Tonight, I’m talking to around 100+ students about my career. Thought I’d share with the wider world my advice when it comes to career development here. If you’re a student attending the panel tonight, this info might help you think through your own career. Here goes.
1. Of all the things that have been most important to me, I think the most important is knowing who you are, what your strengths are, what you want, and most important of all–what you personally value. I’ve been reading a new book on leadership, and it actually shows a table in it – that the most satisfied people with their careers are the ones who know their personal values AND their values align tightly with the organization they work for’s values (bad English aside). If you don’t know what you value, google “value card sort” and cut the cards out and rank them. Get your top 3-5 values, stat. Also, these change over time, so hold on to the cards and reshuffle them every few years just to double check.
2. As for cons – the big con about my personal career (at least to others, seemingly,) is the “jack of all trades master of some” phenomenon. It is perceived when you have multiple careers going on simultaneously, you’re less good at either or both. I totally disagree with this, and in fact, view this external “con” instead as a “pro”. Being a multiple career person, my employers get two professional heads in one, so to speak. That’s a plus. That’s a good thing.
3. The pros – I think the pro, other than #3, for me has been in forging your own path. Be your own unique person. If you have a choice between a ‘safe’ well worn career path, and to go off the beaten path and try your own thing, take the off road experience. Off-roading leads you to create your very own path, and that gets you to your unique selling proposition, or what you can uniquely offer the world. Besides, while it might be a little scary, there’s a lot of excitement in creating your own thing.
4. I’d be remiss in not mentioning one other thing relative to one’s careerpath, which as I’ve ranted here before, I think is monumentally important. It is this: network. Network. Network. Network. I know, broken record, but I can’t emphasize this enough. You need to have a strong network inside AND outside your profession. You need mentors, peers, people like you and people unlike you in your network to bounce ideas and call upon from time to time. Now, don’t be greedy, you have to bring something back to your network as well, it can’t be one sided. But your social capital is just as important, maybe even more important, than the knowledge in your head. Keep this in mind, because the earlier you start your network, the better off and higher your social capital will be.
That’s my career advice. And NO, I’m not offering this as a lawyer OR even as a law student (that would be wrong, I’m not a lawyer)…instead, I’m offering this career advice in general, as a ‘professional’, who has been-there and done-that.