Get Curious and Take the Call - The Best Career Advice I Ever Received

The best career advice I received came from a mentor and fellow attorney when I was a midlevel associate trying to figure out my next role. We were discussing a new position she recently accepted at her company, and I remarked how she always seemed to find such novel and interesting things to do with her law degree. She then paused and told me to keep my eyes and ears open. “I’ve learned the hard way, Michele, that opportunities rarely come in a beautiful package, tied up with a bow, at the perfect time, with your ideal team and an almost guaranteed amazing experience.”  

Having missed out on numerous opportunities, she decided to change her approach and it made a significant impact on her career trajectory.  “Now, before I say no to something, I always take the call.  Why not? You never really know. Plus, I’m always curious to find out why people want to talk to me.”  In her mind, it was time well spent.  She viewed the discussion as free market research about her personal brand and also about the kinds of roles, responsibilities and opportunities she could be viable for given her experience and areas of interest. With this enhanced knowledge, she was able to take control of her professional development and choose from a more informed place.

Her advice to get curious and “always take the call” resonated with me then and still does today.   Immediately following our discussion, it conjured up memories of opportunities I quickly turned down early in my career based on a variety of reasons from office gossip, to fear and inconvenient logistics.  It also reminded me of times I said yes very quickly because I was flattered to be asked or felt a false sense of obligation, only to be stuck later doing something very different than I what I thought I was initially agreeing to.  As a result of heeding her advice, I have received job offers, expanded my professional network and taken on stretch assignments which introduced me to new industries, areas of law and expanded my business skills.  I also feel more relaxed when making decisions and see opportunity where I am sure I would not have seen it in the past.

At the end of the day, I view her advice as a call to honor myself, my career and my ability to make educated choices about my professional development.  In my current work as a career coach and talent management executive, I support others in doing the same and regularly rely on her approach when helping attorneys navigate their careers. I think we owe it to ourselves to do so, and I am so appreciative of the experiences I’ve had as a result of being curious and open to new opportunities.


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