Katie,If I were a poet, I would entitle this note, “Dear Op-Ed Project: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” I may not be a poet, but thanks to you, I can confidently call myself a thought leader. While I was an author and columnist before I started this fellowship, I was toiling away in relative obscurity for 6 years, with little chance of getting out of that cycle on my own. After working with a publishing house and editors of a well-known website in my field, I was still not granted access to the opinion editors at large papers. I do not believe this was due to lack of skill, knowledge, or quality on my part. It was simply due to the fact that nobody had taken the time to mentor me in how to cultivate influence. I didn’t know the secret code, and in a sink or swim world, I was treading water at best.When you ask the question, “Who narrates the world?” my short answer was, “not me.” Seven months and 11 published op-eds later, I can now shout from the rooftops, “I narrate the world!”
As you point out, this isn’t really about writing op-eds. This is about finding your voice and leadership ability and then using those things to stand up for what matters. The ripple effects of empowering women on this level have already been quantified: The Op-Ed Project has elevated us from 15% of the voice to 20%, very impressive results by any standard. And the qualitative results are immeasurable. Already, lives and policies are being changed. After working with such fantastic mentors, I am teaching my 7-year old daughter the same things. In fact, we have an article coming out today in White Rock Lake Weekly, a local free newspaper, on our community recycling day. It features my kids who are helping me organize and publicize the event. I want them to grow up knowing how to influence their community, and these skills in thought leadership are essential for that.
How incredible is that?! Clark continues:
On a career note, I must also let you know that I can attribute several recent opportunities to my growth in this project. An organization called the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists invited me to New Orleans to speak at a conference on workplace sustainability. Despite the fact that I do not have a PhD and am not a psychologist, they admired the way I had created a practice in sustainability consulting. The conference organizer specifically told me that she selected me because I was an “opinion leader.” Wow! And just two days ago, I learned that I was selected to do sustainability communications for The World Bank. With The Op-Ed Project and published pieces in The Guardian, Al Jazeera English, and The Christian Science Monitor on my resume, I was able to demonstrate that I know how to project my voice across the world. That is what I would call a personal paradigm shift. Again, I attribute this success in large part to my participation in The Op-Ed Project.Warm regards,Anna