NOLABA Partners with 504ward, GNO, Inc., on NOLA BOUND Pop-up at French Quarter Fest
A healthy economy needs a diverse and skilled workforce. NOLABA connects workers, both homegrown and around the country, to opportunities for career growth in New Orleans. One way is through the NOLA BOUND initiative alongside 504ward, which is housed at NOLABA, and is committed to retaining young professional talent. 504ward Executive Director Mary Matthews explains the initiative, which includes a pop-up tent at French Quarter Fest April 14-15.
How has NOLA BOUND evolved into a full-blown initiative, more than just the webinar of that title that launched last November?
“For 10 years, 504ward has shared resources on how to network, connect and find the right job in New Orleans with local young professionals. In the past two years, we’ve developed programs to share these resources with an even wider audience, including our local university graduates and “expat” population (which includes everyone who knows and loves New Orleans– grew up here, visited, went to college here, did a fellowship here, etc.). Employers say job seekers who already know and love New Orleans are the easiest to recruit and the most likely to stay. After conversations with university partners last fall, we came up with the idea to create a NOLA BOUND webinar that could be shared with alumni across the nation to connect our local employers to expat talent. The first webinar was a big success, educating locals and expats on every coast, from New York to San Francisco to Austin, about new opportunities in New Orleans, and we’re now holding it twice a year.
“But there’s also nothing like engaging with people face to face, so we’ve developed a series of events to connect expats back in town for holidays and special events like French Quarter Fest with New Orleans employers. How many times have you heard someone say, “I came to New Orleans for a festival and never left?” Our goal is to connect those who love New Orleans with career opportunities and make the decision to stay that much easier. “
What do you hope to achieve through the NOLA BOUND pop-up tent this weekend?
“We’re hoping to educate local festival-goers, expats in town for the festival as well as potential transplants about all the resources that exist to help get connected in the community and find a great job in New Orleans. We also want those who have been away for several years to learn about new projects and opportunities across the city — quality of life assets like bike share, the Lafitte Greenway, NORDC centers, new co-working spaces like The Shop at the CAC, and great jobs in both our legacy industries and emerging industries like tech, healthcare and water management.”
NOLA’s tech landscape really is thriving right now with the arrivals of DXC Technology, Lucid, Accruent and Align…How does that message resonate with workers looking for that right job to bring them home to NOLA?
“We always like to emphasize when talking about tech is that tech companies aren’t just for software engineers. Our local tech companies need great professionals in marketing, communications, finance, sales, project management, etc. You might have a nonprofit background or a teaching background and find an opportunity you weren’t even aware of with one of these companies. We get so much positive feedback after the webinars. Success is definitely breeding success across industries. Whether or not the job seeker is looking for a job with one of these tech companies, after learning about them, they feel more positive about the region as a whole and opportunity here. And for all our industries to grow, they need access to top talent.
“In the early days of 504ward, young professionals moving to New Orleans were driven by their desire to make an impact and rebuild a city. Today, we’re seeing an influx of young professionals who are still mission-oriented, but they’re coming here to take advantage of the opportunities created by those who have worked hard to build companies and organizations over the past 10 years.”
What’s your best advice for a talented worker (homegrown or not) who is eagerly hunting for a career opportunity in New Orleans?
“If you’re in town…that event you’re thinking about going to after work today? GO! The power of networking, especially in a relationship-driven community like New Orleans, cannot be understated. New Orleans is full of events and opportunities to build your network. Find something you’re passionate about and get involved in a group. A great place to start is by signing up for 504ward’s newsletter, which will connect you to tons of opportunities across the city for civic and social engagement, career advancement and leadership development. Then check out the resources on our website, including a list of young professional organizations and leadership development programs across the city, sign up for their newsletters, and go out to an event.
“If you’re not in town, we have a 504ward email newsletter just for you, providing quarterly updates with news and opportunities to connect with careers in New Orleans. Watch one of our webinars. Attend one of our pop-up events or last-Friday-of-the-month coffee hours if you come in town on a trip. Start connecting with locals via LinkedIn, your university alumni group, and any other way you can.
“Through your network or on workNOLA, you will find the perfect job.”