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.