Practice Pointers – Charting Your Own Path

My first post of 2020 was about avoiding a haphazard career. Kind of a strange blog post title and topic for someone who’s changed jobs and even careers a few times over… But to come full circle, there’s a difference between haphazard and intentional career moves.

What may seem haphazard to others is far from that if your career decisions all align with what YOU want and need. The more you experiment and iterate, the better you get to know yourself, and the more intentionally you can chart your own career path.

Take me, for instance. I started out in big law as a litigator and first focused on class actions before moving into more white collar litigation, which was so much more interesting to me (and taught me all about internal investigations and the ways litigation could arise). That work, along with my continued pro bono work on a wrongful convictions case led me to pursue a career as public defender, where I gained hands-on trial and client service experience. From there, I went on to explore a variety of opportunities and practices, including consumer financial services, appellate work, criminal justice reform/policy advocacy, and even a hint of SEC investigations. A random assortment of practices, I know, and to some, a seemingly hot mess of a career.

Eventually I got to point where I stopped trusting myself in making the moves I made even though in retrospect, they were all well-reasoned moves at the time I made them. But after a few moves within a short span of time, I resigned to thinking I’d never find a fit within the law or that perhaps law school was a colossal mistake. That’s when I made a huge shift to a legal-adjacent career and became a legal recruiter for a little over a year. And that, dear readers, is around when I first met you through this Ms. JD blog.

Recruiting felt aligned in many ways, but there was still something missing. Something I thought I wouldn’t mind not having as much of – analytical “let’s get nerdy about a topic or issue” thinking. I loved getting to know candidates and helping them find a role that would make them happy and fulfilled. In fact, recruiting (and truthfully, 2020) inspired me to finally start my own business doing resume and interview coaching – something I had talked about doing for 2 years but never executed.

And then, a blast from my past resurfaced. You see, I had kept my toe in policy advocacy work through my fellowship with the Georgia Women’s Policy Institute, which ended earlier this year. A contact I had made through that experience reached out to me about a dream policy role – one that I never could’ve imagined existed and one that capitalizes on the varied public and private sector experiences I’ve had over the years. (And with a topnotch team to boot!). It’s only been a month, but I haven’t been this happy in my professional life, well, ever. And that is a gift I do not take for granted.

So as we end a year that was rough in so many ways and look ahead to a new year, I wanted to end this blog series with a few career path “life advice” tips:

  1. Trust your gut and past experiences.
  2. Know that mistakes will happen and that’s OK.
  3. Know that a seemingly perfect fit might turn out not to be – either due to factors outside your control or your own changing circumstances/interests.
  4. Remember that every experience is a learning lesson, on both a substantive and personal/professional growth level.
  5. Your career does NOT have to look like everyone else’s.
  6. Keep exploring your interests and know that it’s OK if they change.
  7. Some people get lucky and find a fantastic fit right off the bat. For others, it can take a bit longer than we’d like. But trust that one is out there.
  8. When you do find that fit, it is SO very worth it.
  9. Linear paths are not the only paths. Bendy, windy paths are beautiful and rich with unique stories.

Peace out, 2020. Let’s go, 2021!

Thanks to all of you who took the time to read my posts!

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