“I wonder if there is a risk that’s too big” wonders Don Hill, a current Assistant Director for the UConn Law Career Center and Vice Chair for the East Hartford Town Council. It certainly was a big risk to take an unpaid fellowship fresh out of law school with little in the bank account, but being a “cashier at Walmart at night, an attorney by day on Capitol Hill” paid off. His experience led to a paid counsel role on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “It was extraordinarily difficult” Don admits, “but I knew if I took that risk there would be an extraordinary reward.” Such was the theme of risk-taking on June 1st’s Advice & Perspective series, which also touched upon confidence, belonging, humility, anxiety, and learning opportunities.
Like many Black professionals, Don has faced imposter syndrome: “even with all of the great things that I’ve been fortunate enough to do, you still wonder whether or not you are that person… who is going to step into an organization or be the most qualified.” To feel a true sense of belonging, Don advises a healthy balance of confidence and humility. “Confidence alone won’t get you to where you want to be,” Don advises, but “it’s really hard to accomplish your goals… if you don’t have the inner confidence or people on the outside pushing you.” Such is the value of mentors, who Don said, “could lift me up and provide information that made me not just blindly confident but confident based on tangible information.” To balance confidence, Don recommends humility, recognizing that “you are constantly on a journey of growth… there are always things to learn.” We can all learn how to overcome anxiety and how to use mistakes as learning opportunities.
“Anxiety, we all experience it, especially given how uncertain things are.” When this anxiety becomes debilitating, Don recommends talking to someone, but general anxiety with career development can be reduced by having a plan and a process. This can look like seeing your future self and assessing what steps you need to take to get there. It can also look like having “an organized [list] of how much work you’ve actually done.” When doubting yourself, this can remind you of the great things you have already accomplished and motivate you to take the next step. As you take steps and inevitably make mistakes, Don stresses that these moments can be used as learning opportunities. “What happens in [a] particular moment does not necessarily define you,” rather, it is how you react — all wise words from someone who took multiple risks to accomplish their career goals.
Our full conversation with Don Bell is available on our YouTube channel. Click the play button below to check it out!