is a wife, mother, community contributor, and the executive director of the nonprofit. If all of those things didn’t keep her busy enough, she is also President-elect of the Rotary Club of Naperville. Kim comes from a large family in Kansas City, Missouri. She and her husband, Benny White, met in high school. When Benny was accepted into West Point and left for New York, Kim decided to stay close to her family and attend college locally. After his graduation, they married. Kim’s life forever changed after saying: “I do.”
After marriage and through her husband’s service, Kim and Benny moved to Germany. There, the newlyweds found themselves in a completely different environment both in location and daily life. “When you go oversees so young, you have to figure out how to navigate: as a couple, as expats, and as individuals.” Kim’s path was chosen by her desire to support her husband as he continued his career in the military. This life took them all over the world for over three decades. Kim gained a global perspective and found herself enjoying working with people from all backgrounds and cultures. With each move, Kim had to make new connections. Over the years, the couple developed a core group of about twenty G.I.s and their spouses. Their shared life experience created a bond and connection they still have over a quarter century later.
In 2005, Kim and Benny moved to Naperville when Benny became a professor of Military Science at Wheaton College (he is now one of Naperville’s City Council members). That same year, Kim joined the Career & Networking Center, which was named the Community Career Center at the time. The theme of transition that has underscored all of Kim’s adult life made the job ideal for her. She brought her heart for connections and a global perspective of empathy to help people with their professional goals. At the same time, she was also volunteering to help those coming out of the military to navigate the transition back to civilian life. Kim told us she is constantly looking for solutions to problems she sees and brings those ideas into her daily actions.
The Career & Networking Center provides resources to help people in their career search. They provide classes on resume writing, networking, setting priorities, creating a LinkedIn profile, personal branding, career exploration, and interview style. The organization is still light on staff and relies heavily on volunteer coaches that will meet 1:1 to help clients in each of the aforementioned areas. Also, the Center brings in presenters to do workshops. A recent one was about how to tweak your resume to add key words to be picked up by the software that screens each resume. People are able to practice their elevator pitch in networking groups. The Center also has an accountability group that provides homework to would-be job seekers. Kim tells us that people who participate in the accountability group tend to secure a job sooner. Annual membership is $100, which includes the 1:1 with a coach and access to the Job Search Work Team.
The Center also provides outplacement services to companies that are downsizing. They structure workshops around what is next and how the Center can ease the transition into something new. To further support businesses, the Center recently began working with employers to provide soft skills training for their employees: working and collaborating with teammates, time management, and customer service.
In 2010, the Board approached Kim to become the Executive Director. Everyone at the Center recognized her dedication and passion for people in all stages of their career. In 2019, the Community Career Center changed its name to Career & Networking Center, as Kim explained at the time: “Networking is important in our professional and personal lives, therefore we wanted to include it in our name as we continue to provide a place for individuals to connect with others while receiving support in job search and career development.” Today the Center serves over a thousand people annually.
Kim says you must be intentional about staying connected with people who have been part of your life journey. Identify mentors early on, both professionally and personally. Stay connected to the rock stars you work with—those movers and shakers will help you as you continue your path. Be a part of associations in your industry or community. Look at alumni groups. Diversify your network. Through networking and cultivating connections you gain awareness, knowledge, and perspective. “At the end of the day, I feel like I’ve done a lot to help people. Not a day goes by that we have not helped someone to achieve success.”
The Career & Networking Center is our featured 501(c)(3) for February, please consider donating, volunteering, or connecting your company with Kim.
The Career & Networking Center