New Professionals: Lean In With Your Life

Contributed and adapted by Tiffany Waddell, Assistant Director for Career Development (Original Post Featured in Eastern Association of Colleges & Employers Bridges Blog 2014)

Speak Up


A few months back, I grabbed a copy of Lean In since it seemed to be flooding my timeline as one of the (many) books targeting women want to live a more empowered and intentional lifestyle. I found that for me, while the book did have quite a few nuggets of knowledge I could put in my toolbelt – the context was a bit lofty from my seat. I am likely never going to be the CFO of a major tech company (not my intended career path or interest area) and that position and pedigree is laden with privilege and agency that I frankly do not hold [according to society’s standards] as a young black woman. However, the overarching message that still sticks with me months later? As a young professional, it is my duty to live and work on purpose – and encourage others around me to do the same. To be intentional, work hard, and not hide behind silence or wait to be asked to sit at the table. To operate in both word and deed as if I am at the table, always. Mentor those that come behind and beside me, and continue to exercise my voice so that there may be space for others to exercise theirs.

The landscape of Higher Education, despite the overwhelming saturation of women in the field, does not mirror our demographic in most cabinet-level or senior administration roles. So what does that mean for Millennial staffers? How do we secure our footing on the proverbial lattice of work, and pull other women up on the jungle gym with us – and not push them down? To me, it means we must choose to lean in with our lives – starting with our organizations and professional networks. How we choose to lead our professional and personal lives will set the tone for those around us – and it might not always look like what our parents thought it would. Below I have listed a few ways I try to lean in with my own life, in the hopes that it might assist or affirm you as you begin your post-Davidson journey.

Live Your Work Ethic

In the same way that “you are what you eat,” I believe that if you produce junk – people will consider you junk. This doesn’t mean there is no room for mistakes, but putting real effort into the work that you produce – how promptly you respond to emails and phone calls – and creating some semblance of organization in your life? These are the makings of your personal brand. When you peel back all the “hype” surrounding your formal title at work or past credentials, to me, what matters most is what remains: how you work and relate to others. Make it count.

Ask for Help – and Take It

I don’t know who came up with the myth that leadership means bearing the weight of the world on your shoulders all by yourself, but it is just that: a myth. Real leaders and effective people ask for help when they need it, and take it. Sometimes, two (or three or four!) heads is truly better than one. As a dominant intuitive and naturally independent person, I definitely struggle with this one. But it’s necessary for both personal and professional survival.

Seek Mentors

Identifying both men and women who have areas of expertise (or perspective/experience) in areas you don’t yet – or are stepping into – allows you to learn from the mistakes of others and identify resources to fill any skill gaps you might have. I find it odd that anyone would not seek out mentors. I recommend creating a professional life counsel, of sorts – people that you give full permission to be brutally honest with you about problems and situations. It doesn’t mean you will always take their advice or do what they say – but you will be open to listen and learn. You will almost always be better for it!

Support Your Peers

Whether you’re new to an organization or role – or have been somewhere for a very long time, one thing rings timeliness: professional development and achievement is both a combination of the work you produce and the relationships you build. I am not talking about parasitic relationships either, where all you do is take. I mean supporting colleagues by lending a helping hand on a team or across departments when you are able. Showing up when you are invited to meetings or functions. Giving your time to learn more about the stress points that are impacting your “work friends,” as I fondly refer to some of the best people I know in the field. Supporting others will always come back to you ten-fold. Learning who you can depend on starts by being dependable.

Be Bold

Appropriate and professional does not automatically mean compromising yourself. We challenge our students to think critically when sifting through career opportunities, weighing their values, and practicing for interviews and new opportunities. Why can’t we, as professionals, both think critically and be authentic at the same time? Who says that if you try something new and fail, that it’s a bad thing? Who says that we must compromise our expression of self and style to be taken seriously? Who says that if you challenge the status quo, that it’s automatically professional suicide? Wear bright colors – speak up when you have an idea – challenge yourself so that you can in turn, challenge others.

Summer Internship Opens Door to Career Path

By Alexa King, Career Services Ambassador

Joi Spaulding ’14 is an Africana Studies Major, Pre-Medicine from Stamford, Connecticut. She is a Strategies Mentor and member of the Upsilon Mu Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

This past summer Joi Spaulding interned with a non-profit organization called REACH Prep, which prepares highly motivated black and Latino students from low to moderate income families enter independent schools located in Fairfield and Westchester counties, and the Bronx. As an advisor for the “Junior-Girls,” rising 5th graders, her day typically began at 7:45 a.m. with a daily lesson or activity that she prepared, often pertaining to character building.  Proactive and energetic, Joi sought out new tasks and assignments from her advisors, and usually assisted the teachers with science labs and lectures. If any student was struggling with a concept in class, Joi would also provide tutoring for them.

When asked about the most valuable lessons Joi learned through her internship, she alluded to the “art” of working with children. “Regardless of how they behave, you have to give a child a clean slate each day,” Joi said.  In addition, she said that her experience taught her the importance of having a positive impact on children, especially from an early age. She also indicated that she had “no idea how much they looked up to me” and viewed her as a role model. “With children, the little things are really important, whether it’s a fun lesson plan or a basketball game.” They were really enthusiastic about my interest in their success, she said.

This experience was so meaningful to Joi that in the future she wants to work with youth, hopefully in an education or health care related capacity. She found that “it really just takes one person who cares to show a child that she believes in him. That support and care is what can truly make an impact in a child’s life.”

Interning Her Way to Success: Christi Moore ’15

By Damian White, Career Services Ambassador

Christi Moore ’15  is a sophomore at Davidson College who aspires to become a practicing attorney.  This past summer she worked as a Legislative Assistant in the Public Affairs office for the United States Parcel Service (UPS) in Washington, D.C.  As an intern, she attended hearings on Capitol Hill, practiced memo writing, and tackled pertinent social justice issues with senators and congressmen.  Throughout this six-week experience, Christi had the opportunity to not only work with attorneys, but also learn about the UPS Foundation, which engages in community endeavors that closely align with her own personal values.

During our conversation, Christi made a critical distinction between her coursework at Davidson and the hands-on experience that she received during her summer internship experience.  For Christi, the networking opportunities and resources available to her helped to shape her perspective on the legal field in a way that her classes had not done up to this point.  She indicated that the most important things she learned were that “your hard work pays off, and you must always be prepared.”

Mentorship also played a crucial part in Christi’s summer experience.  She noted that her supervisor and mentor, Ms. Nicole Clifton (UPS VP, Public Affairs), had a welcoming and commanding presence both inside and outside of the office.  As her mentee, Christi recognized and resonated with these qualities.  Christi became an integral component of the UPS Public Affairs office; in fact, she has been asked to come back and work with a partnering law firm next summer.

After Davidson, Christi plans to enroll in law school and ultimately aspires to become a Supreme Court Justice.

Preparing for the Democratic National Convention

By Alexa King, Career Services Ambassador

Jared Blakney ‘14 is a political science major from Raleigh, North Carolina. He worked as a digital media intern preparing for the Democratic National Convention, and also worked while the convention was going on in Charlotte. Jared talked with Alexa King ‘14, one our Career Services Ambassadors, to discuss his amazing internship experience.

What made you interested in joining the campaign?
Ever since 2008 I have been an Obama supporter, especially after canvassing for him during the primaries.

What were some of the daily tasks you had to do?
There was no typical day. I was in the communications department, but specifically worked with digital media. I developed content for the website and got to see the impact I was having on the convention almost instantly. When I posted an article online, I saw my name underneath it. Probably the coolest thing I got to do was follow Mayor Villaraigosa and Mayor Foxx ‘93 around and get pictures for the blog.

Do you feel you contributed personally to the Obama 2012 campaign?
Just being part of the energetic atmosphere that goes into a campaign, I felt like I was a part of something big. Putting blog articles online and being able to highlight certain delegates or local community members who were getting involved with the convention was really cool. I felt like I was able to put my mark on the convention.

What was one of the most valuable lessons that you learned from this experience?
Digital media is one of the most public medium[s] the convention has. Being thorough and diligent in my work was one of the greatest skills I picked up. If I made a little mistake millions of people could see it on the website.

What did you do Monday-Thursday at the convention?
My specific role was videographer. I filmed and took photographs of different caucus meetings. We were told mid-way through the summer that it was “all hands on deck” during the week of the convention; whatever had to get done to make the convention run smoothly, we had to be willing to do it.

Was this a good opportunity for you to network with other people interested in media?
Definitely. The staff was helpful and friendly; even senior staff said that if I had a question, just stop by. I made good connections, both for getting a job and for mentoring.

Do you plan on pursuing politics in the future, maybe working at the White House next summer if he [President Obama] wins reelection?
Maybe. My ultimate goal is to do something in business. But if politics turns out to be the route to go, then I’ll take it. I think it would be cool to work on another convention as an actual staff member.

Chandroti Woolens: Using Sustainable Measures to Improve a Societal Issue

By Morgan Orangi, Career Services Ambassador

At the foothills of the Himalyas in northern India lies Chandroti Village. It might not immediately strike visitors as a place of progress, but after entering the homes and meeting the women who work for Chandroti Woolens, this observation proves false.

Shubh Chopra founded Chandroti Woolens in 2002 to help women in Chandroti and surrounding villages provide for their families and feel empowered. Chopra taught herself how to knit and then taught a neighbor who then brought her friends to Chopra, thereby starting a domino effect. Chandroti Woolens allowed the women to perform their duties at home while simultaneously making a profit since they could knit whenever their hands were free. Their only scheduled obligation was to meet once a week at Chopra’s house and show their progress or receive a new project.

Most of the women now have higher incomes than their husbands and have greatly enhanced their family’s quality of life. One of the women spoke about how the work has affected her and her son.

“But my son, if yarn gets tangled in his feet, he touches my feet because he gives this work so much worth and respect… With that money, with this money, my son furthered his studies. Today, he’s really doing something… You get confidence from here that you can do something.”

Chopra’s business model is rather simple. The profits go towards buying wool and paying the women. The women are paid according to the length of time it should take to knit a certain piece. To increase sales, Chopra consistently invigorates the business by adding new products, new stitches, and new colors. Her biggest challenge is selling. She comments, “My risk is total and is everyday the same risk. Will it sell, what I’m making? Because I am not a designer.” An Australian designer, Jac + Jack, recently discovered Chandroti Woolens and contracted them to manufacture their blankets and scarves. For Chopra, Jac + Jack represents the ideal buyer because they request specific designs and understand her time constraints.

Social Entrepreneurship
Businesses similar to Chandroti Woolens have arisen worldwide since the 80s and the term “social entrepreneurship” has come to define them. A growing number of universities have established programs for potential social entrepreneurs. According to David Bornstein, “Social entrepreneurs identify resources where people only see problems. They view the villagers as the solution, not the passive beneficiary. They begin with the assumption of competence and unleash resources in the communities they’re serving.” This description perfectly applies to Shubh Chopra.

The primary goal involves using sustainable measures to improve a societal issue. Rather than giving a handout, Chopra teaches the women a skill. Although Chandroti Woolens is a smaller scale social entrepreneurship, seeing as they include international and corporate organizations as well, Chopra hopes to employ an increasing number of women in the future. She also plans to build a website that will allow her to advertise and sell to consumers worldwide.

Managing F.E.A.R.

By Damian White, Career Services Ambassador

Throughout my undergraduate experience, I have found that some of the most interesting and powerful lessons are learned outside of the classroom.  On September 18th, I had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Hill Harper at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.  Hill Harper, an alumnus of Harvard Law School, is an author, activist, and actor who is most recently known for his role in CSI: NY.

After the hustle and bustle of the crowd settled, Hill Harper asked the audience: “What do you think is the number one obstacle the keeps young people from achieving their dreams?” Silence overcame the crowd, and he answered, “F.E.A.R.” Not a “scared of the dark” type of fear, but Hill asserted a “False Evidence Appearing Real” type of fear.  His point was that students often constrain and restrict their dreams by succumbing, consciously and unconsciously, to outside factors that set limits on their potential.

In the beginning of his talk, Hill told students to write down their dreams. After captivating the audience through the use of his metaphor of being an “Active Architect of our Dreams,” Hill asked the students to double their dreams. At this point, students were supposed to write down dreams twice as big as the ones they had written in the beginning of the program. The fact that so many students could double their dreams was proof that F.E.A.R. had already impacted the way they think about their goals and dreams.

So, how do we combat F.E.A.R.?
As the “Active Architects of our Dreams,” we must have a strong foundation.  Hill Harper says that education and money are the foundation that we need in order to begin to build our “dream.”  He asserts that while neither education nor money promise success, they both often lead to options that help as we navigate the often non-linear paths to our dreams.

Next, we need a framework.  This framework is found in the support systems that allow our foundations to remain stable, such as family, friends, and mentors.

Beginning to see our structure develop, we need walls. He says that these walls are made up of the choices that we make.  These choices become very influential in the way that we prepare for the metaphorical “weather” (hardships and obstacles) that we will face along the way.

Finally, Hill says that we need a door.  This door serves to let people in and out of our structure.  By regulating this door, we begin to take control of who has access to our dreams.

Davidson…I think it is time to close the door on F.E.A.R. and open it back up for our dreams.