By Britt Wiegand • February 28, 2018•Writers in Residence, Law School, Other Law School Issues
“If you were an ingredient in a salad, what would you be?”
Immediately after my mentor posed the question, I started desperately hoping she didn’t expect me to come up with an answer. We were discussing an upcoming interview, and this was way out of my comfort zone. Questions like this terrify me. Even though I can prepare all the typical responses about my strengths, weaknesses, and five-year goals, these types of questions make me feel like the interview committee has some sort of inside joke that I’m not in on.
She quickly continued with what she would say in the situation: “That’s easy! The dressing!”
I stared in disbelief as she modeled answering the salad-ingredient question with ease, poise, and wit. After stating that she is, in fact, the dressing, she illustrated her point by giving three examples to further explain her choice. And I was sold. Could it actually be that easy?
Her advice for answering curve-ball questions came back to one point: know yourself. This advice has been extremely relevant throughout my whole 1L year. Career Services, attorneys, professors, potential employers, and classmates all ask the same questions: are you interested in litigation or transactional work? What practice group might you interested in? Where do you see yourself in ten years? What size firm do you see yourself at?
Despite being older than most 1L students (I had an eight-year career in education before coming to law school), I’ve spent a significant part of this year getting to know myself. Besides working hard to earn good grades, I believe self-reflection is one of the best ways to set your future self up for success. By honestly reflecting on my experience, I’ve improved my ability to interview and give the dreaded “elevator pitch” at networking events. Additionally, understanding myself better is helping me make an informed choice about the type of practice I enter.
So, how can you actually get to know yourself better? Here’s a short list to start.
Step 1: Take a few tests
If you haven’t taken Myers-Briggs, start there. The Myers-Briggs type indicator classifies personality types along four axes: introversion vs. extroversion, sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling and judging vs. perceiving. Though the official version costs about $60 (you get a detailed report along with it), you can take it for free as well. I recently took another test, the Fascination Personality Profile. You can take it for free here. With it comes a detailed report about your strengths, working style, weaknesses, and information about how you’re perceived by others.
I’m certainly not saying that the entirety of our personalities can be boiled down to four letters or the responses to 28 questions. But, looking at the results can be a starting point for thinking through strengths and weaknesses. Do you agree with the results? If yes, why? If not, where’s the discord?
Step 2: Reflect
In a recent panel about judicial diversity, the presenter pushed us to remember the reason why we came to law school. Sounds obvious, right? However, it’s incredibly easy to get distracted by all the potential options (not to mention the salaries that come along with some of them).
I’m a doer. I have a hard time slowing down to think and reflect. But, I’ve found that slowing down just long enough to focus on three questions has been extremely beneficial. They are:
1) Why did you come to law school?
2) When have you been the happiest/most proud?
3) What activities make you feel drained/exhausted?
Taking the time to think through these questions has helped me narrow in on the types of experiences that I seek in a future legal experience. It’s also helped me identify potential tasks and experiences I want to avoid.
Step 3: Boil it down.
What’s your why? For me, the connection between education and law is intuitive. But, it’s taken me quite a while to break down my passion for justice and access to a sentence or two that I can easily communicate to people. Too much background information, and I found myself losing my audience. Too short, and I felt like I sounded generic or insincere.
Sure, things will change. And this list certainly isn’t comprehensive. But, putting in the time now can help give direction and meaning to the job search. Plus, it’s a good (but productive) break from reading cases for class!
PS: If I could be a fruit, what would I be? A pineapple, duh!