How did an 18 year old turn his rejection letter from UCLA into a personal invitation to join the University from a department head? How did that same student start the nation’s most successful entrepreneurship fraternity while accumulating job offers from highly competitive employers?

The answer is simple: he learned to identify his unfair advantages and used them to create the career - and life - of his dreams.

Sahil Punamia (pronounced “Saw-hill,” like cutting a small mountain in half) is a case study on overcoming “Imposter Syndrome.”

When he applied to UCLA - his dream school - during his Senior year in high school, he was rejected because of his lack of academic qualification.

A few weeks later, his phone rang. It was the music director at UCLA. The director saw a clip of Sahil playing the alto sax, and urged him to audition for the Marching Band. If he made the cut, he’d have a chance at becoming a member of the band and gaining admission to the university. So Sahil did what any ambitious band geek would do – he skipped class for an entire week to perfect his audition tape, and got in!

During his first few years at UCLA, Sahil grappled with feeling inferior to the 30,000+ students who, on paper, were more qualified than him. He feared that his professional future was doomed.

He continued to push himself through rigorous academic coursework with little success, when, one night while trying to decipher hydrocarbon properties for his organic chemistry class, he had an epiphany:

Instead of viewing life as a competition amongst peers, what if he started investing in the success and happiness of his peers?

This fundamental shift in mindset from “Sahil vs. Others” to “Sahil AND Others” fostered a fresh perspective and approach for winning in hyper competitive environments.

Armed with this new perspective of pursuing life and overcoming challenges through teamwork, Sahil started building communities.

Without meaning to, he became the President of the most exclusive business club on campus (one with a 3% acceptance rate), and founded the West coast’s first fraternity dedicated to entrepreneurship. That same fraternity has since expanded to Stanford, UC Berkeley, USC, and UC Santa Barbara.

During his senior year, Sahil received an award from the Chancellor thanking him for his service and leadership to the university, which he now has framed next to his original rejection letter from the admissions board.

After graduating, Sahil began his career at L.E.K. Consulting – a global market research and strategy consulting firm that was listed on Glassdoor’s “Top 25 Most Difficult Companies to Interview With in the United States”

Most recently, Sahil left L.E.K. to join Discovery Communications as one of the youngest Senior Managers across the company’s 7,000 employees worldwide.

Aside from his career in entertainment, Sahil is also founder of The Aspiring Professional (www.aspiringprofessional.com), a career coaching and leadership development organization dedicated to helping college students across the country pursue their dream careers and achieve their professional aspirations.

Through one-on-one coaching, webinars, and live speaking engagements, Sahil and his proven career strategies have helped countless students and recent graduates land careers at some of the world’s leading firms, including:

 

Aside from helping students achieve their career goals, Sahil enjoys watching and performing improv comedy, weekend brunch with his closest friends, early morning drives up the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, and keeping his closet diligently organized by shade of color.

If you’re interested in working together or learning more about Sahil’s leadership and career coaching services, the quickest way to reach him is via email at sahil@aspiringprofessional.com.