By Nicole Moriniere • April 06, 2017•Writers in Residence, Careers, Other Career Issues, Law School, Choosing a Career and Landing a Job
One of my favorite sayings is that you should be stubborn about goals, but flexible about your methods. I love this idea but I've found that I have to interpret it correctly for it to be helpful.
In terms of career goals, I've interpreted this to mean being stubborn about certain fundamental and underlying aspects of what I want out of my career, such as a career that is purposeful, that matches my interests and skills, and that affords me a certain level of independence and flexibility. I used to focus on specific positions as my goals, which was a mistaken approach from the beginning. By focusing only on a specific job title, I wasn't really thinking about what I wanted to get out of a job, and I would be disappointed in not getting that specific job title, even if a different role provided me fundamentally with job satisfaction.
Changing how I define my career goals has allowed me to also change how I define career success and how I go about achieving it. It has also allowed me to better cope with the inevitable career uncertainty in today's economy and specifically in law, as well as to more easily take calculated risks that would allow me to achieve these underlying career goals. In my career so far, the risks I’ve taken by not following what my friends or classmates were doing has always ended up serving me.
After studying Political Science for my Bachelor’s degree, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Most of my friends were going on to pursue graduate degrees. What I did know at the time was that I wanted to move back to the U.S. and work in politics. By having an open mind about exactly what that would look like, I ended up serving one year as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and volunteering on political campaigns in my spare time. This eventually led to a full-time campaign job and my ultimate decision to go to law school, which I had never considered before.
After graduating from law school and working for nine months in a traditional legal role, I moved to another country with no job lined up, but with the goal of pursuing a career in the burgeoning legal tech industry. Again, I didn't have a specific idea of what my ideal role would look like, but I knew the fundamental requirements I wanted in my next job. I've found these in my current role, and these requirements may change with time, but I'll have the flexibility to pursue them at that time. Until then, I'm comfortable with the uncertainty of not having a defined career path.
My friends and family often ask me if I would go back to a traditional law job. After the investment of an undergraduate and graduate law degree covering seven years, leaving a traditional law career path to work for a startup seems like an odd choice, not to mention a risky one. With a bit of digging though, there are countless articles discussing the changes that are happening in the legal industry and the pressure that traditional players are under to change their ways. The way I see it, in the current economy, taking a nontraditional career path doesn’t seem like the risky option to me. My career path to date has already taken a number of twists and turns, and having the perspective from this saying and a modified approach to success has helped me to weather them without (too much) anxiety.