A lifelong commitment to bringing out the best in others, Bhalla always brings her best self to her job and to local politics.
This week, Emerge is proud to highlight the class of 2018’s Vanita Bhalla!
There is a dominant theme throughout Vanita Bhalla’s life: helping others. Though her day-to-day career is not political, Bhalla’s impact is similar to the goals of great politicians: identifying ways to make everyone succeed. This idea of wanting to find ways to improve the way of life for everyone is also what she says brought her to Emerge, but more on that later.
In addition to her political efforts, Bhalla is an established career coach meaning that she helps countless people in all stages of their professional lives navigate the challenges they face. Her three major areas of focus are career discovery, developing essential documents that highlight candidates’ qualities (such as resumes and cover letters), and additional ad hoc work that includes going over contract negotiations.
Drawing from her experience as a former executive recruiter, Bhalla provides insightful and expert guidance. By Bhalla’s estimates, she helped around six hundred people find full-time work in her previous role, in addition to talking with over one thousand people a year. Today, she works with around 50 clients intensively annually. Working with these clients multiple times, Bhalla listens carefully to develop a strong partnership and help identify their strengths and potential paths. Additionally, Bhalla’s friendly and welcoming demeanor and her industry knowledge make her the exact person you’d want in your corner.
While not always a career advisor, Bhalla realized she has always been drawn to roles that have her working with and helping others be their best. For example, in college she was a residential advisor, and before that she was a tutor in high school. As she puts it, “I realized that I was very interested in helping people find the nuggets of what it took to be successful.”
I realized that I was very interested in helping people find the nuggets of what it took to be successful. – Vanita Bhalla
In addition to her career, Bhalla is highly engaged in politics in Woodbury, the predominantly red town where she lives. On top of her political affiliation, Bhalla reflected on the fact that there are more ways than one that she is not represented by the majority of her town’s politics.
As a woman of color in a town where politics are historically dominated by white men, Bhalla brings a new voice to the table. She’s an Indian immigrant who came with her mother to join her father in the States at the age of four. She noted how India unfortunately “isn’t necessarily celebrated by our current presidential administration and therefore not celebrated by the local republicans in the state.” She’s also a member of the LBGTQ+ community. All of her intersecting identities make her role in politics “complex” because she feels as though she is “fighting a battle on many fronts”. However, with her leadership and optimism, it’s a battle that Bhalla has been winning.
As a representative for the 32nd District for the Democratic Central Committee in Connecticut, Bhalla’s goal is to empower Democrats in her conservative town to speak up. Throughout her years working in politics, Bhalla has not only seen an increase in Democrats and unaffiliated voters in her area but has also been a part of teams that are strengthening the Democratic campaigns. She is proud “to have candidates feel good about themselves at the end of the campaign and to move the needle just a little bit” through her work because this, in her opinion, is part of the “continuous push forward” for her party. Her direct involvement in the electoral process means that Bhalla has come to know many people in office around the state, and she mentioned her excitement to be able to vouch for their values. Not only is Bhalla working closely to empower Democrats, but she’s also supporting ones that lead with integrity. These campaigns are also historic; Bhalla has witnessed the first successful campaign run by a Black woman, Christine Bartlett-Josie, at the state level.
In addition to her campaign contributions, Bhalla has seen legislative success. In fact, the first thing that came to mind when asked what her proudest accomplishment is was her gun safety win. Bhalla was part of the effort to pass legislation that protected her community from ghost guns and ensure safer gun storage.
As someone who is constantly growing and finding new ways to impact the political process for the better, Bhalla joined Emerge. She knew that she cared a lot about politics and had always been involved with them, and Emerge was a way for her to identify better ways to do so. A potential campaign manager or candidate herself, Bhalla mentioned the practical tools that Emerge gives, but the best thing for her was the connections. Through talking to her, it was clear that Bhalla carefully listens to and learns from those around her; an incredibly valuable strength for a politician.
She shared a funny moment with another member of her class, Anne Hughes. When going through a training, Anne remarked that she “had done everything wrong” for her campaign, according to what they had just learned. But, Anne won her election anyway. Bhalla says this was because “Anne was authentically Anne.” This was because she created joy for herself, for those that worked for her and for the voters. Bhalla said this is a key value that she has. In that vein, Bhalla’s advice for women running for office is “find your voice… and don’t hide from your voice.”
Bhalla also encourages people to find mentors that they admire and try out some of their best elements. To her, being authentic doesn’t have to mean making up everything on your own; it means learning from those around you and keeping to what feels true to yourself as well as trusting your own voice. She says we have a lot to learn from those we believe are making a real difference, and that by learning from them, we can move on to the next important things, like contacting voters and connecting with your community.
Find your voice…and don’t hide from your voice – Vanita Bhalla
When asked about our country’s current situation, Bhalla describes us as being in the “messy middle” of things. She is optimistic about the change that can come, saying that we need to focus on what we do in response and lead with compassion and kindness. Now is the time to act, and if you’re going to do something, she says, “make it count.”
In order to be in a place to make change, Bhalla says you have to make sure that you’re at your best. Bhalla has done this throughout the pandemic by trying things she never has before. From perfecting her sourdough bread recipe to experimenting with new treats, she has been baking a lot. In addition to this, Bhalla has also been enjoying science fiction books- all written by women, people of color, or people from countries other than the United States. She appreciates seeing the different ways that the authors approach writing and storytelling, but most of all, these books are relaxing and balance out some of the heavier themes of today because, at least, they remind us that we will make it through to the future.
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