The Right Moves For Your Career

“Are you a military spouse? Welcome!”

Despite not being a military spouse -- or for that matter, an attorney (just a paralegal) -- I felt very welcomed. As Ms. JD’s social media intern, I had the honor of attending Military Spouse JD Network’s Annual all day conference, “Making the Right Moves” in Washington, DC.

Here are my Top Five Takeaways from the conference:

1) Values/motivators are an essential part of our personal AND professional development. After introductions, we jumped right into professional development.  This began with a values examination led by Linda Mercurio, the Executive Director of the Lawyer Reentry Program at Washington College of Law at American University. Sometimes values can also be motivators. She asked to list our five motivators/values, which is easier said than done.

2) Celebrate your accomplishments.  Can you think of ten accomplishments? This was a professional development exercise we did in the morning session. Honestly, it was difficult to pinpoint personal and professional accomplishments– and I wasn’t the only one having trouble.  Linda said that we, as women, don’t take enough credit for our accomplishments and, “oftentimes don't see the strengths or qualities that we have.” She then instructed us to choose one accomplishment and list the steps and skills required to achieve success.  Repeated for each accomplishment, this process would reveal a common theme of skills and values utilized.

3) “It’s not who you know, it’s who you get to know – not a lot of people are connected to decision makers.” During the afternoon session of professional development, Linda Mercucio led a session on networking and informational interviewing. Her first tip is to seek out informational interviews during a time when you are not actively seeking new employment.  If you happen to be searching for new work, just avoid coming off desperate.  Her next tip is to be prepared to do a lot of listening, keeping in mind that you control the interview.  Further, Linda advises that “it is a better use of your time than applying to job posts.”  As for networking through LinkedIn, “it is successful for connecting people” and it shows future employers that you are “tech saavy.”

4) Preparation and leadership are keys to success.  Major General William Suter, the Supreme Court clerk of the past 22 years, spoke during the awards luncheon. Between his entertaining stories about the Supreme Court -- and a story about Justice O’Connor loving his suit – he offered career advice.   He acknowledged that a skill many lawyers lack is leadership, which will serve well in a legal career.  Lastly, his parting words of advice were about keys to success in the high courts: “three things – preparation, preparation, preparation.”

5) Forget how you should be doing things. What amazed me the most was the very different paths many of these women have taken.  Many spouses had to adapt their legal careers and law school around the military lifestyle – some had given birth during law school, others had attended several law schools, a few took more than three bar exams, and some took a few years off and wanted to get back in the legal field.  Throughout the course of the day, I had met so many talented attorneys who found work in a variety of places -- from big firms, to academia, to being self-employed.  Still others had to switch fields as they adjusted to their lifestyle. They did all of this while also caring for their families and spouses. Sometimes we feel the need to apologize for our life choices. Not these women.  Why should they?  Family is important to them and so are their careers. No one should ever have to choose.

Thank you to Military Spouse JD Network for hosting me and to all the service members and military families out there!

The Military Spouse JD Network is an international network of legal professionals working to improve the lives of military families. They are also a professional organization that offers networking, mentoring, and professional development to its members. Check out their website for more info: www.msjdn.org.

Jane Rosales is a disability paralegal at a legal services organization in NYC where she represents clients in social security hearings. In her spare time, she serves as Ms. JD’s social media intern and will be serving on her college’s Alumni Association Board of Directors beginning in July. In the near future, she hopes to attend law school. Follow her on Twitter: @janeprosales

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