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When You Walk Into a Room Look for Someone You Know


I'm only 5 ft tall -- I can only see the glass as half full. That pithy quote, which I'm sure I stole from a New York Times article years ago, fully encapsulates how I feel about my journey in politics. I benefit from an enormous amount of conversation and advice that so many women, particularly women of color, have shared with me that have led me.

There is no way to decide what piece of advice has been the guiding force in my professional career. These pieces of advice include such forceful acknowledgements as to 'sit at the table!' when decisions are being made and look around and see who should be there who isn't and invite them. They also range from the standard D.C. advice 'don't write it if you can say it, don't say it if you can nod, don't nod if you can wink' to 'people will expect you to be a certain way so please surprise them.'

So here is my piece of advice for you: When you walk into a room look for someone you know-- from school, from a previous internship or volunteer opportunity and you will immediately find a connection. Wouldn't you want to walk in and no there is someone who automatically has your back? Being around women who look like me and who share experiences, whether it is being Muslim, being the daughter of immigrants, being someone involved in Democratic politics or even from my home state or my small college is wonderful. o many times we are in spaces were we are insular so I love to work in spaces where we have to bond together.

I'm pragmatic. I fail all the time, almost every day there is something I could have done better, where I should have pivoted instead of blindly going forward and the knowledge of that comes a few seconds too late. When I falter what I have in my corner is an amazing network of women who prop me up when I want to fall down. Who will give me honest truth and who encourage me to learn from my mistake. When you are a woman of color you don't have a second chance to make a first impression (don't send the cliche police after me), but having people around you in life and in your professional career who truly have your back is what I consider a success. And don't forget that there are plenty of young women of color who don't have people who can give them this advice so share it.

Laila Mohib is the expansion director for Emerge America, which recruits, trains, and provides a powerful network to Democratic women who want to run for office.

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