Learning from Longoria: Focus and Flexibility

Last night, I joined fellow members of the Penn family at Irvine Auditorium to hear Eva Longoria speak at the Lauren and Bobby Turner Social Impact Executive Speaker Series event.  Longoria, an actress, director, activist, humanitarian and business woman, sat down with Wharton grad Bobby Turner for well over an hour to shed a little light on her background, admit to challenges over the years and offer advice to those trying to figure out their own career aspirations.

Not really knowing much about Eva Longoria except something about her character Gabby on Desperate Housewives having a scandalous affair with the teenage gardener (okay, I’m lying, I totally know the plot for at least 5 seasons of that show), I still found myself phone-Googling her non-Desperate Housewives career endeavors about 15 minutes into the presentation. It didn’t take much searching to see pretty quickly she does have a genuine philanthropic spirit.

Tucking my phone back into my bag, I turned to Longoria with my full attention as she continued to explain her career path over the years.  She surprised us by saying how in college she majored in Kinesiology, the study of human movement.  Explaining her intention to attend graduate school in Texas, where she was born and raised, she said she hoped to someday become a trainer for a professional sports team.  At least, that was “the plan.”  However, right before she started grad school she won a modeling and acting contest and a trip to Los Angeles, a city she never ended up leaving.  With graduate school no longer in “the plan,” Longoria knew she needed a job.  She scored a well-paying corporate headhunting gig through a temp agency, finding she had a knack for business at just 22-years-old.  Missing acting, though, she kept trying, eventually landing a role on a popular soap opera. And we know the rest from there…

When the event ended, I stepped out into the cool night air. That was, I thought, an interesting Wednesday, if not a little bit random after a regular day at work.  It wasn’t until I walked a couple of blocks through the city to catch my train that her story sunk in with deeper meaning.  A career path is not static, it’s often changing.  It’s how you recognize and use the opportunities that come your way that will make a difference.  Therefore, success involves the ability to pivot when the road takes a sudden turn and adjust as you make your way along your new path.  Today Longoria wears a vast degree of professional hats, and undoubtedly all of her experiences have contributed to her success.

Here in Career Services we hope to prepare you for your future careers, offering an abundance of resources to hone your skills along the way.  Some are tangible…some not so much.  Two important intangible skills that will help you on your journey are focus and flexibility.  Eva Longoria’s story demonstrates both of these when life doesn’t go according to “the plan.”  She focused on her goals but also remained flexible enough to take advantage of opportunities that came her way.  Plus, she’s not done!  She mentioned last night that she’s toyed with the idea of going to law school.  Do we have a Counselor Longoria in our future?  The Judge Judy of tomorrow?  Who knows? But if she stays both focused and flexible, anything can happen.

Author: Anne Marie

Anne Marie Gercke is the Associate Director for the College of Arts & Sciences team in Career Services.