Thursday, February 5, 2009

Choose your market

I'm not talking about choosing where to buy your groceries. I'm talking about putting a little thought into where you want to end up when you get out of college. So many students come rifling out of college with degrees in hand and no idea where to land. This is partially because career services offices are not doing a good job, but also because students often fail to think about what's happening around them.

Take myself for example, once I finally decided on a degree in undergrad I thought my work was done and the rest would fall into place when I had the coveted diploma. Wrong. In order to realize where you want to be when your done with school you need to see where the economy is going. What's hot and what's not. This is a very speculative process and involves a little risk, but what in life doesn't, right? I realized this just in time to catch the hot market, or what will be when I finish Law School-environmental law. To find yours I suggest this:

(1) Use the web. Start seeing what kind of careers are out there in your specialty area, or more importantly, what type of job (arena) you want to build your life around. Blogs are great for this, here is a good one.

(2) Find the top three areas within your preferred "landing strip" that are most important. For example my interest was in the environment the leading sectors for environmental jobs are: government (EPA, etc.), non-profit organizations (Sierra Club, etc.) and private sector jobs (law firms, and "green start-ups" for example). After you identify these areas do some research on what each sector is like in comparison with what you are seeking in your career (pay, team or singular responsibilities, research skills, social responsibility, etc.) After you do that you should be able to eliminate at least one sector from your running.

(3) Network within your chosen arenas. I know this part sounds like the worst part but it's actually really easy. The opportunity to network is best captured while you are in school. Professors are goldmines for this, talk to them outside of class, you will enjoy it trust me. Talk to professors that you don't have class with. Look for ways to get out in the community and test the waters. For me, this meant going to community meetings where environmental topics were at issue these bring together a wide range of interests, if your shy its best to approach someone you thought was of interest at the end (that's what I did). Email people you really idolize; you'd be surprised who will respond and care. (Ex. I had to write a paper and emailed a scholar who's blog I am a fan of and lo and behold, he has been helping me with the whole thing and opened multiple doors for me, cool thing is we've never met!).

(4) Ask for mentors, this is huge. It is important because it will be a skill that you carry over into your professional life. Employers want people who are ready to take on challenges, but also respect the process. That means you have to realize that you have a lot to learn. Getting a mentor is a great way to do this, even if they are not at your chosen place of work or even chosen profession. It is important to remember that this step is one that you fully maintain, so it helps both show and build responsibility.

(5) Ask tough questions. It is important that you ask the questions that are important to you, and sometimes this is hard to do. It is important that you get a feel for what the profession is like so that you can really tell if it is for you or not. This means asking about people's level of happiness with thier job and reflections about the market's future. Also, ask tough questions of yourself, don't just follow the herd, imagine your life and make it happen.

These tips are just a few things to get you thinking about where you are going to end up when you change lanes to the real word.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Striking a new chord

I've decided that since this is my first attempt at blogging that limiting myself to a specific topic might take away my ability to post more often. That said, I'd like to discuss a thought...

I was thinking about something I was told that seems to be rather applicable to "climate" in America right now. It stems from something that one of my professors told me when I first started law school.

The atmosphere for new law students is one rife with uncertainty. Naturally, your first move is to find someone, somewhere to tell you what it is like. So like all other 1L's (first year law students) I was looking for any kind of advice to help me deal with my new environment. I found it everywhere blogs, book, and every opinionated law student were dumping the "must do's and don'ts" on me like bombs. Then my Torts professor gave me the best piece of advice ever--be careful who you take advice from.

Today people are getting rich on self help and career advice. This is not to say that it is not helpful to some. The reason that people eat this advice up is because we stopped making the hard choices that life asks us everyday. This is why America is overweight, undereducated, over opinionated, and caught in an economic tornado. We have stopped asking ourselves the tough questions, and instead take the easy path. We take the easy way to dinner, the easy way to our finances, the easy way through school, and without hard work our nation and lives will stay stuck.

Talk is cheap, action speaks. As I struggle through law school I have learned that advice is weightless until I supply the substance. No single piece of advice has helped me get to where I am today without the hard work I filled it in with. Life is hard, it takes a lot of work to achieve your goals but that is the road to self discovery. I can't help but wonder why our culture has stopped pushing each other to find a way. The easiest answer is never the best answer, its only the easiest.

So if you are a new grad, a student, or someone looking for new work remember who you take advice from and answer the hard questions yourself; because the hard decisions you face are yours and yours only. Realize that you are the maker of your destiny.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why Do We Love to Ignore Al Gore?

Gore addressed Congress Wednesday arguing that the Senate adopt President Obama's economic stimulus plan. The plan includes investments in energy efficiency, clean cars, a smart grid, and renewables. Gore urged Congress to adopt the bill, but will they listen? And second, if this artillery is brought forward will Americans be willing to accept the sacrifices it will take to get this country weaned off of oil. As it most certianly not be easy since we have no model to base our success upon.

Those issues aside, Al Gore has done more to enlighten this country to the perils of climate change than any other environmentalist to date. Yet, we continue to ignore his (and) others pleas for action. I can't help but wonder why we love to applaud his commendable efforts and at the same time brush off what is at the heart of his arguments.

My first answer to this question is, simply, that we as a nation have grown accustomed to seeing Al lose. Ever since his failed attempt at the Presidency back in 2000 (his fault or not) we just can't picture him as a leader. My beef with that conclusion, however, it that I hope we Americans just aren't that mean. Everybody fails sometime. The fact that he lost the battle for the nation's highest office may be exactly what he needed to renew his conviction to bring attention to what, I argue, is America's greatest challenge and win the Nobel Prize.

My second answer is that maybe those leaders, on whom we depend on to bring in the heavy policy artillery needed to begin this battle, have just grown too accustomed to hearing his pleas--thus, losing their vigor. Gore has, after all, been fixture in American politics for over 20 years. Again, I find this unpersuasive because America has been listening to the voices of many political mainstays for just as long, if not longer (especially on economic policy i.e. Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney).

My final conclusion is that its not Al Gore, it is the packaging in which he brings his message. Americans have been listening to the doom/gloom of global warming for so long that it has lost its luster. It seems that the only remaining option is to repackage the idea. What we can learn from those proponents (see above) of laissez faire economics is that, any doom and gloom associated with your ends can't be the focal point of your address. The focus has to be the benefits, not the costs. To date, we don't, as Americans, have a vision for what our "New America" would look like. We need something to look forward to.

Sorry Al, maybe, just maybe, this time we will listen, but if not maybe it's time for some new advertising.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

America's New Hope

Today, I return to writing after the world witnessed one of the most historic shifts in political office to date. I maintain a cautious optimism for the future of our nation. As the President (that feels good) reminded us the strength of our nation lies not only with those in Washington, but in the citizenry and our ability to affect change.

So while today we take in the moment, we must know that like our Commander-in-Chief the work of rebuilding our nation begins tomorrow. This is particularly important for the youth of our nation. The environmental movement is only as strong as those who will sustain its future. It is imperative that we move forward as a nation making the sacrifices it takes to live a smarter more efficient lives.

If there was ever a time for the environmental movement to make its case, it begins tomorrow. Just like getting in shape, it will take hard work, sacrifice, and resolve; but the end result will be a healthier America. Let it begin.