June 06, 2011 Articles

Transitions: It's Not Our Mother's World

Career transitions will be successful, in large part, based on how willing we are to reexamine the bases for our assumptions and adjust our actions to the reality we discover.

By Hon. Joan F. Kessler

How women manage the transitions from assumptions to reality is a skill we all develop in nearly every part of our lives—pretty much beginning when we discover that boys may not think or act the way girls do. For example, my four-year-old grandson assumes that everyone likes to dig in the dirt, play with worms, and run really fast just about everywhere. By contrast, my three-year-old granddaughter totes an eight-inch doll called “Baby” pretty much everywhere, is so anxious to “help” with anything a grown-up is doing that a dishwasher gets loaded/emptied or laundry gets folded only when she is asleep, and is fiercely independent about what she will wear and dressing herself.

Learning to accommodate the difference between personal assumptions and experienced reality can be a challenge throughout a woman’s legal career. For me, it has certainly always been an interesting experience. I assumed law school would be much like college, only more detailed and more focused. The reality when I was in law school was that it was more competitive than anything I had ever experienced or could have imagined. I made the transition and got my J.D. degree by giving up my social life—except for part of one weekend evening after studying most of the day.

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