May 22, 2009

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Tripp Williams ’06 tests several career paths before returning to political arena

By Sarah Costlow ’09

After graduating from Lafayette, Seattle’s Tripp Williams ’06 worked for Rep. Rick Larsen from the 2nd Congressional District in Bellingham, Wash. Eager to return east, he left Washington and lived in Maine, working as a camp counselor.

He returned to his home state to re-join Larsen’s team after living in New Jersey with the family of a Lafayette student, As staff assistant, he helps with projects and research and interacts with government agencies on behalf of constituents. He also conducts research and writes reports of his own, fields incoming constituent comments, and helps organize the office’s constituent mail flow.

“The position provides a wonderful opportunity to learn,” says Tripp, who majored in government and law. “I interned with Rep. Larsen in Washington, D.C., between my junior and senior years. The experience was invaluable and established the foundation that has allowed me to return to his staff on two occasions.”

Tripp says he was fortunate to shadow the father of a friend who used to work on Wall Street and is now involved in a plethora of projects. Williams found exciting options in New York City, including a position as marketing editor at architecture firm STV Inc.

“I didn’t have an established network [in New York City] until my college friends had relocated to Manhattan and its environs,” he explains. “Lafayette’s location is a tremendous asset – there is a vast number of alumni in New York available for questions and career consultation.”

After considering all he’s been exposed to, he says, “The challenge for any job seeker is twofold: deciding on a career and convincing a company to give you a chance. But it’s a good challenge.”

Challenges are something Williams learned to face as a member of Lafayette’s Division I baseball team for two years.

“Meeting the challenges that come with any form of competition, and staying committed to the team and the idea of improving as a player, confirmed earlier lessons I had learned on the baseball field about the importance of perseverance and working with others to achieve a common goal,” he says. “Most of the people I stay in contact with from Lafayette were teammates of mine – the bonds you create while members of the same team are inimitable.”

Because he was inspired by Andy Smith, assistant professor and chair of American studies, Tripp remains in contact with his former instructor and plans to remain friends. He also communicates with government and law professors John Kincaid and Ilan Peleg, both of whom motivated Tripp during his time at Lafayette.

“Prof. Smith elevated my consciousness to a new level, and I find that I see things differently, more fully, since I studied under him,” says Williams. “Prof. Smith, as a good professor should, pressed me and my classmates to ask questions and to not be afraid to speak up for what we are passionate about. He also required that we be active voices, meaning that the articulation of a given position should be accompanied by deliberation, and not simply uttered thoughtlessly to fill up time or space. These lessons and inspirations have been among the most valuable I’ve taken from Lafayette.”

Williams believes his winding path since graduation has made him a more well-rounded individual and has delivered him exactly where he needs to be.

“My piece of unsolicited advice is this: The first couple of years after graduation, for me at least, were incredibly disorienting and challenging. For the first time since I could remember, I had neither a direction nor a deadline, and I felt listless,” he says. “I worried about not advancing along given career paths, or about choosing the wrong pursuit, and had—and still have—numerous debates on balancing the pursuit of dreams with the pursuit of comfort. For some, those pursuits are clearly linked; for others, they seem divergent. It is imperative, however, that each graduate follow his or her own dreams and blaze his or her own trail.

“That’s not an original thought—many others have said it before, and far more eloquently. Still, I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment. Do not be discouraged by the specter of career timelines, or be thrown off when things don’t make sense or fall into place right away. Live at your own pace, and have the courage to be your own guide.”

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