Looking Inward to Discern Your Career Path

A lot of legal interviews begin with the open-ended “Tell me about yourself.” In that scenario, your answer is typically limited in scope to professional background and goals. A few personal details can be included to help provide context for the professional ones. But outside of a job interview, if you were asked to talk about yourself and what is important to you, what would you say?

It can be difficult to tackle.

How do you encapsulate all of the things that comprise you? How do you prioritize? Of course, before you talk about these things, you need to know them.

In life, you try things to see what you like, what works, and then you proceed based on that knowledge. I tried blueberries and didn’t like them. Now I know. I tried asparagus and loved it. Just like life, law school is a process of elimination. Law school is like a funnel – you start with tons of possibilities and narrow down through your experiences.

It is important in professional development to figure out what you like and what you don’t. It is just as important to determine what you don’t want as it is to determine what you do want! You might love litigation skills classes but not love tax. Or vice versa. Your externship might be thrilling or boring. Good or bad, all experiences are valuable in helping you discern what is important and motivating for you.

You know yourself better than anyone else. Think about what matters to you, what drives you, what gets you fired up. Think about what is non-negotiable in your life and your future. Separate those from the things you simply want or would like to have. What are the values that are most meaningful to you? How do you define success?

Let go of any beliefs that you “have to” or “can’t” do certain things. I have to try for a BigLaw job. I can’t turn down a BigLaw offer for the prosecutor position I really want. I have to be on Law Review or I will be a failure. Those are all artificial constraints.

Who says these are true anyway? Family? Friends? Society? Listen to your own voice. After all, you’re the one who has to live with yourself 24/7.

Adding some structure to the task of discernment can be very helpful. There are various tools and frameworks available online. We have a workbook available in the Job Search Toolkit, along with other items. Since it is such a broad-reaching task, structure helps to guide your efforts and ensure that you are developing the focused and relevant results you seek. Just going through the process often leads to a feeling of empowerment and a sense of autonomy. It is something you do for yourself that helps you take ownership of your path and directs your efforts moving forward. It’s you taking charge of directing your life.

As I always tell my daughter, if you don’t design your own life, others will design it for you. If you are reactive to others and not proactive for yourself, then you are letting others define both the rules and the game. Play your own game. And own it.

 

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