“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” — this was just one of the four key questions a group of Pacific Lutheran alumnae answered Wednesday during the interactive “Lean In” panel.
This event, hosted by PLU’s Wild Hope Center for Vocation, welcomed PLU students and faculty into the Anderson University Center’s
Regency Room. It gave attendants the opportunity to learn about “leaning in” and pursuing their ambitions without reservations.
The panel included Lisa Kittilsby ’84, Tina Hagedron ’94, Shannon Murphy ’07 and Jill Hulings ’08. Each panelist received the same set of four questions surrounding Sheryl Sandburg’s popular book, “Lean In.”
The panelists, who had read Sandburg’s book prior to the panel, offered an abundance of personal knowledge.
Professor Lynn Hunnicutt, the chair of economics, began by briefly introducing each panelist and dove straight into asking the panel, “what would you do if you weren’t afraid or how have you dealt with your own fears?”
Murphy, who works with electoral campaigns within Washington state, said confidence is key.
“In politics and government, it’s predominantly white men,” Murphy said. “I would say the phrase ‘fake it until you make it’ is a phrase used all of the time and is the biggest way I’ve conquered my fears. Be a little extra confident even if you think you have no idea what you’re talking about.”
The next question peaked the interest of the audience and conjured resounding laughter from the panelists: “Does everyone have to like you?”
“If you aren’t tough when someone pushes you back and you want to be at the table, you have to push back,” Hagerdon said. “So if somebody doesn’t like you, don’t pull back. You can’t let somebody else and the way that they feel about you from their own perception interfere with your ability to do what you want to do.”
The rest of the panel agreed striving to be likeable will get a person far but creating a clear balance between likability and standing one’s ground is vital to success in the workplace.
Closer to the end of the questioning, the panel collectively suggested that creating a balance between work life and home life is vital.
“If you can hire it done, do it,” Hagerdon said, referring to housework or childcare. “I know it doesn’t seem possible now, but when you find the sweet spot in your salary, that’s when you can ask for help.”
The students who attended the panel said they gained some indispensable insight they can easily employ when entering the professional world.
“I attended all of the other panels for the ‘Lean In’ series,” junior Ruthie Kovanen said, “and I was especially curious to see, with this specific panel, what alumni had to say about how they ‘lean in’ in their career paths.”
Kovanen said she had hoped for a more diverse group of people though, like an English or physics major.
Most of the panelists hold positions within the areas of business or communication, which greatly appealed to attendants like first-year D’Ajah Johnson.
“The first time I heard of it [‘Lean In’], I was like, ‘what does that mean?’” Johnson said. “But now I get it. It’s not our inadequacies we’re afraid of but the power we actually have.”