I had the great honor of speaking on the Career Discovery Panel at Milken Community High School yesterday! As a Milken alum ‘03, it was a very special experience and an opportunity to connect and give back to a community that has had a tremendous influence on developing my world view and outlook on life.
During the morning program, I met with different groups of high school seniors who were specifically interested in the design field. We talked about EJH, product design, manufacturing, the challenges of running a business and I asked them about their interests; where they saw themselves going next year. Who did they want to become in life after Milken?
Interestingly, the question most often turned back to me was, “When and how did you know that this is what you wanted to do?” I realized that many of these students weren’t yet sure what they wanted to study or if they did, weren’t sure if they were choosing a path that would limit them, or worse, that they wouldn’t like it in the end or know what to do with it.
Well. This is familiar. And there I was, right there with them, back in senior year!
And in that moment, I also felt a distinct sense of a decade gone by. I was in a completely different mental space, as one would hope to be ten years out of high school, past that particularly daunting career question and I genuinely felt I had advice to share that I wish someone would have imparted to me in a clear and resounding way.
I told them that it’s ok to not know what you want to do in high school. Being the creative type with all sorts of hobbies and talents, I always had a hard time envisioning myself in one career. It was definitely something that bothered me when I applied to college because I didn’t feel “tracked” in one particular field. I was a theater kid in high school. I loved theater. But did I want to study acting for the rest of my life? I didn’t know.
I also explained to them that if you would have told me in high school that I would be doing what I’m doing now I might have laughed at you. In college, I switched majors three times, finally picked Art History my junior year and then didn’t make the leap to start my business until a couple years out of college. I told them that you feel like there’s a rush but there isn’t one.
I shared with them what has taken me almost a decade out of high school to fully grasp:
Find what you’re passionate about. If you’re not sure, try what interests you. If you don’t like it, that’s ok, remove the pressure and try something else. Find the people who will build you up, who value you and what you’re doing. Have a positive attitude. Find your niche. Find your people.
As the morning came to a close, I was asked to take a step aside and answer a few questions more formally about my involvement in the event. What advice do I have for students? How has Milken influenced my life years later? Talk about community involvement and being here at career day.
My advice to the students was everything I wrote above. The answer about Milken, which I’m sure I expressed less articulately in the moment was as follows:
Milken is a place that provides students with so much more than a quality education.
As I drove up that very familiar hill up to the sanctuary that morning, I drove past different signs and posters all relating to Jewish life. The one that caught my eye particularly said “Hineni” in big letters which means “I am fully present.” Why was I here? I wanted to joke, “Didn’t you see the poster?”
Milken is passionate about creating well rounded students that will leave their Milken career with a strong foundation of values and a world view that compels action and participation. Be present. Be involved. Be generous with your time and spirit. You know…hineni…
While I rarely share with people the influence of my Jewish education on my business, I must admit, it’s ever present. As an entrepreneur, there’s a great need for self motivation and it’s not an accident that my go to reminder phrase for moving mountains and taking on impossible challenges is “Im Tirzu.” If you will it, it is not a dream. It’s a “can do” attitude, the same one I was trying to impart to the students.
What I hope I relayed in that quick interview was that Milken sets the stage for self discovery in adulthood and lays the foundation for a young person to connect back to the community in their own time. That’s a heck of a lot more than a college prep education!
Favorite question of the day:
“How do you get street cred. if you’re just starting out and haven’t accomplished anything?”
My response: One, you make up for it by charming them with your positive enthusiasm for what you’re doing and two, just say you’re in development. When in doubt, you’re in development.
EJH ❤ Milken