2016 Career Summit Series: Q&A with City Awake’s Justin Kang

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Justin Kang is Founder and Executive Director of City Awake, an organization aimed at rebranding Boston and empowering its citizens to be more civically engaged.  What started as a part-time community organizing gig turned into a full-time role, and City Awake has expanded to include events such as Our Convention, a full-day event bringing young adults together to brainstorm solutions to current issues in the greater Boston community.  Justin will be one of the keynote speakers at Net Impact Boston’s 2016 Career Summit on February 26.  Don’t miss out – get your tickets here today!

When and how did you decide to make City Awake your full-time career?
I transitioned to City Awake full time in September 2015. This was after over a year of essentially dedicating myself to two jobs – a technology startup as a customer success manager and a volunteer ED for City Awake. Luckily, we built a partnership with Classy.org to help relocate their bi-annual convening “The Collaborative” (and Classy Awards) to Boston from San Diego. This partnership allowed me financially to work full time on City Awake.
I would never have decided to jump into City Awake full time without such an arrangement. It’s also important note how critical the first year for City Awake was as a volunteer organization. It allowed us to build our foundation and reputation which enabled us to secure a partnership with Classy and other organizations. So our strategy was first to test our hypothesis (without quitting our jobs), prove what works and what doesn’t and go from there.
What is the most interesting/challenging aspect of your work? 
The most interesting part and challenging aspect is that we act as a convener for this space. From our Festival, to relocating the Collaborative to now building out an online calendar for the social sector, we work with a lot of partners. It’s an operating principle for us to being collaborative. Not only when it makes sense – we require everything we do to include meaningful partnerships as the foundation to our events and programs. This is both interesting and challenging, of course, since we get to work with organizations we admire, but it’s always a balancing act to make sure everyone gets something out of it.
Why are you excited to participate in this year’s career summit? 
Net Impact is one of the best professional associations in Boston. Being in a situation where you can openly talk about your career – and strategies to meet your ambitions – is so important. I think historically many folks hide their ambitions but by creating a community like Net Impact people can learn how to lead a successful career, as well as a meaningful career.
What is the best career advice you have received?
It wasn’t advice directed to me specifically but Senator Cory Booker gave a speech once at my alma mater. He told this story how he sat next to a lady with a crying baby on a flight once. While everyone else disregarded her or was annoyed by the child, Senator Booker engaged the family. Years later he received a letter from her saying how that interaction was so meaningful to her. She ended up donating to his campaign and I believe the child volunteered for him. Ultimately, it wasn’t his intention to being kind to get a campaign contribution. The point is, the best connections I learned are often serendipitous. You never know where you might meet someone. So don’t pick and choose when to be prepared and impressive and kind. Just have that as part of your DNA and avoid treating people differently because one might be a CEO and another might be an assistant.
Net Impact Boston’s Career Summit sounds like the perfect chance to apply that advice!  We’ll have over 30 speakers and have already sold more than 150 tickets, so you’ll be sure to meet other passionate individuals and innovative entrepreneurs and expand your impact network.  Don’t forget to get your tickets here today!
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