Maureen Orth’s Six Tips for Professional Success

Posted Thu, 09/14/2017 - 10:00

Author, journalist, and founder of the Marina Orth Foundation, a nonprofit that improves education for underserved children, Maureen Orth spoke at commencement about how her time at San Francisco College for Women (which later became Lone Mountain College and was acquired by USF in 1978) shaped her experience. Here is an excerpt.

You are certainly already in the right place. San Francisco right now is one of the most vibrant incubators of creativity and knowledge in the world. You have amazing models all around you of innovation and success. You are in a work climate known for taking risks and embracing change.

Whenever people have asked me for advice about being successful in journalism, I tell them that for me it comes down to the “EEEPPP Rule.”

Energy, enthusiasm, empathy. Prepared, polite, persistent. EEEPPP!

First, energy. You don’t have to be a “rah-rah,” but having good energy is contagious; it means you work hard and do not give up easily.

Throw in “E” for enthusiasm and you reach your goals faster.

Empathy of course is the most important. Here is how I learned it:

Just as I was turning 21 and graduating from Cal, I was accepted into the Peace Corps, to a far away country I knew nothing about, Colombia. So I came to Lone Mountain to say goodbye to Mother Parks, the very no nonsense Sacred Heart nun and President of San Francisco College for Women, as Lone Mountain was then known. She introduced me to two students, sisters from Colombia, from Medellin, a city I had never heard of.

Several months later, when I found myself assigned to Medellin I spotted the sign of a fabric store.  I asked the grey haired little man standing behind the counter if he knew Gloria Rada whom I had met at Lone Mountain. He didn’t say a word but picked up the phone, dialed and handed the phone to me: “My daughter, Gloria,” he said.

Thus began a lifelong friendship with Gloria and her sister, Luz Helena, which endures to this day. Thanks to Gloria I was able to get to know lots of different kinds of people in Medellin.  Having empathy for those whose lives differ from your own is a path towards compassion, and a way to feel gratitude for the gifts God has given us.

Empathy means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, figuring out how the other person thinks. That, too, is important now when we all tend to retreat to our own little comfort zones and into our own carefully curated echo chambers.

So that’s my little talk on the Es: Energy, enthusiasm, and empathy.

Now what about the Ps? Prepared, polite, and persistent.

Preparation is key. Preparation not only inspires confidence, but being prepared can eliminate a lot of fear. Those demanding research papers that require fact after fact. They teach you to dive in to look for the devil in the details.

Polite. We all know we live in a very crude age that is getting coarser by the minute. Being polite, which is another way to think of others first, or acting modestly, is NEVER a bad idea and often a way to get your way.

By the same token, the last big “P”: Persistence tests your mettle to stay in the game, to achieve your goals. It also challenges your creativity, and if you keep showing up, persistence often brings results. And maybe sometimes a few rejections.

In closing, I want to stress the importance of humor, even in the darkest times. When my late husband, Tim Russert, died very suddenly of a heart attack in 2008 at age 58, three things got me through: my faith, the incredible support and love that my son, Luke, and I received from family, friends and the community—and equally important was being able to laugh. I cannot tell you how much it helped to have People Magazine knock the 25 Sexiest Bachelors off their cover for the older, more portly Tim Russert.

Today, the Marina Orth Foundation that I helped build in the Peace Corps is involved in 15 schools. We have distributed over 7,000 computers and trained hundreds of Colombian teachers to use technology in the classroom. My old Peace Corps site became the first wifi village in Colombia. We teach coding from the third grade and have an all girls robotics team.

If you apply the EEEPPP rule, anyone can make a difference and you can have a lot of fun becoming a man or a woman for others.

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