Addressing a group of Binghamton University students, Binghamton Mayor Rich David relayed stories of his path to success by way of networking on Monday.
After studying communications and political science as an undergraduate at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., David first expressed interest in a career in broadcast journalism, and a friend helped him secure work at a local television station.
“He knew somebody who knew somebody who worked there, and he arranged for me to do an internship,” David said. “I can trace most of my professional career back to that internship.”
David moved to Binghamton after graduation where he worked as a reporter for WBNG-TV. He said covering different events allowed him to meet a variety of people from different work backgrounds.
“On every given day you’re doing stories on so many different topics,” he said. “You’re accessing people who are at the top of their fields.”
It was through this sort of networking that David encountered former Binghamton Mayor Richard Bucci. This led him to eventually work for the mayor at City Hall while simultaneously earning his graduate degree in public administration from BU.
David later worked at Broome Community College (BCC) as a public affairs officer, where he worked with the BCC president on the day-to-day operations of the college. He also began pursuing his interest in entrepreneurship at the time, purchasing “Flashbacks/Paradigm” on State Street, which he has since sold. He owns several other properties Downtown, including residential buildings.
David told listeners that there wasn’t a single successful person in their environment who had not experienced failures.
“You can’t be afraid to put yourself out there and try to do it,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I tried again despite losing. If somebody were to tell me in 1998 that 15 years later you were going to be the mayor of Binghamton, I would never have believed it — but life happens.”
David fielded questions from students after his talk.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for people to not only learn about careers for themselves, but from an ideal source, someone whose been there and done that and made the mistakes and failed,” said Kevin Walsh, a junior majoring in management. “He persevered through it all to become a successful person.”
Julianna Vecchiotti, a junior majoring in German and English and the resident assistant who hosted the event, said she learned new things during his talk.
“Networking is so important because your career paths can change after college,” she said. “You never really think about how people can be helpful to you, and knowing that you can go back to those people and get help from them.”
David ended his talk listing the steps that students could take in order to attain their goals. He advised against taking internships for the sole purpose of attaining credit or as resume filler, and to create an inventory of all the people students knew that were connected to whatever field they were interested in.
“Not every opportunity you will be presented with is your end goal, but it will help you get to where you want to be,” he said. “Make the best of it and work as hard as you can, its one step on the way to where you want to be, people will recognize your talent.”
Pipe Dream assistant editor Geoffrey Wilson had the opportunity to sit down with Mayor David
Pipe Dream: As someone who has worked in many different fields, what is your advice to students who aren’t sure what they want to do?
Rich David: No matter what you do, make sure it’s something that you love doing, because when it’s something you love doing, you’ll put your all in it. Potential employers always recognize passion and people who really care about what they’re doing. Even if you’re in an internship or position where you realize this may not be what you want to do, no matter what you’re doing, just do the best you can and give it your all. One of the things that my employers recognized was that I was very much like a sponge. I was interested in all aspects of a particular job or position, not just the rosy parts of it. The reason I say that is because the people who get ahead or get the farthest recognize how things interconnect and how the entire machine functions. They’re not just interested in the one or two coolest parts of it. They understand how the process works. For people who are trying to figure out, there’s nothing wrong with trying different things. There’s nothing wrong with doing multiple internships or dabbling your feet in different ponds, because you’re not going to know what you love until you try different things. Don’t be afraid.
PD: How important are internships, and what would you say to students hesitant about jumping in?
RD: Critical. Speaking from my own personal experience, I can trace my entire career path and my success to the internship that I had, so I believe they are absolutely critical. I encourage students to do as many internships as possible. I think, in many cases, internships lead to jobs. Internships are like dry runs, or test runs, if you will, for a potential employer to see whether or not you are a match. How you conduct yourself in an internship will determine whether or not you get the job. I don’t think students recognize that internships are tryouts. Don’t view it as free labor, view it as a long-term interview for the job you want. Just do the best you can. Employers can quickly separate the wheat from the chaff.
PD: Name one thing you would change about your own career path.
RD: In college my background was communications and political science, and I wish I took more business and financial classes. While I’ve learned a great deal in both of those areas, I learned it by going through particular projects. In hindsight I wish I took more business and finance classes that probably would have allowed me to make some better decisions and maybe avoid making some mistakes on different projects. Just because I made a mistake didn’t mean the project failed, but when it comes to a dollars and cents standpoint, I could have saved more money or made more money had I done something a different way. While I have that knowledge now, I could have used it 10 years ago.
PD: What’s one piece of advice you would share with every student?
RD: Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s better to try and fail then to not try at all. Do the best you can and make smart decisions. Don’t be wild and reckless, but don’t be afraid. The biggest rewards in life often come by taking big risks.