CES: What are your duties and responsibilities as President and CEO for United Way of Dane County?
LH: Changing the human condition. Leading and Serving the Board, the Staff and the Community. Developing research-based strategies and mobilization plans to address the racial achievement gap, homelessness among families, community safety and senior independence—and developing the resources to deliver on those plans. Assuring the finances and human resources of the organization are managed appropriately. Being accountable for the use of all resources and delivering results.
CES: What was your first job?
LH: I volunteered since I was 14, but my first paid job was at 16 as a lifeguard at Palmer Lions Pool in my hometown.
On the positive side I learned responsibility...for the lives of the swimmers. I took that very seriously and had to rescue several children during my tenure.
On the down side, the manager was inappropriate and irresponsible. He was fired while I was there for throwing the benches into the pool one night! They say you learn the most about management from your first boss...I guess I learned what not to do. But I also learned that I needed to keep doing my job regardless of what the boss was up to. That has served me well over many years!
CES: What other early experinces helped shape your career development?
LH: Growing up on the East Coast during times of racial turmoil in the 60's made a huge impression on me. I feel that the racial achievement gap is the most important issue facing our country. This perspective and value has driven me to where I am today.
My experience as a student of psychology at Lafayette College (a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania much like Puget Sound) had a significant impact on me. I didn't realize until I attended graduate school at University of Wisonsin-Madison just how good my undergraduate education was. Being drilled on the scientific method, writing, critical thinking, and analysis has served me at every career step along the way. (And helped me place out of a semester of grad school!)
CES: What advice do you have for students?
LH: Do internships in something close to what you want to do...paid or unpaid.
Networking...everybody does it. And don't be afraid to use your family and friend relationships to make connections. That is how people get jobs. I know you want to do it on your own and that's great, but it's ok to make connections through people you know. Ask for informational interviews, get more names, and talk to those people; take notes at every meeting, and write handwritten thank you notes to everyone you meet.
Find out what your internal drivers and motivators are so you can get a good job match. The idea of a job might sound good, but how will you feel every morning if you have to speak in front of 500 people, or conversely, work at a computer all day analyzing data? You may be able to be good at either one...but one might make you exhausted and one might energize you. If you end up in a job that doesn't fit with your internal drivers, you will be tired every day, not happy, and probably not advance the way you would like.