We are proud to publish the first of four blog posts from The Opportunities Project’s 2011 career coaching scholarship recipients. Meet Zachary Laplante, an aspiring lawyer, do-gooder and all-around good guy who I was pleased to work with last year. At the end of our time together, Zack decided he was going to enroll in law school at the University of Pittsburgh- with funding!
Like me, Zack is a scrappy Massachusetts person so we hit it off from the start and I miss our Skype sessions. I know the world is going to be a better place when Zack graduates from law school. I hope you enjoy his insights and know that I did not pay him to say what he said about me.
PS: Want to apply for a 2012 scholarship? Look for the info at the end of the post.
When I first came into contact with Tracy Brisson, I was in the midst of a very trying period in my career and my life in general. I was preparing for law school simply because I felt out of options, and I had not developed the skills I needed to expand my network and determine the best path for me to take. Fortunately, I was selected for a scholarship for coaching sessions from Tracy that were crucial in developing ideals and values that guide my goals and decisions to this day. A mentor can be an absolute godsend when you’ve reached a brick wall, but it truly comes down to finding your own way and making decisions that fulfill you as an individual. Here are a few of the key ideas that I have developed over the past year with a push in the right direction.
First, balancing your short-term and long-term goals is critical to success.
After graduating and finding that there seemed to be no clear-cut path for a liberal arts major with concentrations in psychology and political science (huge surprise!), I started looking into graduate school. While I prepared my applications, I worked on a political campaign, went door-to-door raising money for an environmental awareness non-profit, interned with a couple different Internet start-ups, and even spent some time in retail. All in all, every experience brought with it its own challenges and lessons, but I was always sure to take care of short-term needs while keeping a focus on long-term goals. Time is money right? You have to budget your time just as you budget your finances. Bills have to get paid, but that’s no reason you have to put your goals on the backburner. Dedicate 20-30% of your day to networking and furthering your career, and give the rest to your day-to-day priorities, and you’ll be surprised how much you can get accomplished.
Second, the world owes you nothing.
I grew up with the naive notion that all you need is a college degree to make it, so I expected an immediate return simply from obtaining a degree. Needless to say, I was dead wrong. The truth is, you only get what you give. Reaching your goals and fulfilling your dreams is less about what you have, and more about what you do with what you have. The prodigiously talented author that dares not publish a word is doomed to obscurity just as a Harvard student will go nowhere without applying the innate talent that got them there in the first place (imagine if Mark Zuckerberg never dared to create Facebook!). The world will not come to you unless you make it do so, so make connections, experiment and explore new possibilities, and don’t be afraid to introduce your own ideas into the mix.
Finally, every disaster is an opportunity.
When the economy crashed, the obvious reaction was panic. Living in a country where we almost feel entitled to future prosperity, having the floor drop out from under us was a shock I don’t think anyone was ready for. However, as we pick ourselves back up, our generation is beginning to redesign and re-envision the world based on our experiences and interpretations of this new world. In the wake of catastrophe there will always be those with a vision for the future, and I believe that is a spirit everyone can come to embrace. See the positive in every negative, find the upside to every downside, and when you find something worth fighting for, stick to your guns like your life depends on it. I’ll end with wiser words than I could ever write, and I hope they inspire you like they inspire me:
Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though
checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy
nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor
– Teddy Roosevelt
Best of luck out there everybody, and thanks to Tracy and The Opportunities Project for helping me find my way.
Inspired by Zack? Apply for our Second Annual Scholarship Contest by Monday, September 3, 2012 (Labor Day).