By Keisha M. McClellan • November 19, 2017•Writers in Residence
The best career advice I ever received came from Oprah Winfrey. It was 2013 and I was a producer on her multi-city, nationwide “Live Your Best Life” tour that traveled from the East Coast, to the West Coast, to the Midwest, and to the South. There was a powerful moment in the show when Oprah described a series of events in her life that turned out to be life-changing strokes of luck. Her point, summed up in a single phrase, was that “No experience is ever wasted.” She went on to explain that every job she ever had, every person she ever met, ever perceived failure she ever experienced, influenced subsequent decisions and how she solved problems. In short, the sum of her past parts guided her to future success.
All too often, particularly women, discard the value of our experiences or points of view because we cannot see how they mesh with a traditional setting. But it is looking at life through a non-traditional lens that often enables us to discover solutions where others only see problems.
I am a news and entertainment television producer turned law student. And my previous career experiences in TV serve me well as an attorney-in-the-making. I have a deep interest in intellectual property issues related to digital content, online advertising, and data privacy concerns within new technologies. As a result, my legal analysis in law school often goes beyond the courtroom and into the boardroom. When grappling with a legal conundrum, for instance, I also consider how a particular outcome will affect a brand and its reputation. I tend to draw on my experiences working as a TV producer and my experiences in branding and corporate relations when I am working through a legal problem. The pieces of your past add dimension to your perspective in the present.
Seek to draw from all of your life experiences as you approach a particular challenge from a client or other work scenario. Because “no experience is ever wasted,” value the unique perspective you bring to a conversation or problem as a result of previous skillsets you have developed over the course of your lifetime. Connect all of your dots. Indeed, you are the sum of your parts. Let no piece of your past go to waste.