Town & Country magazine featured an enjoyable recent interview with MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski ’89.
Brzezinski didn’t mention her time at Williams College, but Eph undergraduates are in one of the finest places to take advantage of key elements of her career advice:
[Q:] What life skill do you think is of utmost importance for young women who are starting their careers?
Being able to think on your feet, get on stage, and talk in front of people. I urge every young woman to do that [talk on stage]. I think that it will get you out of your comfort zone and teach you to communicate visually and experience that kind of “hot, red, I’m really embarrassed, everyone’s looking at me” feeling. And you can find these moments, you need to find them, and do them consistently.
If you have a career that has you hiding under a rock, and never having to speak in front of anyone– look elsewhere. Make a toast at a party, give a speech at someone’s wedding. The first few times are awful– and you’ll sweat, and all of the sudden, you’ll realize your outfit is wrong. You’ll look at pictures, and you’ll be able to visualize, and feel what it’s like when it’s showtime in your life. You need to actually communicate effectively. It may be negotiating a contract, or negotiating a marriage. You can’t do that just by thinking you can wing it: “when I get there, I’ll figure it out.” No, practice; get in front of people.
Perhaps not surprising advice from a live-television personality, but it’s good advice for succeeding in almost any field. And through regular classwork, senior theses and academic colloquia, not to mention the unmatched array of extracurricular opportunities in theater, comedy, a capella, student government, and the like, no one should graduate Williams without taking on and overcoming this kind of performance anxiety. Williams students take note: you’ll never have a friendlier, more supportive environment to gain practice communicating in front of a crowd!