Before attending a PLEN seminar, Camille Smith was working hard to create the perfect plan for her future. Although she was feeling a bit unsure and indecisive, she thought that the only way to achieve her goal of working in the government was to follow a specific and even path. When looking back on her PLEN experience, she recalls learning that careers paths, like the one she was trying to follow, are actually hardly ever linear. “I was too caught up in trying to create the perfect plan, when I really needed to open my mind to all of the different possibilities at my disposal,” she says. Even though she does still plan to work in the government, she is thankful that PLEN opened her mind up to other career possibilities in NGOs and think tanks that have given her a more well-rounded perspective of the policy world.
In addition to easing her fears of an uncertain future, PLEN also made Camille more confident in her professional skills. “As an undergrad,” she explains, “I felt inexperienced and intimidated even thinking about entering the professional world.” However, the workshops that she participated in during her seminar helped her practice her interview, networking, and resume skills.
Perhaps the most influential aspect of her PLEN experience was the network that Camille built in D.C. and beyond. The women mentors that she met through PLEN eased her uncertainty in her career path and the intimidation that she felt around her professional skills. “Being able to connect with women in such a wide variety of careers was extremely beneficial in helping me decide what I want to do with mine,” she says.
Since gaining the confidence to network and seek mentors, Camille has returned to Chicago and built upon the network of PLEN women that she met in D.C. After her PLEN seminar, she spent a semester in Morocco taking intensive Arabic courses, studying Middle East politics, and interning at a Moroccan NGO. She is now in her junior year at Loyola University Chicago and is also the Middle East and Iran Studies intern at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Because of the skills and confidence she learned at PLEN, she has “met so many incredibly people (especially women) at [her] office by reaching out to them and asking them about their careers.”
By Hayley Humiston • 2016