How Binghamton University Prepared External General Counsel, Glenn Moss to “live a life of words”

Binghamton University alum Glenn Moss provides insight on the importance of reading and writing skills when practicing law, how to remain open to unexpected opportunities, tailoring your resume by industry, and much more! Like this advice? Connect with Glenn on Mentor Match!

Current Job Title/Employer:

External General Counsel for Globecast America, Inc.

Major at Binghamton University:

History with a minor in English

Which affinity group(s) do you identify with?

  • Transfer/Non-Traditional
  • First-Generation College Student

What activities and clubs/organizations did you participate in during your time at Binghamton University?

My answer is, “I wish I had participated”. I came to Binghamton as a somewhat uncertain, mostly unformed being…as perhaps many do. My uncertainties and fears were rooted in a severe stutter that originated in a home I needed to escape from, and Binghamton offered that opportunity to literally find my voice. Even as that did happen, it took some time and the fears kept me from joining what I wanted to: the Pipedream, groups focused then on student action against the Vietnam War, and others. I knew then and certainly do now, that such participation would have shaped and impacted my life in ways I only imagine now but would have been real. I urge anyone who can, to confront any fear or uncertainty they may have and choose something..and if that doesn’t fit then choose another. Engage and challenge yourself beyond the classroom and library and lab…it will only do you good.

Did you complete an internship?

Yes. My “internships” were comprised of work-study and one particular summer volunteer effort that was arranged through a friend. Through work-study in various departments, I learned how to speak with professors and grad students about a range of topics in ways that only arise through a steady work environment. In that sense, whatever work I did was minor compared with those interactions that allowed me to feel more comfortable in my voice and skin. My key summer work was as a volunteer in an anti-nuclear weapon effort then being overseen by Reverend William Sloane Coffin at the Riverside Church in NY. Coffin was a major anti-war figure and religious leader at the time and my efforts there put me in touch with one of the most serious issues being addressed by very strong personalities. My learning, over even a few months, to navigate those waters was an important part of my education and development of self..which college and all it can be is all about at its heart.

How did your experiences outside of the classroom influence your career development?

My experiences in work-study, summer volunteer efforts, and hours spent working at writing plays and poetry did not directly impact my career development. The idea of law school or being a lawyer was rejected by me during college and my eventual career choice was built on much later choices and discussions. However, the development of my writing and my engagement with people over major policy questions did develop skills that would later prove key to any success in law school and my career as a lawyer, as that development continues every day.

How did your experience at Binghamton University help prepare you for your first position post-graduation?

The focus on reading across a wide range of subjects, of thinking about what I read and then becoming more comfortable expressing those ideas, having those ideas challenged by smart and passionate people, and writing and writing and writing, all prepared me for being a lawyer. Working with words and the many ways words can be advocacy, as explanatory, as finding paths to common ground, is at the heart of being an effective lawyer. Though I did not see myself as a lawyer or pursuing a legal career during college, all the work I did by choosing classes in different disciplines, taking on more reading and writing assignments, by taking the risks of writing a play for a course in Jacobean Literature, all were part of preparing to live a life of words, both written and verbal. I did not know it then, but my Binghamton years made everything that followed possible, even if the form of that “everything” was neither planned nor suspected.

Why did you select your major at Binghamton University? What experiences or factors influenced your decision?

History was always my greatest love; as a frightened and stuttering kid growing up in Brooklyn, I spent hours reading through Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia and I loved getting lost in a past and culture so different from mine. Yet, as history teaches, not as different as first thought because it is the development of human civilization in all its forms, achievements, and horrors that informs our present, offering lessons to us all. Having the chance at Binghamton to continue and deepen that love and have discussions and arguments and revelations in that special classroom setting was a joy for me. And all the reading, writing, and discussion made me a better reader and writer, and the threads through all the different stories reinforced the beliefs that commonality runs far deeper than the differences among us, and from that macro observation to the micro implementation in helping a contract reach conclusion, it is all rooted in what history can teach.

What advice would you give to a student who is exploring different major options?

Explore…try…explore…and always remain open to the new and unexpected. Finding your passions are key to any measure of success and happiness, and you can find them by exploring beyond familiar horizons. Try and discover…any ‘major” will offer deeper knowledge in one area but is in the search for that passion and in delving deeper where the core skills are fundamentally the same–reading, considering alternatives, developing and defending ideas, and then learning how to reshape and alter those ideas as new or more compelling evidence is presented. Whatever the concentration, it is in the reading, the thinking, the writing, where the skills are developed that will carry you along whatever path you choose..and that choice itself may well change as your life and experiences do..and that is what makes any of this fun and worth the trip.

How did your coursework at Binghamton prepare you for your current role?

As discussed, it was the reading, listening, considering other ideas, writing, and giving voice to ideas that all wove the tapestry that gave support and rich color to my career as a lawyer. All of it..every class..offered a chance to add to those skills that are part f my everyday work. There is no waste when you challenge and explore; even if a particular course does not lead to a major, in the effort you learn something and look at something in a new way. There is always value in that becomes part of your more layered and subtle understanding of people, the world from your neighborhood to the global. I use all that I experienced in the Binghamton classroom in all my work whether it’s drafting, listening, explaining, or framing a compromise that works well enough for all parties. From Chinese history to Plato and Aristotle…it all connects.

What class at Binghamton University was most influential for you and why?

If having to choose one, it may be my class in Jacobean Literature with Al Vos. Instead of a major research paper, I proposed writing a five-act play in the spirit of those we were studying. Professor Vos was willing to let me take that risk and I spent hours at the Ale House and in empty Lecture Hall rooms writing and writing. The experience and Vos’ allowing me to try that opened a door not only to my life as a creative writer (I do continue and have had several poems published) but also set the stage for my asking a similarly spirited law school professor in a Jurisprudence course if I could write a play instead of a paper. he also allowed me the chance and so, as far as I know, i may be the only law student to have written a play for a law school class and succeeded in expressing concepts of law in that form. I still try and make my legal writing dance a bit with words and it goes back to that course in Jacobean Lit and Al Vos allowing me the chance to expand the way that ideas can be revealed.

What would you say is the most important skill in your field and how do you use it in your current position?

A combination of reading and writing. Both the ability to absorb written material but then apply ideas and suggested changes in words that express what you want to say in ways that are clear and can be considered fairly by other people. That is what I do every day in drafting agreements, reading through and responding to proposed changes, to writing emails to colleagues..virtually everything I do every day as a lawyer is rooted in words, and whatever skills I have were developed and refined at Binghamton. Yes, law school teaches writing like a lawyer, but any good legal writing remains..writing. And that is what I learned at Binghamton.

How can Binghamton University students develop this skill while in college?

Take courses and engage in outside work that requires reading and writing, and make that part of all you do, across disciplines and categories. Reading, understanding, and writing are skills that require ongoing exercise and you can always learn and get better at it; it is that journey where the surprise, joy, and success come from and any course or activity that calls upon you to read something, think about it and then write about is always time well spent.

If you were hiring a new graduate for your company, what skills and experiences would help candidates stand out?

The ability to write clearly and speak in clear connective sentences. The vague and uncertain expression will be doorways to frustration and failure. Showing curiosity and humility amidst whatever experience you may have; no one ever knows everything and being confident does not mean you cannot always learn something from colleagues and different experiences. Showing a willingness to challenge yourself, accepting failure as a means to learn, welcoming the differences in people and how they see life differently and recognizing the value of both individual and collective effort. All of that is essential to success and achievement both for yourself and those around you.

What tools and resources were most helpful to you during your job search?

It may sound cliche, but networking in its fullest sense is key. Joining groups in your field, being an active member of Linkedin, not being afraid to send out clear, short inquiries, remaining open to the unexpected and unthought-of…opportunities come from many directions and packages, not all of which are “standard” or familiar. Skill sets can be applied in more ways than are apparent and job titles often tell you nothing. Ask questions, listen to answers, and know that any encounter can lead to an opportunity the next day, week, or month. Your reputation as a decent and thoughtful human being goes a long way, and it is a much smaller world than you may think and the sense of who you are resonates and can open doors or close them..and you won’t even know it happened. So, control what you can, which is you…be someone others want to talk to, work with, and laugh with…good things flow from there.

What is your advice for writing a strong resume/cover letter for a position in your field?

Be clear about objectives, and depending on where you are in your career path, stress your skill set that can be applied in more than one specific area or job title. Use active words that directly show your skills and impact. Show more than a title or place..try and give a sense of who are and what you did. In a cover letter, use keywords that can be gleaned from a post or job description, especially if your CV is being initially “screened” by an algorithm. In a cover letter, show why you really fit and should be some passion and knowledge about the work and company. And…re-read and proof. Make sure there are no errors in spelling or grammar, and that the sentences flow and are direct.

Creating two or more CVs can be a good idea…each emphasizing a particular set of skills or goals, especially if you are open to different possibilities–and I think you should be. So, maybe one for research, one for sales, one for marketing. Think of yourself as being effective and even happy in more than one role and showcase yourself in these different visions..not that anyone is false; its all you, just a particular you that may be the way in somewhere you want to be, and once in you never know where it can lead.

What is your advice for interviewing for positions within your field? How can recent graduates stand out?

Listen to the questions. Take a breath before answering. Answer as clearly as you can; leaving a bit of room for follow-up. Be prepared to ask a few questions of your own based on some research on the company and perhaps a person that you may be working with or reporting to. Be prepared with examples of what you’ve done, how you work, and your meeting a particular challenge. Be prepared for “why this company”, “why this position”; “where do you hope this opportunity can go”. At its best, the interview should be a conversation about you, about the company, but many people who are interviewing you are not very good at it, and all you can do your best to answer and keep the conversation going naturally. End with asking if there’s anything else you can tell them that hasn’t been asked. Give the person interviewing you a chance to think about a question. remember, it isn’t really personal; though it seems to be exactly that. There are dynamics and choices having nothing to do with you and all you can do is the best to be prepared and friendly. Send a short thank you note after the interview. And, if you don’t get the gig, ask if there’s any insight the interviewer can give as to what didn’t work. Most won’t respond or be honest, but if one or two do, then you can learn something for the next one. And…there will always be a next one.

What is one thing you would suggest students do before graduation to be more prepared for the job search?

Attend some sessions online that speak to job searching and interviewing. Read some articles on Linkedin. Talk to people who are willing to give you some time for ideas. In the end, it is about faith in self and persistence; looking for work is itself a job and you need to be at it every day and find one new place, one new person to contact. Network, and speak to friends…you never know where that lead or connection will come from. We are all searching even if not on a conscious level and it’s always up to you to say “no”, or “not now”, but…maybe down the road and that road never is a dead-end.

What is the best piece of career advice you have received?

Remain flexible. While finding your passion is important, you may not realize you can have more than one or that an idea can come the way that reveals a passion to you unexpectedly. You are more than a set of skills and a degree. The idea of working for 30 years at one company is an anachronism, and even in America’s “golden age” was often a myth of the movies or reality of limited opportunities in a stratified market. Those days are gone. There really are more paths out there for you than you may realize.

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By Glenn Moss
Glenn Moss