“Your network is your net worth.” These parting words during the “Chart Your Path” alumni panel in March 2021 provide an excellent perspective on the importance of networking, even during these precarious, socially-distanced times. During this event, a panel of diverse alumni who work in law, business, education, and entrepreneurship shared how they got to where they are today and gave advice on how to ensure success as a CofC graduate despite the pandemic. On networking, Kenyatta Grimmage, Associate Director of Admissions at College of Charleston, explained the necessity of surrounding yourself with a supportive and enthusiastic community who can help you get to where you’re trying to go. And if you’re not sure where that is yet, his suggestion is to figure out what you would do without being paid- that is what your true passion is, and when you find that passion, the money will flow.
Each of the panelists shared similarly incredible advice as they offered their own stories of career successes and setbacks. Kesha Rainey, Global Operations & Supply Chain LDP at Raytheon Technologies, gave a particularly important reminder:
“As a freshman, you’re not going to be the same person when you graduate. Be willing to enjoy the process along the way.”
It may seem like a familiar statement; you’re probably anticipating much change between the day you take your first step on campus and the day you cross the Cistern. However, when you’re just starting college and going from day to day, it can seem like nothing is changing at all. You’re going from class to class, finishing assignment after assignment, and juggling work, school, and your social life, while still trying to figure out how to get more than five hours of sleep each night. The process can seem overwhelming, repetitive, and certainly stressful, but that’s where the second part of Kesha’s advice comes in: you have to be willing to enjoy this crazy, once-in-a-lifetime process. Lean into the chaotic monotony of each semester because even though it may seem like everything is staying exactly the same, you’ll quickly begin to realize that the person you are this semester is entirely different from the one you were at the same time last year. Whether you’re finding new passions and interests, learning new skills and putting them to use in your classes, or meeting new people and making new memories, you are growing and changing every day. And then one day, you’ll arrive at the end of your final semester, look back, and realize that this familiar statement ended up being true, because you’ve become an entirely different person than you were four years ago.
Kimberly Ohanuka embodies this idea of growing and changing throughout these short four years perfectly; she began her studies at the College as an athletic training major destined for medical school. But as she got into her major, something didn’t feel right, though it wasn’t until she met with one of her professors that it really clicked: She was living her life for the desires of others instead of herself. Kimberly had taken up this medical path because her family had dreamed of her being a doctor, when in fact, she wanted to be a lawyer. Her professor could see her lack of enthusiasm during class, and didn’t hesitate to point it out, encouraging Kimberly to start living life for herself, and not for anybody else, and she found that by the end of her four years, she was an entirely different person; one who would follow her own passions and dreams instead of allowing others to decide for her. She is now living out her true interests as a Civil Defense Litigation Attorney at Carr Maloney PC.
For Laqunya Baker, following those dreams meant becoming a lawyer as well, and one that advocates with the ACLU. In fact, she joined the panel from outside the courtroom right before she was due to testify. Laqunya encouraged students, especially students from marginalized backgrounds, to pursue their career goals even though others might not be as supportive. She emphasized the lack of black lawyers, especially black female lawyers, sharing that only 2 percent of those in her field look like her.
Overall, the prevailing message was that students should study what sparks their own passion rather than what makes others around them happy, even if that means studying something out of the ordinary or entirely different from what they thought they wanted. With only four short years of college, it’s important to spend your valuable time studying what gets you excited to go to class every day, not what you think will get you the biggest paycheck. As Kenyatta Grimmage said during the panel, “once you find your passion, the money will flow.”
-Katie Hill, Peer Career Advisor