Mentor Lunch: Michelle LaBuwi

Mentor lunch with Michelle LaBuwi

From left: Molly Dietz, Michelle LaBuwi, and Sunny Pei

Michelle LaBuwi (B.A., 2007) visited the Department of Communication last Thursday to meet with students over lunch and chat about how her career has taken shape. After graduation, LaBuwi taught English in Vietnam for several months. She made two more short moves to San Francisco and her hometown in Klamath Falls, Oregon before landing in Washington D.C. for nearly five years working as a Legislative Aide for Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. LaBuwi has spent the last six months in a newly created role as an Advocacy and Outreach Manager for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in Seattle. Her main goal is to build relationships with patients and families, doctors, researchers, community partners, and legislators to improve patient wellness and survivorship by enhancing access to quality, affordable, and coordinated care.

Here are her top pieces of advice for finding your way as a young grad:

Cast your net as far as you can. Try different things while still in school; you may love it or you may hate it, but both have value in figuring out what you are passionate about. Knowing what you’re passionate about will lead you.

Shape your career journey by understanding other people’s journeys. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for an introduction, an informational interview, or to connect on LinkedIn. People want to help; don’t be shy.

Sometimes the best form of transportation is a leap of faith. Put down roots even if it’s not exactly what you planned. The first few years out of college are challenging, but look at it as a time of opportunity. She said, “Accepting that I don’t know exactly what I’m doing makes life easier, and frankly more fun.” There isn’t an end point, always a new start point.

Some advice that was given to her that she always reminds herself of: The only difference between fear and excitement is trust; and the more security you seek, the deeper insecurity you experience.

Getting out of my comfort zone is where I shine. Push yourself mentally, physically, or spiritually. The world has a funny way of responding with give and take. You never know who you’re going to meet; be open.

Figure out what motivates you. Michelle is motivated by beautiful places, hugs, and building connections. It can be as simple as working in a place with windows or living in the same city as your family. Keep this question in mind: What are you willing to struggle for? If money motivates you, are you willing to work 80-hour weeks for a higher paying salary?