What is the number one piece of career advice you have received?

I received invaluable career advice back in the early 2000s, which was before I even thought about going to law school and when people still “snail mailed” resumes.  Although I have changed professions since that time and technology has drastically evolved, I continue to benefit from this advice today. 

As a graduate student in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration at Canisius College, my professor, who was also the director of the program, taught me about the importance of membership in professional associations.  In fact, part of the curriculum included attendance at a national student affairs professional development conference.  I learned how membership in a professional association could open doors to, among other things, networking events, insider job postings, public speaking engagements, and leadership positions.  This professor also encouraged me to explore opportunities outside of my comfort zone.  She shared with me information about a summer study abroad program in South Africa, focused on higher education and social reform.  I took a chance and decided to go for it.  My experience studying abroad in South Africa sparked my interest in social justice issues and ultimately led me to enroll in law school.

Armed with my professor’s sage advice about professional associations, I joined the American Bar Association (ABA) Law Student Division as a 1L.  Later that year, I applied and was selected for a leadership position with the Law Student Division.  In this role, I attended an annual meeting in Chicago, engaged in a community service project sponsored by the Law Student Division, and published an article in an ABA publication.  As a 2L, I received an award for my service as a law student liaison to the ABA’s Division for Public Education.  Through this experience, I also connected with diverse law students and lawyers from across the country.  

Over a decade later, I continue to seek out professional development opportunities through membership in a variety of organizations.  For example, I contributed to a publication for the American Health Lawyer’s Association’s Public Interest Series.  I also served as a moderator for a panel on careers in government and public law sponsored by Law Student Outreach Committee of the ABA’s Government and Public Sectors Lawyers Division, and I served on the Program Council for Ms. JD’s Global Education Fund.

Even though I am no longer working in the field of student affairs, I still value my professor’s wisdom about taking a proactive role in my professional development and pursuing opportunities outside of my comfort zone.  By becoming an active member of a professional association, you will have the chance to develop new skills, enhance your resume, make new connections, and contribute to the legal profession and your community.  Professional associations are always looking for volunteers - you just have to put yourself out there! 

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