Before I attended the PLEN Women and Congress Seminar, I was set on following the road map to becoming a New York State Senator. I felt that this was one of the best ways that I could make a direct impact and serve the needs of the state that I grew up in. However, after attending the seminar and learning about Congressional work, it turned out I did not enjoy it, nor did I feel drawn to it in the same way that I was before the seminar. If I had never attended the seminar, I would have set myself up for a career path that I did not want at all, but I am glad that I found this out as early as I did because I was so focused on obtaining something that turned out not to be what I want to do with my career.
I would have never come to this conclusion nor would I have ever felt more confident about the fact that I wanted to change my career path if it had not been for advice that I heard during the work/life balance panel. One of the panelists said that you might “end up having seven careers in your lifetime and that it was okay.” I have always felt so overwhelmed by having to figure out what I wanted to do with life and I was so set on one career direction. I felt pressured to have to mold myself onto one career path even though there are a multitude of things that I am interested in learning. I let out a sigh of relief when I heard these words. It felt like someone finally understood what I was going through and that life did not have to be a straight-line path that you follow for the rest of your life. These words inspired me to follow all my passions and to not be afraid to follow them. Humans are so much more than just one career and it is okay to find out that you do not like something that you originally thought you would. Out of everything that I learned at PLEN, those words still echo through my mind and I repeat them to myself when I feel pressured by family, friends, or society in general to have to choose one career path in life. There is so much out there and that is what inspires me to follow all my passions.
While PLEN surely taught me a life lesson, it also taught me practical career skills that I had not known prior to attending the seminar. One of the biggest things that I learned more about was networking. I felt that I was pretty good at networking before I attended the seminar, but PLEN taught me how to fine tune this skill. I knew about making connections, but I never put much attention to constantly following up and keeping those connections strong in case I was looking for a job opportunity. I also learned about how to correctly utilize LinkedIn so that it could serve my career interests in the best way possible. A second skill that I learned at PLEN was salary negotiation. I had no clue about what to do to negotiate a salary and I always choke up when the issue is mentioned. However, after the salary negotiation workshop, I felt confident that I could negotiate a salary that fits my needs. This inspired me to plan a salary negotiation workshop on my campus to teach more women how to negotiate salaries and empower them to feel the way that I felt after I walked out of that workshop. I am so grateful PLEN taught me these skills because now I can walk in with confidence into the career that I suits my needs after my college career.
My experience at PLEN also taught me about the importance of girl power. In society, we are taught to put each other down as girls to fit to some stereotypical model of what a girl should act, think, and look like. However, being at PLEN, every girl I met was so inspirational and doing amazing work within her field of interest. Constantly motivating and hyping each other up as girls really made all the difference for me. Every girl that I met was so passionate and dedicated to her career in the same way that I was and to have the support from each one of them made me so happy. I became close to so many girls, but I met a gal pal that still constantly stays in touch with me. We share music, inspirational quotes, memes, and any scholarly reading material that we think the other should see. Even though she is from California and I am from New York, having her support means the world. Being around other girls that want to motivate each other and support each motivated me to bring that spirit back to my campus as well. Every time that I am in a room, I consciously make decisions to make sure that the other female voices are heard and that we lift each other up instead of putting each other down.
Even though it turned out that I did not want to do Congressional work, I am very thankful for the opportunities that were provided for me at PLEN. I am also grateful to have been able to connect with women from all over the nation that I know are going to do amazing things once they graduate from college. My favorite thing was that I saw so many women from such different levels within their college career and it made me so inspired to continue moving forward with my passions. It is never too late, and you can never have too many things that you are interested in. The world is much bigger than I thought it was and there are connections that you can make where you go. I would recommend attending a PLEN seminar if you see a seminar that might appeal to your interests or just go to learn about something you had no idea about before. It makes all the difference.
Hermina Garic is a student at Utica College and is expecting to graduate in May 2019. She attended the PLEN Women and Congress seminar after hearing about it from her Government and Politics Professor.