By Maha Ouni • November 20, 2017•Writers in Residence
The best piece of career advice I have received came from David Thornburgh, President and CEO of the Committee of Seventy. I had the chance to hear him speak at a conference, and his words have stayed with me and have since helped me make multiple decisions. Thornburgh warned a crowd of graduate and prospective graduate students about the danger of letting one major goal get in the way of your other goals. That simple advice changed me and challenged my beliefs. Was it actually possible that the path to success was more like a road trip with friends than a journey with a carefully thought out itinerary? As students, we’re taught to be dreamers. A lot of us are goal and career oriented, and sometimes we are stuck with a type of tunnel vision that causes us to miss opportunities that may be perfect fits for us in the moment. Often, this happens because we’re too busy focusing on our pre-planned five or ten year paths that we’ve imagined for ourselves.
Thornburgh gave us a brief overview of how he landed the life he has now. It wasn’t just careful career planning that got him up at the podium delivering the closing remarks at that fancy conference, but the courage to act on spur of the moment opportunities, even if they weren’t exactly what he had envisioned. In fact, he even shared that he received one of the best job offers of his career from a colleague that he ran into as he picked his daughter up from school. Some successes can’t be planned and carefully calculated for, and that’s okay. We should still be open to them, and always willing to put our all into any opportunity we get. Putting your best foot forward is what actually matters.
For me, this information couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. As a prelaw student who has dreamed of attending a top law school since I was a little girl, I have always lived and died by my plan. I like to carry my planner with me wherever I go, check things off lists, and make sure I was always strictly following any law school admissions timelines that I came across in my hours of researching my dream schools.
However, there are some successes I’ve enjoyed because I’ve been able to let go of my set-in-stone plans. If it wasn’t for Thornburgh’s advice, I would’ve never thought to apply for a study abroad scholarship and spend the summer in Rome, Italy. I have always loved travel, but because of my carefully laid out prelaw college track, I didn’t think I would have the time to during my academic career. However, I applied to the program on a whim, was accepted, and had the summer of my life while also gaining relevant experience and getting closer to my goals. I learned to accept that just because an opportunity may not present itself exactly when or how I had once planned, it can still be fully aligned with my vision and my values, all while helping to get me to where I dream of being one day--a lawyer!
*Pictured from left to right: Myself, Sarah, and Matt at Temple University's MPP Conference. David Thornburgh was the keynote speaker.