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Leaving It Better

As we kick off the summer, we have the pleasure of featuring Hannah Schmitz, Director of the Maryland Public Service Scholars Programs and the Founder of Impacternships. In our Q+A with Hannah, she discusses her work, impact, talents, interest and zest for travel. Enjoy our chat with Hannah below, and be sure to check out her feature in this month's issue of En Root!

This month's theme is all about Leaving It Better. Tell us how this theme has played a role in your personal or professional life.

Leaving things better is the golden thread throughout my winding career. As a team-building facilitator I worked with groups to better their communication and conflict resolution skills. Working in LGBTQ advocacy in purple Pennsylvania at a time when marriage equality wasn’t yet a right and many people didn’t know what the T or the Q meant, I worked to better the campus and community climate for marginalized groups. In every one of my early jobs, I loved the work, but personally felt guilty for all of the things I wasn’t actively working to make better. I realized the best way I can Leave It Better is to help support the work of many people working to address a variety of challenges. Leading the Maryland Public Service Scholars Programs for the last 10 years has allowed me to do this by preparing young people for careers serving the public and equipping them with the tools, training, and networks to deepen their impact across a variety of issue areas. One of the goals of Impacternships is to shift the way society values and prioritizes social impact careers generally and in career education. We tend to most value high-paying, high-profit generating careers, so by raising awareness of social impact careers we can hopefully encourage more young people to choose careers where they can Leave It Better.

At OutGrowth, we believe in designing the space and time to reimagine the path forward. How do you believe that Leaving It Better can impact our perspective and influence our future decisions?

Many of us have different ways in which we “do good”, maybe through our jobs, through volunteering, acts of kindness, etc. These are often boiled down to individual events, acts, and character traits. But, we can’t “do good” all the time. It’s exhausting, leads to burn-out, and is mostly impossible. Shifting to a Leave It Better mindset eases some of the pressure to always “do good” while creating a culture for social responsibility and accountability to each other. Adopting this mindset allows us to habitualize choices and actions, big and small, that can radiate positive change within ourselves, to others, and across our communities.

What is one hard lesson you learned in this past year that contributed to your growth? 

Baby steps still move us forward. I’m a dive in head first kind of person, which often serves me well but can also hold me back. I definitely let perfect get in the way of good enough. Allowing myself to take baby steps and be ok with slow and gradual improvements has been a work in progress, but it’s also given me the grace I need to not feel I have to do it all, all at once.

What is one competency or skill you hope to develop in 2024 and beyond?

I’ve been actively learning Spanish for a few years, taking weekly Skype classes with a woman in Guatemala who I first met in 2013 when I went to an immersion school there. I keep hoping each year will be the year where I finally feel fluent-ish. I’m not confident I’ll get there by the end of 2024, but one day! My 3 year-old nephew lives in Belgium and speaks 4 languages, so I’m trying to catch up.

What inspires you?

Despite the challenges our world is facing, there are several wells of inspiration that I look to. As an “elder millennial”, I’m inspired by Gen Z’s desire to take action and better our world. In particular, the students I work with in the Maryland Public Service Scholars programs are so passionate and impressive…I love tracking their careers after they graduate and seeing all the great work they go on to do. Gen Z is craving to make things better. We need to bring them together, give them the tools, and stand out of their way! I'm also inspired by the energy in the Baltimore region related to social change. There are so many passionate people who believe in Baltimore and are working tirelessly so that everyone can thrive. And at the state level, Gov Moore’s commitment to creating a culture of service and making Maryland the state that serves has been energizing. I can’t wait to see the rippling impacts that we will see from the new and strengthened initiatives around service.

At OutGrowth, we believe in preparing the next generation of leaders. What is one resource you'd recommend to those looking to carve out the time for growth in the next year?

It’s not a resource, but I believe the greatest leadership development experience can be travel. Getting out of your comfort zone, interacting with different people, different ideas, different ways of being. Even as individuals, we show up differently when placed in a new environment, and there’s so much we can learn about and from ourselves. Traveling also deepens our connection to where we’re from and where we live, and can offer a greater appreciation for and an eye-opening reflection into our sense of place. And if you really want to deepen your learning, travel solo, stay in a hostel, get intentionally lost in a foreign city…

What's next? What are you excited about in the coming year?

I look forward to growing Impacternships to continue to help organizations bring in talented emerging leaders who will help drive their missions forward and Leave It Better. I founded Impacternships out of a desire to help social impact organizations (nonprofits, social enterprises, government agencies, businesses with a social mission) better connect to early talent. It’s nearly impossible to compete against well-resourced companies and industries who usually have entire teams dedicated to recruiting and the money to attract early talent. Scrappier budgets and leaner staff also mean certain practices that can be more efficient and more equitable sometimes get tabled. The public and social sectors are rapidly losing out on top talent, and it’s really difficult to draw them into public service and social impact careers once their career journeys have already begun elsewhere. I'd love to connect with organizations to strengthen their recruitment, programs, and processes to connect to, attract, and retain top emerging talent.

Hannah Schmitz is passionate about forging cross-sector solutions to social challenges and cultivating young leaders to drive social change. She is a problem-solver, activator, and wildcard. As Director of the Maryland Public Service Scholars Programs, she creates opportunities for Maryland’s college students to explore careers in the public and social sectors.  As Founder of Impacternships, she assists social impact organizations invest in early talent through equitable recruitment, program design, and process development. She’s a Philadelphia native, a Baltimore transplant, and a global travel enthusiast who can often be found making things out of clay or doing the NYT daily crossword. 


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