By Delania Barbee • January 01, 2017•Writers in Residence, Careers, Law School, Choosing a Career and Landing a Job
For a host of reasons, one of the (worst) questions we get asked as children is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Although it is fine to have children develop goals, this question also starts to set an expectation in young minds that they should know exactly what they want to do. While some people know at the age of six exactly what they want to be when they grow up and take the necessary steps to create the career of their dreams, the rest of us generally fall into one of two categories (the latter to be discussed further in a future blog post):
- We had an idea of what we wanted our careers to be, but we change course along the way after being exposed to different options; or
- Detours on our journey force us to change course.
Near graduation, I reread the essay that I submitted with my law school application and felt a bit of guilt for not strictly pursuing the path that I detailed on the page. However, my experiences and new interests were driving me in a different direction.
There are many options regarding the type of law you want to practice, regarding the setting in which you practice (e.g., firm, in-house, government), and whether you decide to use the skills acquired during law school to practice at all. As a law student, you have the opportunity to learn and develop over three or four years. You should have no guilt in changing course!
- Be confident in your decision. Once you have decided to change course, be committed to the direction you have chosen. It is important to your growth that you do not second-guess your decision to make an adjustment to your journey. You should be in the present and only look forward. Otherwise, you risk not being focused and not taking advantage of the opportunities around you.
- Strategize. In every position, there is experience that you can gain that will make you more valuable to an organization. Consider where you want to be next. Strategize as to how you will use where you are now to get you to that next step. This step can be advancement with your current employer or a move to a different organization. Figure out what experience you can gain in your current role that will sharpen your skills for that next step. However, be careful. Similar to the concern detailed in #1, you do not want to be so focused on the future that you are not in the present. You will have difficulty moving to the next level if you are not good at what you do now. Work where you are!
- Communicate Your Goals. Family and friends may not understand why you are making a change to the map that you have drawn for your career journey. Resist getting defensive if a family member or friend asks you why you did not take the job that he or she believes would have been best for your career. Instead, explain your decision and the value you will receive from taking an alternate course. No one drives the journey alone. You will want the support from your family and friends or a trusted mentor.
While changing your course can be daunting, there are many positives. Specifically, your journey and the experiences you gain will make you uniquely you and give you a distinct advantage when seeking future opportunities or career advancement. So, how do you know when to change your course? Check out my post next month here on Ms. JD where I will discuss that in greater detail.