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Credit: Idil Demirdag

The University of Pennsylvania's highest rated Wharton professor Adam Grant spoke to college students across the country through a live-stream talk titled “The Wrong Ways to Plan a Career” on Nov. 7.

Grant spoke at Montclair State University in New Jersey while the event was broadcast on campus in Irvine Auditorium. Sigma Alpha Pi, Penn’s recently founded chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success, hosted the event. Grant, an organizational psychologist, is the youngest Wharton professor to receive tenure and was featured in Fortune magazine’s prestigious 40 under 40 list in 2016. During his talk, Grant gave advice on how people can succeed in the workplace.

The Wharton professor laid out four steps people can take to improve their careers: “put your worst foot forward,” “make the unfamiliar familiar,” “build a challenge network,” and "ask for advice."

Grant described several real-world examples from leading industry figures. When discussing the benefits of admitting one’s own limitations, he referred to how Rufus Griscom, founder of parenting website Babble, told potential investors why they should not invest in the company during his initial pitch

“When he said here are the three reasons why you should not invest in Babble, he makes it harder for them to come up with their own objections,” Grant said. “It actually makes you more credible.”

Sigma Alpha Pi chapter President and College senior Alexandra Tolhurst said the event was part of the group’s effort to provide students access “to known leaders in the world and listen to their advice on either how they became leaders or what struggles they have gone through.”

Grant later drew upon his own experiences as a Penn professor while explaining the importance of building a challenging network. He emphasized, however, that the community should challenge individuals by not telling them “the lies [they] want to hear instead of the truths [they] need to hear.” He ended his talk by discussing the importance of asking for advice and how it can be a powerful approach to cultivating a supportive community.

Credit: Idil Demirdag

Wharton and Engineering freshman Orestis Skoutellas said he enjoyed Grant’s talk and thought his advice was practical for people interested in management.

Tolhurst said Sigma Alpha Pi’s goal is to “help college students build the leadership skills to go out into the world and be effective leaders” through speaker events and society discussions. She added that the Penn chapter was formed in 2016, which is one of the national society’s 646 chapters.

College freshman Kahnrad Braxton said he attended the event because of his interest in NSLS and because he had never heard Grant talk before. “NSLS seems like a really good opportunity to improve your leadership," he said.  

The nationwide society has hosted speakers including Trevor Noah, Al Roker, and Anderson Cooper, but Tolhurst said this was the first time someone from Penn has been chosen as a speaker.

“I think Adam Grant’s talk is especially relevant being that it’s going to be about planning a career, and that’s something that I think all Penn students can really think about and really relate to,” Tolhurst said.

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