January 10, 2011

Giving back and helping the younger generation

Today I went to my annual Cornell Women’s Junior/Senior/Alumnae Brunch. I’ve been going to these brunches since I was first eligible to attend, as a junior in college. Basically, they bring together college juniors/seniors and alumna of all ages, to share career tips and general life advice. As a student, I found these sessions invaluable – not only did I get interview tips and advice on how to act when I first came into the workplace, but I also met many influential women (from a managing director at JP Morgan Chase to the owner of an award-winning jazz club) who were happy to assist in any way possible. Now that I’ve graduated, I make it a point to clear my schedule and go back so that I can pass my own advice on to the younger women. This year, the brunch I was scheduled to attend (there are about a dozen different sessions in the NYC area) was being held in Brooklyn, at the lovely home of a Goldman Sachs recruiter (lucky students who wanted to secure an interview there!).

The format is always the same: coffee and informal mingling for about 30 minutes as we wait for everyone to arrive, then 30 minutes of formal introductions as we go around a circle and talk about our background (and for the students, what they hope to achieve), lunch and more informal mingling, and finally another hour where we all come together and answer student questions panel-style.

While we are continuously thanked by the students for making the time to come answer questions, I honestly think I get as much out of it as the students. The alumna are of all ages (in fact, I’m usually one of the only more recent graduates – usually most are from the graduating classes of 1965-1985), and it’s really neat to hear how their answers to questions differ from my own.

The brunch also provides a wonderful opportunity for self-reflection. What has helped me succeed? What is hindering my success? This year, I found that the advice I kept giving over and over was just to do what you love. As Cornell women, we’re all pretty driven – with that kind of mentality, it’s not really possible to fail completely. So pursue what you love, knowing that you’re prudent enough to have some sort of backup plan, and then let the chips fall where they may.

When I first started running, I had no idea it would become such a huge part of my life and my identity – now, I’m often introduced to people as “the marathon girl.” Furthermore, I’m starting to see opportunities to turn my passion for health/fitness into a career, in some of the most non-traditional ways! Who would have thought that there might be a calling for me as a pacer or motivational speaker? I’m so excited by the opportunities that running is starting to present to me, and think it’s so neat the way things are falling into place.

Overall, I just love my alma mater and the fact that they do this annual series – in fact, I wish it would become a monthly event instead of annual! I think this every year, but this year I just had such a lovely afternoon that I’d like to try to maybe host one of these events in the summer, for the many students who take an internship in the city.

How do you give back to the younger generations?


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