The Best Career Plan is to Take Advantage of Opportunities

Ann Veneman has broken so many glass ceilings that she is understandably asked about it often. After all, she must have had a very clear career plan. And yet, Veneman tells Big Think her approach was very unorthodox as she reached a cabinet post in the White House and top leadership position at the UN. According to Veneman, career success for her was a matter of taking advantage of opportunities.
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TRANSCRIPT

Ann Veneman: Well, many young women in particular but young people in general ask me, "How did you plan your career to get where you've gotten?"  And I've said oftentimes that I never would have imagined that I would end up in the cabinet of the U.S. or even the cabinet of the state or in the leadership position in the United Nations; but it was a matter of taking advantage of opportunities that were presented to me that I would not have necessarily thought about taking in my career.  

So when I was a young lawyer practicing law in California, the opportunity to first go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture was presented to me to work on trade issues and international issues. Had I said no to that, had I not taken that chance, taken that complete turn in my life, I would not have done any of the things I've ended up doing.  And so I often look back at my life and say it was not about having goals to do these things, but taking advantage of opportunities that came my way.  

I know that that's not the advice a lot of people give others.  They tell young people to have goals, to look to the future, to look at what—to imagine what you want to be, but I also think you can't be so goal-oriented that you say no to an opportunity that could lead you places you never imagined you could end up and opportunities that are a great possibility to impact the world.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd