Eleanor Hall – Founder of Connected Potential

[quote style=”boxed”]Staying focused on the underlying vision of your work helps. There are good days and bad days, so keeping your eye on the end goal is important.[/quote]

Eleanor Hall is founder and Executive Director of Connected Potential, a web-driven service that provides young adults with the advice, resources, and personal/professional connections needed to implement the social change projects that energize and inspire them. Eleanor Hall initiated her career in higher education, first working with students one-on-one as an advisor, then working at the national level on higher education policy issues related to student civic engagement and learning for globally responsible citizenship. Her work in this area has connected her with the leadership of a number of colleges, universities, and national organizations dedicated to increasing engagement and agency among students and young adults. Her interest is in engaging young adults in personal and professional development to help them meet their full potential and change the world around them.

What are you working on right now?

Connected Potential is a web-based service that offers one-on-one consultation and targeted mentorships to young adults to help them develop the skills, strategies, and personal/professional connections needed to implement a community-driven project. We do this by partnering bright, motivated young adults with business advisors and professional mentors to help them get social good projects off the ground. The service is web-driven, so young adults can initiate projects from all across the country, and can be partnered with professionals anywhere in the world. By partnering young adults with professionals around social good projects, Connected Potential is building a community of care and connection around social change and innovation.

Where did the idea for Connected Potential come from?

My professional background is in the higher education sector. Right now, campuses across the country are giving a huge amount of thought to how they can more effectively engage their students in solving the world’s problems – but I soon noticed a disconnect in that conversation. To my mind, young adults were already engaged, and eager to begin tackling contemporary challenges. They were primed and waiting to make a positive difference. But as students graduate from college, the jobs that would allow them to make a meaningful difference just don’t seem to be there for them. In 2012, over 53% of college graduates under the age of 25 were reported to be either un- or underemployed. The unemployment rate for young adults is twice the national average, and according to a recent article from Campus Progress, the number of Millennials working minimum wage jobs has increased 70% in the past decade. Right now, the U.S. is producing thousands upon thousands of bright minds that are eager to make a positive difference, but we are turning them away at the door. Connected Potential was founded as a way to help young adults gain the experience they need and have the social good impact they seek, despite the difficult job market.

How do you make money?

We are a nonprofit enterprise, but we do receive income in the form of application fees, grants, and corporate sponsorships.

What does your typical day look like?

I generally wake up and eat breakfast around 8:30, and begin work around 9:00. We are in the process of launching, so right now work entails ongoing communication with our team, our partners and potential partners, as well as setting up the structural underpinnings for the organization. Over time, my work will shift more toward direct mentor/client relationships. If it’s a nice day out, I like to take a beak for lunch and to go outside. In the afternoons I am back to work, although working for myself does allow some flexibility to follow up on personal projects in the afternoons and evenings as well. In the evening I make time for exercise and dinner, and on good nights, I will engage in some form of learning or professional development that helps inform my work and think about what I want to focus on the next day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Staying focused on the underlying vision of your work helps. There are good days and bad days, so keeping your eye on the end goal is important. I try to make sure that all time I dedicate to work has a recognizable benefit in terms of building relationships, developing clarity, creating value for our clients, and bringing others on board. I have been surprised looking back how quickly progress has been made in these areas.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I am inspired by the growing energy behind idea-sharing and collaboration in the social good and entrepreneurship space. The people I have spoken with have been so helpful and accommodating, that the positive energy becomes infectious. Seeking assistance from others can be daunting, but it has been the one singular thing that has propelled Connected Potential from concept to reality. I believe that our ability to connect and work together towards social good is one of the most powerful tools we have in overcoming the challenges we face in the 21st century, and I am excited to be a part of that.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I worked for a nonprofit at one point, in what was not my worst job, but was the most disappointing. I had really believed upon accepting the position that I would be working for a cause that a believed in, and would have an impact in a field that I cared about. I found when I arrived that I had very little input in the actions or direction of our organization, or even within our particular department. I was surprised at how difficult I found that experience. It taught me some powerful lessons about workplace empowerment and professional satisfaction. My current work is borne out of a deep belief that people work their best when they are inspired by what they are doing, and feel like their contributions make a valuable difference. I want to be able to bring that feeling to everyone that I can, because I believe it is so important, both to personal fulfillment and to large-scale change.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Not sure yet… Check back in two years!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Be brave about putting yourself out there. There are many times (particularly when I was just starting) that I would be intimidated to contact someone to get their opinion, or seek their advice. Not only was I able to polish my pitch each time I reached out to someone, but their positive energy and willingness to help was often what kept me moving forward and assured me that I was making the right choices.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I actually go through a series of small “failures” somewhat regularly – not receiving responses from people I had expected to be on board, declined invitations, and other indications that people aren’t necessarily as eager to join in as I had initially hoped they would be. This has been a good learning experience for me. It helped me to realize that life goes on in the face of small challenges, and even in the face of outright failure. Learning to not take rejection personally has been a huge growing experience for me, and has allowed me to focus more of my energy on the people I reach on a daily basis that are eager to be involved.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I would love to see a method for academic research to be published and made available in a quicker and more equitable manner. Academic research can be hugely influential in informing practice in the field, but it takes a long time for research to get published, and even longer to be discovered and put into practice. As an example, I once heard a young woman speak about her research in the psychological treatment of police officers for PTSD-type symptoms. Around the same time, I knew a police officer that was dealing with deep trauma-related depression across the country. Her research could have helped him and everyone else in his unit, but who knows where and when her findings would get published, and how long it would take to actually reach them via traditional methods. An online service that allowed researchers to post a summary of their findings and then have interested organizations sponsor them to complete their article might be one way to streamline the flow of information.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

There are many things I would want to change in the world, but I have chosen to invest my talents and energy to reaching out to the next generation of social good leaders to let them know that they are welcome in this fight. It saddens me to see young adults being consistently turned away from entry level positions as part of a difficult job market, when they have so much to offer. I would love to see everyone empowered to feel that they have control in their own lives, and can make a true and meaningful impact in the world.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I snort pretty often when I laugh. Most of my friends know this, but very few in the professional realm.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

Uberconference – Uberconference has taken everything you don’t like about conference calling, and has either done away with it completely, or minimized the pain. There is no need for an access code, you can see on your screen who is speaking at any given point, and you have the ability to record part or all of the call to refer to later.

GoogleHangouts – Definitely the best option for videoconferencing right now. Allows you to share links and documents while speaking, accommodates up to nine people in conversation, and with fewer errors and lag issues than with Skype.

Ohours – Ohours.org offers hassle-free appointment scheduling. People can post their availability online, and others can sign up to speak with them during available times. Your availability can be shared publicly (“O”hours stands for “open hours”) or with specific individuals for personal scheduling.

I also have to give a shout out to Uber as a really innovative design solution for taxi and car service.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough. It delves into education and developmental psychology, and why certain children develop the personality attributes that contribute to success, and others do not. It is a light read, and incredibly interesting.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

@DerrickFeldman – CEO of Achieve Consulting, contributes great thinking about engaging millenials in social good.
@Montero – Generally knowledgeable about social enterprise, tweets a lot of thought-provoking articles and interesting resources
@FastCoExist – This one is hardly a secret, but a great resource nonetheless

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Tough to tell – I laugh often. I did watch the new Louis CK special last night, which filled up my nightly quota for chuckles.

Who is your hero, and why?

My grandfather. He taught me a lot at a young age about what it means to believe in yourself, and to be your own person. I also think Paul Hawken is pretty amazing.


Connected Potential on Facebook:
Connected Potential on Twitter: @ConnectedChange
Eleanor Hall on Twitter: @eleanorCP
Eleanor Hall on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/eleanor-hall/16/a48/641/