June 12, 2015

Out of the Box Advice: Persistence in Adversity

By: Serge Thomas

Persistent (adj).

Continuing to do something in spite of difficulty or opposition.
Synonyms: #1- tenacious, determined, persevering, resolute, dogged, indefatigable, unflagging, stubborn, obstinate.
                     #2-constant, continual, incessant, unceasing, relentless.
– Oxford Dictionary & Thesaurus

iStock_000013010086LargeIn life, a person will experience highs, lows, triumphs and tragedies. This is equally true in one’s career.

While there are many qualities that can get a person through the tough times of life, one quality stands out above others: persistence. As the above definition of the word describes, this quality has many facets. Some of these qualities are good, others are bad. How you respond to adversity will determine which quality of persistence stands out.

I know the story of a man who moved to Washington, burning with passion for politics and policy. An internship brought him to the city, and the plan was to use this position as a springboard to land a job on the Hill or in the Federal Government. Unfortunately for him the internship was a nightmare of mistakes, and he left the organization early with a sense of shame and embarrassment. However, these feelings this didn’t dim his desire to continue a career in politics or policy. He reached out to a person who was connected on the Hill and sought his help. He was turned down. Undeterred, he attended a reception on the Hill before a Christmas break looking to make connections on his own. He was able to get a few leads, but no job emerged from his efforts.

After failing to find work off the Hill he ended up homeless, living in a shelter for over a year. There were many nights of tears and agony for him in the beginning, but even this didn’t deter him. He was able to parlay his misfortune into an opportunity to give back to those who gave him a place to stay. He was appointed by the shelter’s Executive Director as a grant writer, and through persistence (yes this word again) he was able to learn how to write grants. He successfully renewed existing sources of funding and brought in some new money in the process. For this man, he found a way to be useful during a terrible time in his life. He eventually found a place to live on his own, and after two years working in this shelter he was laid-off.

After searching for work for a long while (and working on a political campaign to gain additional experience), he found work in a think tank. He helped to raise money, and he learned the basics of office management and supervising interns. But before long, the same thing happened to him again – he was laid-off!

Now one would think that this man is either unlucky, or foolish. He endured things that few other people would endure, all in the name of building a career. Most other people would have left Washington and returned to their hometowns, chastened and willing to begin a new life there. Not this man. He found a temporary job which lasted for a month, and after applying for a job on the Presidential Campaign he canvassed neighborhoods, phone banked, and kept on looking for work in the process. For a long while he had no luck. These times tested him in ways he would never imagine. He had people tell him that he should go back home. He should consider changing careers. He should quit being so stubborn. He persisted on, and found work in a media company, where he learned how to track spending and media planning for political campaigns and issue advocacy organizations.

The above story is actually my story. One may ask, why is he revealing this in a blog article? My message to all who are working or seeking work in the political field is this: being persistent is the only way you will get anywhere. And this is particularly true in Washington! From time to time you will question yourself, feel terrible about your situation, and may very well pack up and go home. But persistence is a quality inherent in all mankind, and is a powerful ally.

Former Washington Redskins coach George Allen was famous for saying “Persevere and get it done.” I want to add to it by saying, “Persevere, Persist, and get it done”.

I hope that what I just wrote resonates with all of you, and best of success!


Serge Thomas is a nonprofit and political professional living in Silver Spring, MD. He worked on the Mitt Romney 2012 Presidential Campaign and on state legislative races in two states at the grassroots level.