Job satisfaction is not happenstance. Most people who find their work personally meaningful have invested considerable time figuring out what they want to do. They spend time examining their values, interests, and skills, and determining how to best apply them at work. Deborah Arron, author of What Can You Do With a Law Degree?, believes self-assessment for lawyers involves finding the answer to three questions: Who am I? What do I want? What am I willing to give up to get what I want? As you begin your professional journey, it is important to ask a variety of questions to determine exactly what you want and need to obtain job satisfaction. This includes understanding what makes you unique.
Gaining an understanding of personal and work values is critical; they serve as criteria for judgments, preferences, and choices. Your values have been shaped by life experiences, including your upbringing, environment, gender, culture, socioeconomic status, and education. Making career and life choices that agree with core values is essential to satisfaction and happiness. Make sure to ask: What are my values? What is important to me? What type of work best suits those values?
Keep Your Interests in Mind
Your interests include activities you enjoy or want to do as well as subject areas that arouse your curiosity or hold your attention. The more pleasurable or appealing the experience is for you, the more inspired and motivated you will be to pursue it. Considering your coursework during school may provide you with some insight as to what you may enjoy as an area of practice. Also consider what you like to do during your free time. You may find that your interests lead you on a completely different career path than your degree, and that is okay. But remember, while your interests reveal what you enjoy, you may not want to pursue those interests professionally because they may conflict with other interests or values.
You’ve Got Personality
John L. Holland, a career theorist, stated in his book Making Vocational Choices: A Theory of Careers that job interests can be viewed as an expression of personality. Holland’s work focused on six personality types: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional. Although an individual may exhibit features from all six personality types, one or two will be predominant. Holland explained that people tend to seek an environment similar to their personality type. When you work in an environment that is similar to your type, you are more likely to be satisfied with your job.
Determine Your Skills Set
One of the best ways to recognize your skills is to identify your past accomplishments. Think of at least five accomplishments that made you happy. These should be things you did well, enjoyed doing, and found energizing. Now, determine what skills you possessed to be successful. Were you the decision maker? Did you delegate responsibilities and communicate effectively? Did you organize everything to increase efficiency? Did you earn respect from colleagues by being a team player and motivating others?
Develop a Plan
Whether you are looking for your first job out of law school, considering the “next step” in your career, or are preparing for a career change altogether, assessing your skills, strengths, values, and needs provides a necessary foundation for developing a career plan. They should help you to understand your “big picture.”
Your goal might be to get a job or it might be to land in the corner office. However, mere aspiration is not sufficient. Short term goals can help drive your job search. Such goals might include: “identify and apply for five positions per week” or “make at least two new contacts per week.” Long-term goals help to make sure that you are not losing sight of that big picture. Write down your goals, track your progress, and consider sharing your goals with a trusted friend or mentor. We tend to be more active in pursuing goals when we have some measure of accountability.
Assess Your Resources
What are the key resources in your job search? What resources do you need to develop? Do you have a strong academic record? Valuable work experience? An expansive network? Your strongest resources should provide a foundation for your job search. By identifying weaker areas, you can also include goals and plans to increase your platform of resources.
Remember a job search and a career plan are much more expansive than responding to job postings, submitting applications, and drafting cover letters. It may include planning for relocation, developing additional skills, or finding a new practice area.
Take a Tiered Approach
One approach to planning your job search is to develop a tiered plan. In the first tier, identify those jobs or opportunities or experiences that are at the top of your list (e.g., the ideal job, a practice area that excites you, etc). In the second tier, consider jobs, opportunities, or experiences that you would like (but may not love). In the third tier, identify your last-ditch choices. These might include less favorable ways to meet your needs but should provide opportunities to advance to your second- and first-tier choices.
Make a Contacts Roadmap
In his book, The New Lawyer Survival Guide, Vol. 1: From Lemons to Lemonade in the New Legal Job Market, Richard Hermann suggests creating a “Contacts Roadmap.” A Contacts Roadmap is a detailed business plan for your job search. It identifies your objectives, prospective employers, and your qualifications. Rather than maintaining your Contacts Roadmap merely for your own records, Hermann suggests that you share your roadmap with your contacts.
Keep Good Records
Whatever plan or method that you choose, be sure to keep good records. Tracking the jobs for which you apply, the cover letters that you send, and the people that you meet can help you to stay accountable to your goals. It can also help you avoid duplicating your efforts and assist you to manage your job search time line.
This job market is unlike any that the legal market has seen in the past. It will take time. It will take creativity. But, if you are willing to put in the work, you will be able to find your perfect job. However, your perfect job right now may not be your perfect job forever. Chances are you will not land in the corner office in your first interview; that doesn’t mean that you won’t get there, or that you should stop trying. Understand that what you learn in the job search process is just as important as the result. While job searches will start and stop, your career development is a continuous path.
Keep an eye out for future articles in The Young Lawyer aimed at assisting you with specific aspects of your job search and career development including developing your resume, pro bono work, and non-traditional careers.
· Navigating Detours on the Road to Success: A Lawyer’s Guide to Career Management, Kathleen Brady
· Students' Guide to Legal Writing, Law Exams and Self Assessment, Enid Campbell, Richard Fox, Melissa De Zwart
· What Can You Do with a Law Degree?: A Lawyer's Guide to Career Alternatives Inside, Outside & Around the Law, Deborah L. Arron
· Guerrilla Tactics For Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams, Kimm Walton
· What Color is Your Parachute, Richard Bolles
· Making Vocational Choices: A Theory of Careers, John L. Holland
· The Perfect Legal Job Search Book, J. Murray Elwood , Legal Authority, Tom Horne
· Unhappy Lawyer: A Roadmap to Finding Meaningful Work Outside of the Law, Monica Parker
· From Lemons to Lemonade in the New Legal Job Market by Richard L. Hermann
· Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type, Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron-Tieger
· Emotional Intelligence, Why it Can Matter More than IQ, Daniel Goleman
· Myers Briggs Type Indicator