April 22, 2019
By Chennelle Channer
Allen Hecht '82 graduated from Binghamton University with a Bachelor of Arts in history and graphic design. After graduation, he looked for work in the graphic design field and landed a position doing paste-up work at a local newspaper close to home in the Bronx. He soon realized how difficult this industry was to break into and that he wasn't getting the monetary compensation he needed. This led him to apply to Fordham University School of Law where he graduated with his Juris Doctorate in 1986. There were a number of lawyers in Hecht's family, so he had familiarity with the field and recognized that it was a way to earn a steady income. This wasn't at all the career that he hoped for, however. "I am a lawyer 'by default,'" he says, "interested in the work primarily out of necessity."
Hecht went on to have a long and successful career of thirty-two years in law, but he recognized that this was not his calling. "I did not really enjoy my work, and at times I was downright miserable," he says.
He had an epiphany about his career choices when a corporate executive coach had him take a personality test. When his coach saw his results, she was shocked that he was in the legal field because his numbers suggested he was the best fit for more humanitarian jobs in fields like teaching or social work. This prompted him to rethink his career choice, but it was a very difficult decision. Looking back on the internal deliberation that lead to his new career, he says he now realizes that "I was not so much 'inspired,' but rather found my true 'calling' and am very fortunate to have the means to pursue a significant pivot from law to teaching."
Hecht found the inspiration for changing his career close to home in his parents. They were very compassionate, ethical individuals and dedicated public servants. He decided to follow in their example and enrich and engage his community as they did. Outside the scope of his law career, Hecht volunteered at his local high school where he created an honors leadership and kindness class. Because he enjoyed teaching so much, he found it helped him to get through his day job.
Hecht also volunteered at his synagogue in his free time. There he joined the hesed (kindness) committee. He went on to become the hesed coordinator, synagogue executive vice president and then synagogue president.
"Recently, I found myself in the very fortunate position where I have financial ability and time flexibility," says Hecht. This led him to Teach for America (TFA), which he sees as a natural extension of his parents' examples and his own volunteer work, and which also enables him to pursue the work he enjoys. He is looking forward to returning to the Bronx to teach full time and further the TFA mission of creating educational equality.
Hecht believes that it is valuable for students to explore humanitarian fields and community engagement while in college. "Kindness is profitable, very helpful to secure employment and good for your health," he says. More importantly, to him, kindness is an obligation. As his Rabbi Hillel said, "If I am not for myself who will be for me? If I am only for myself, who am I?"
Hecht's volunteer work, teaching and career as a lawyer has left him with a wealth of knowledge that he can impart on current students as well as recent graduates. He advises that it is never too late to start the process of exploring what we want out of life and our careers. He recommends that students utilize the resources at hand, including the great network of Binghamton alumni. He says volunteering is a great way to build skills and enrich your life, and it's never too late to make the change and practice more kindness in your life. "If you find yourself in a position you do not like, change! Do not be afraid. Yes, switching careers is not easy, but keep at it. Do your homework — find your TFA."
Photo: Allen Hecht '82 leads a legal practice course for Binghamton University students attending Binghamton In the City events on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 at Interpublic Group in New York City.