Women and Congress Taught Me Not to Settle

Justine Billups Headshot

Justine Billups, Graduate Student, CUNY Baruch College 

I had made it a point that for 2016 I would focus on making connections in order to gain a career in politics. I searched and found the Public Leadership Education Network and made a point of attending one of the seminars. The Women & Congress seminar appealed to me because of my interest in politics. As an entry level public servant funding my own way through school, I did not have the finances to attend the seminar, nor did I have the confidence to apply for the scholarship. I muted that voice in my head that said that I would not receive the scholarship and applied. When I received the notification that I would be able to attend, I was overwhelmingly gracious and excited that I was fulfilling the promise I had made to myself to make connections.

Throughout my time at the PLEN Women & Congress seminar the excitement never went away. One thing that stuck out to me was that all of the women I met seem to have taken a leap of faith to follow their passion for politics. In order to become successful, some had to relocate across the country and settle in our nation’s capital without a confirmed place of employment. Others joined a campaign of a candidate, unsure of how long they would have a job. But yet they all were accomplished women with impressive resumes playing important roles in government in diverse fields.

Another noteworthy aspect of the women I met was that all of them did not feel tied down to one area, politician, or group. They had the confidence to move around to find a career that best fit their needs and desires. As a graduate student aspiring to pursue the frightening and unstable yet thrilling and rewarding path of a politician, the stories of the women I met instilled in me the confidence to pursue my dreams. Prior to attending the PLEN Women & Congress seminar, I almost gave up on my dream. I had almost decided to stick with my current place of employment and work hard to advance, although it was not the career path that I genuinely desired. PLEN Women & Congress fueled me with the self-assurance to not settle for familiarity and comfort and to take that leap of faith after graduate school to pursue a career in politics.