Serendipity and Success


I am currently at my national professional association conference in Washington, D.C.   In additional to trainings, we were lucky to have a motivational speaker who guided us on how to be change leaders.

One of the things he said was that our success is on the shoulders of people who helped us. That really made me think about all the people who helped me get to the point I am today.

I want to share two instances where paths crossed dozens of years later and maybe its serendipity but regardless, the people who were there in the beginning play a role as I move higher in my public career.

The first was in college when I met a woman who was introducing First Lady Hillary Clinton at an event at Iowa State. I was one of the students standing behind Hillary showing placards with various activities the Clinton administration had accomplished in its early tenure. Five years later our paths crossed again and she helped me get connected to the community action agencies and their activities. She and other personal advocates, helped me get a job at Iowa Community Action Association. I stayed there a relatively short time, but my experience helped me get my current job running the Community Services Block Grant program in Nebraska. Tonight, we met for drinks, her running the Iowa Community Action Association and me in my current job.

The second was my first professional job in government. I was hired to be a legislative aide for an Iowa House member. This job introduced me to several people who helped me on my professional journey. I had amazing opportunities to learn and grow. This person has been by far my biggest advocate, a friend and mentor. When I went to my first national conference with other community action professionals, he sent me a note I have framed…’Have fun, be brave and don’t be scared of nothing’. He knew networking was not my forte and I needed encouragement.

He unfortunately lost re-election but was appointed to a position in Iowa state government. We have stayed in touch through the years. When I got my job in Nebraska state government, he was one of the first to congratulate me. Now he and I are colleagues. Last night we had a drink and updated our state situations and planning for a national event in my home state later this year.

So what’s my point? Remember the people you meet throughout your career. There will be people who are amazing influences on your life beyond helping you in your career. You may only cross paths for a short time, or it may form a lifetime friendship. They may help your career, help your personal growth, or just be a friendly face to help solve today’s issue.

As the motivational speaker said today, you are a leader, but you got there on the shoulders of the people who helped you. Even if you never see them again, remember them and how they got you where you are today.

As for the two people I mentioned above, they married each other in summer 2015. When I met each one on separate occasions I had no idea they knew each other. I am not responsible for their relationship, but I cherish that these two important people are in my life. I count them as lifelong friends. Without them, I would not be where I am today, personally or professionally.

Jennifer Dreibelbis is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Katarina Hong

This is such a great reminder that the people you come in contact with can become important people in your life. Thanks for sharing!

Sonia Chakrabarty

What a great set of stories! Thank you for sharing and reminding us of the importance and (delights) of serendipity!