I sat in on a colleague’s presentation to a group of students a few days ago. She is brilliant, and the subject was JD Careers. You probably already know this, but not everyone who goes to law school is committed to practicing law. There are lots of other things you can do with a Juris Doctor and the interests and talents that brought you to law school.
In the course of the hour, the students and Kam talked about a lot of things, and I came away with a sense that many of the folks in that room will indeed decide to take a bar exam and practice law, and some will take another path. A few days later, I’ve got it in my head that there are some fundamental things we should all learn how to do before we get too far down whatever career road we decide on.
These are things that will give you a supply of confidence, a reasonable set of options, a distinctive advantage over your competition for a job, a gig, or a client, and a degree of resilience that is hard to come by when you may need it most. Whatever career you choose, work on these early and whenever you can.
- Learn how to raise money, or at least how to ask for things for yourself and others. I am assuming, of course, that there are good causes in your life, and that your intended financially-driven goal isn’t your annual vacation. Knowing how and when to ask for stuff is rarely innate, is a skill that can be polished and improved, and is a lifelong competency. It includes knowing how and when to give, in response to another person’s request.
- Math. Statistics. Data. All part of risk management. If you don’t have a calculator app on your phone, it may be a sign that math is not part of your life. I find that kind of odd and a bit dangerous. You can work at this, and you can get better at it. Spreadsheets and data management software are your friend.
- Create a strategy for your life. Build a long view of who you want to be and who you are. Your plans will not always work out, and the things you want may not at first come your way; it’s important to remember that each thing is not THE thing. There is no key to happiness and fulfillment, unless it is good decision-making and a strategic plan. A strategic plan is something you author and document; that helps to make it real, not fleeting, and exactly what you mean for it to be: self-guidance.
- Learn to project an attitude of warmth and kindness toward others at all times and in all things. Generosity of spirit. A reasonably open mind toward the “Why”. This really shouldn’t require further explanation, but if you learn to bring calm and care to every interaction you won’t end up in someone’s video of a tantrum on the street or in the grocery store.
- Make your life an organization you want to be part of. You are the leader of your life, your things, your activities, and your thoughts and choices. In order to be an effective leader you have to be mindful of opportunity, organized in your thinking and intentional in organizing all that you can control. And you have to know what is controllable and what isn’t. Random doesn’t work, and disorganization emerges in strange and unwelcome settings, like job interviews that head south,”blurtations” instead of whole thoughts, technical difficulties with communications devices and laptops, transportation mishaps, and things like that. Disorganization always erodes confidence; you start to rely on luck and then start to think you are unlucky. You aren’t. You are disorganized and not yet willing to fix that.
When you are planning your career, you have the opportunity to examine the choices in front of you. Whether it’s law school or undergraduate school, or another professional school, or a second career, or a new start, this is also a time for self-examination. Be fearless, clear, and then go easy on yourself. You will find yourself easier to live with if you allow for rough drafts and edits in the process.