"Old" taking questions

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TooOld4This
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"Old" taking questions

Postby TooOld4This » Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:30 pm

I post here now and then. Thought I'd take general questions, if there is any interest. I've had a weird career path -- one I do not recommend anyone plan to take. I can speak to the following topics (and probably others as well):

1. Big Law
2. Mid Law
3. Big Gov
4. In house
5. Lateraling
6. Moving markets
7. Switching practice groups
8. Relationships and law school/law practice

Wine is involved, so coherency of my answers is not guaranteed.

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t-14orbust
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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby t-14orbust » Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:36 pm

TooOld4This wrote:I post here now and then. Thought I'd take general questions, if there is any interest. I've had a weird career path -- one I do not recommend anyone plan to take. I can speak to the following topics (and probably others as well):

1. Big Law
2. Mid Law
3. Big Gov
4. In house
5. Lateraling
6. Moving markets
7. Switching practice groups
8. Relationships and law school/law practice

Wine is involved, so coherency of my answers is not guaranteed.


Can you share your wisdom on number 8? I don't really have any specific questions but I was wondering what your thoughts on them are as a whole. Also interested in your career path and where it's taken you

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ExBiglawAssociate
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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:37 pm

How did you get BIGGOV?

TooOld4This
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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby TooOld4This » Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:16 pm

t-14orbust wrote:
Can you share your wisdom on number 8? I don't really have any specific questions but I was wondering what your thoughts on them are as a whole. Also interested in your career path and where it's taken you


I have a quirky enough resume that I won't go too much into details, but I will say that I am happy with the way things have worked out. I've zigged and zagged. There are a few decisions that with 20/20 hindsight, I probably would not make again. Ultimately, though I am not a "live to work" person. It is a means to an end. I get bored pretty easily and like the variety I have had.

As for relationships: I'm married to a person with a similar outlook on life. We are both ambitious, but we both believe that when push comes to shove, a job is a job and the important things in life happen out side of work. My big piece of advice is to look at the big picture and don't keep score. At various times, we have each stepped back to let the other step up. Decisions aren't made with the next 12 mos in mind, but the next 12 years.

If you aren't in a relationship where you have made that kind of commitment, I wouldn't recommend limiting your options. You don't need to go out of your way to create strife, but if you don't think that you can trust your partner to look out for your interests at least as well as you do, I would not limit yourself.

Edit: A little more on this. If you are in law school, especially a K-JD, I'd recommend making sure you have perspective. There are a couple of weeks a semester when it is all-consuming, but other than that, it should be manageable if you make it a priority to be efficient. It should not be an excuse to be a jerk. Law school is also a good way to identify clingy partners, or general incompatibility. If you are in a relationship that is under strain because of law school, I recommend cutting bait now. Actual practice, especially if you go to a firm, chews up and spits out relationships. I found being in a relationship in law school made me saner, not more crazy.
Last edited by TooOld4This on Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.

TooOld4This
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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby TooOld4This » Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:22 pm

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:How did you get BIGGOV?


Though I believe it is somewhat less true than it used to be, being in the right place at the right time. Some other tips. Apply early and apply often. While in lots of other employment settings you start feeling like the person who can't take the hint, in Big Gov, you need to keep knocking on the door. I remember hearing about people who were number 2 or 3 on the list and their resume would keep getting considered for new positions, until they finally nabbed one. If you know people who work in the agency you are interested, reach out to them. Have a reputation for doing good work without being a prima donna. As much as "fit" gets thrown around in BigLaw, I think it is much more important in Big Gov. There is less ability to get rid of people, so there is more emphasis on getting someone who you want to work with in the first place. You also need to have a good story. It is surprising how many people can't hide the fact they are just seeking refuge.

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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 22, 2014 8:51 pm

Would you mind discussing corporate junior lateraling out of NYC? Top school, top grades, top firm-- have gotten good experience now want to head home [edit- home market is a secondary legal market].

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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 23, 2014 10:14 pm

Would you speak to the career path of a biglaw corporate lawyer who goes inhouse as a midlevel? Senior associate? Partner? As far as colleagues/frieds of your's who have gone in-house and/or you, who have the most satisfying careers and do they actually have work / life balance that is usually so lacking in biglaw?

-Inquiring mind of a corporate associate who is having trouble truly seeing the best long-term career

TooOld4This
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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby TooOld4This » Thu Jan 23, 2014 10:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Would you mind discussing corporate junior lateraling out of NYC? Top school, top grades, top firm-- have gotten good experience now want to head home [edit- home market is a secondary legal market].


Make sure you are done with BigLaw. It is much easier to get out than get back in. Also, know that there will not be a proportional trade in hours for salary. Billing 2600 and getting secondary market/mid-law pay can sting. That's not the norm in smaller markets, but its also not impossible to find yourself in that situation. You also need to be ok with either doing less sophisticated work or have clients with less name recognition (or a bit of both). It is not uncommon for companies to use less expensive firms for more routine work, but to yank the work for a major market firm if it gets hot or higher stakes.

That said, there are up sides to not constantly practicing on the bleeding edge of the law, of developing expertise, and generally being put on projects with at least slightly less insane deadlines/expectations. There is generally more potential to develop a book of business in secondary markets. With fewer huge institutional clients that conflict you out of large swaths of work and lower billable rates, you can be more proactive about developing a niche and reputation.

As for how to do it -- reach out to your network. Have a story that makes sense. Be careful about talking about downshifting -- while there are many BigLaw and even NYC refuges in secondary markets that will be quite frank about the lifestyle differences, there are equal number who are afraid of people who think they can coast. I recommend selling that you are looking to come home, and that you miss the lifestyle of the city -- not that you are trying to escape the insanity of NYC BigLaw.

TooOld4This
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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby TooOld4This » Thu Jan 23, 2014 11:10 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Would you speak to the career path of a biglaw corporate lawyer who goes inhouse as a midlevel? Senior associate? Partner? As far as colleagues/frieds of your's who have gone in-house and/or you, who have the most satisfying careers and do they actually have work / life balance that is usually so lacking in biglaw?

-Inquiring mind of a corporate associate who is having trouble truly seeing the best long-term career


There is definitely a sweet spot for jumping. I put it at 5-7 years. You need enough experience that you land high enough in house to be promotable. In house positions often don't have the resources to train, so if you come in low, it may be hard to work your way up -- some in house legal jobs are grunt work without many opportunities to get the skills to advance.

On the other end, you don't want to get to the point where people assume that you are looking because you got passed over for partner. Partner to in house jump is also tricky. Firm work and in house work are two different skill sets. Partners are often too expensive to see themselves landing anywhere but near the top of the food chain, yet are set in viewing the world in a particular way and are not particularly well suited to senior in house legal roles.

That said, start looking when you want -- you can get good in house jobs outside this general advice, you just want to be somewhat picky about what you take. You don't want to leave the firm just to escape -- run to a good opportunity, not away from a bad situation if at all possible.

There is not a monolithic in house experience. The more you chase "prestige" the more likely you are to sacrifice quality of work or work/life balance. Everyone I know who has made the move to in house really prefers it to firm life. There are down sides -- you have only one client (though multiple people and personalities to deal with). Companies are much more likely to fire people than firms, so if you rise high enough in the ranks there is more palace intrigue. On the other hand, you can find roles where you are really fundamental to growing a business or shaping its policies. You can be more proactive and aren't always spending time cleaning up messes that people have long since walked away from (though there is plenty of mess clean up too).

Remember too, in house can be publicly traded companies, or small private ones. You can have legal teams that rival the size of some mid-size firms, or just have a GC. There is no one "in house" experience. I do think a commonality to all in house work is the need to see yourself as part of the business. Firm work can be a little ivory tower -- the deed is already done and you are just papering over it, or you are offering advice, but really punt at decision time. In house there is much more blurring between business decisions and legal decisions. There is a difference between the question "what should we do" when you are a part of the "we."

(Oh and its much nicer to be on the dialing end of the Friday 4:00 phone call than the receiving end. :wink: )

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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 24, 2014 4:05 pm

1L here. My pre-law school resume says "public interest" but I'd like to go into Big Law (particularly Banking and/or Investments). I'm having a difficult time weaving a story of why I'm interested in these areas of law given my public interest background. Any advice as I head into OCI?

itbdvorm
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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby itbdvorm » Fri Jan 24, 2014 4:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:1L here. My pre-law school resume says "public interest" but I'd like to go into Big Law (particularly Banking and/or Investments). I'm having a difficult time weaving a story of why I'm interested in these areas of law given my public interest background. Any advice as I head into OCI?


learn as much as you can about those areas and talk about why you're interested in them. know enough about M&A/cap markets/banking/tax to ask intelligent questions of your interviewer

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reasonable_man
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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby reasonable_man » Fri Jan 24, 2014 4:54 pm

Thanks for posting - I'm out of LS about 5/6 years now... Always nice to hear about different career paths (and ones that are non-traditional). I've had a sort of odd path myself and love hearing stories from others that have too.

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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 24, 2014 10:11 pm

TooOld4This wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Would you speak to the career path of a biglaw corporate lawyer who goes inhouse as a midlevel? Senior associate? Partner? As far as colleagues/frieds of your's who have gone in-house and/or you, who have the most satisfying careers and do they actually have work / life balance that is usually so lacking in biglaw?

-Inquiring mind of a corporate associate who is having trouble truly seeing the best long-term career


There is definitely a sweet spot for jumping. I put it at 5-7 years. You need enough experience that you land high enough in house to be promotable. In house positions often don't have the resources to train, so if you come in low, it may be hard to work your way up -- some in house legal jobs are grunt work without many opportunities to get the skills to advance.

On the other end, you don't want to get to the point where people assume that you are looking because you got passed over for partner. Partner to in house jump is also tricky. Firm work and in house work are two different skill sets. Partners are often too expensive to see themselves landing anywhere but near the top of the food chain, yet are set in viewing the world in a particular way and are not particularly well suited to senior in house legal roles.

That said, start looking when you want -- you can get good in house jobs outside this general advice, you just want to be somewhat picky about what you take. You don't want to leave the firm just to escape -- run to a good opportunity, not away from a bad situation if at all possible.

There is not a monolithic in house experience. The more you chase "prestige" the more likely you are to sacrifice quality of work or work/life balance. Everyone I know who has made the move to in house really prefers it to firm life. There are down sides -- you have only one client (though multiple people and personalities to deal with). Companies are much more likely to fire people than firms, so if you rise high enough in the ranks there is more palace intrigue. On the other hand, you can find roles where you are really fundamental to growing a business or shaping its policies. You can be more proactive and aren't always spending time cleaning up messes that people have long since walked away from (though there is plenty of mess clean up too).

Remember too, in house can be publicly traded companies, or small private ones. You can have legal teams that rival the size of some mid-size firms, or just have a GC. There is no one "in house" experience. I do think a commonality to all in house work is the need to see yourself as part of the business. Firm work can be a little ivory tower -- the deed is already done and you are just papering over it, or you are offering advice, but really punt at decision time. In house there is much more blurring between business decisions and legal decisions. There is a difference between the question "what should we do" when you are a part of the "we."

(Oh and its much nicer to be on the dialing end of the Friday 4:00 phone call than the receiving end. :wink: )

Thanks for the advice. I had never thought of in-house as more likely to fire me than a firm. Interesting. How do in-house folks that get let go usually do in finding a new job? Does it have the same stigma as being fired from a firm? Is it hard to land the next gig in-house? I realize it varies, but I'd be interested in your general thoughts (and how one might protect the security of one's long term career in law). Additionally, I'd be interested in your thoughts on what makes a good in-house job. You said to be picky, but it's hard to know what constitutes a good job, having no exposure to in-house before.

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patogordo
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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby patogordo » Sat Jan 25, 2014 12:35 am

Why did you switch practice areas?

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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 25, 2014 12:46 am

TooOld4This wrote:I post here now and then. Thought I'd take general questions, if there is any interest. I've had a weird career path -- one I do not recommend anyone plan to take. I can speak to the following topics (and probably others as well):

1. Big Law
2. Mid Law
3. Big Gov
4. In house
5. Lateraling
6. Moving markets
7. Switching practice groups
8. Relationships and law school/law practice

Wine is involved, so coherency of my answers is not guaranteed.


School range/LS grades? Did you have law review and/or moot court resume boosters? How important were grades as you moved around in your career years after law school? Thanks for doing this.

TooOld4This
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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby TooOld4This » Sat Jan 25, 2014 9:49 am

Anonymous User wrote:1L here. My pre-law school resume says "public interest" but I'd like to go into Big Law (particularly Banking and/or Investments). I'm having a difficult time weaving a story of why I'm interested in these areas of law given my public interest background. Any advice as I head into OCI?


What is the honest answer? If it is just more money, then you need to do more research. More money can be what drives you to get out of public interest, but whenever you make a move (as I indicated above) you need to be heading toward a goal, not just running away from something.

It will probably help if you can identify some things about your PI work that wasn't a good fit for you (without trashing it -- there is a fine line here) and saying that these things led you to reevaluate your goals. Again, you need to answer the "why this" question. But you do not need to craft some story explaining how every move and experience was part of a master plan to get you to [this job].

Oh -- be careful about what you say draws you to BigLaw. If you say there was too much drudgery in your PI work and you are looking forward to the intellectual stimulation at a firm, the person interviewing you might fall out of their chair laughing. :D
Last edited by TooOld4This on Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby TooOld4This » Sat Jan 25, 2014 9:50 am

reasonable_man wrote:Thanks for posting - I'm out of LS about 5/6 years now... Always nice to hear about different career paths (and ones that are non-traditional). I've had a sort of odd path myself and love hearing stories from others that have too.


Thanks. I enjoy reading your posts too. I think it's important for people to see that careers are not always a straight-line path from one obvious choice to another.

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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby TooOld4This » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:03 am

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks for the advice. I had never thought of in-house as more likely to fire me than a firm. Interesting. How do in-house folks that get let go usually do in finding a new job? Does it have the same stigma as being fired from a firm? Is it hard to land the next gig in-house? I realize it varies, but I'd be interested in your general thoughts (and how one might protect the security of one's long term career in law). Additionally, I'd be interested in your thoughts on what makes a good in-house job. You said to be picky, but it's hard to know what constitutes a good job, having no exposure to in-house before.


I didn't mean to throw that out to scare you. At a firm you are definitely working with an up or out cliff looming. And most firms aren't too shy about sending you a message sooner. But, other than the headline-making mass lay-offs at firms, it tends to be done in a rather genteel way. You will be warned. You will be given some months. You will be be encouraged to find other opportunities.

Business can go through the same mass lay-offs as firms. But they are also generally less reluctant to get rid of people that aren't working out than a firm. And if you are in a senior management position, you can face the same political pressure as the business people -- perform or get out of they way.

On the (huge) upside, you don't have a ticking clock sitting on your desk. If you do good work, you can keep doing good work. You won't get kicked out in 8 years just because the firm doesn't need another partner that does X.

As for what's next, it is much easier to find another in house job than another firm job. If you feel the winds of change blowing, leave before they come knocking on your door.

TooOld4This
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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby TooOld4This » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:07 am

patogordo wrote:Why did you switch practice areas?


At firms it was a combination of bobbing and weaving with the economy and seeking out certain skills. In house it has been need driven.

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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby TooOld4This » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:19 am

Anonymous User wrote:
School range/LS grades? Did you have law review and/or moot court resume boosters? How important were grades as you moved around in your career years after law school? Thanks for doing this.


T14 top 1/3 at graduation, I think? No law review, yes secondary journal, no moot court.

Law school grades (as you might guess from my answer) have not been relevant at all. I've only been asked for a transcript a couple of times.

The answer I'm sure many of you don't want to hear is that my law school has been very relevant. Most of the jobs I've applied for have asked for "top" law school credentials. I have know people with hiring authority to give HR a list of schools and tell them not to pass on applications not on that list.

Now some of this is undoubtably due to the type of jobs I have gone after. And school would not be important if I am applying through a connection. But when I'm tossing an application into a black hole, or working with a head hunter, my school still matters.

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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby TooOld4This » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:35 am

Anonymous User wrote:

Additionally, I'd be interested in your thoughts on what makes a good in-house job. You said to be picky, but it's hard to know what constitutes a good job, having no exposure to in-house before.


Just realized I never answered this. Not an easy question, because there are so many different types of opportunities. Start talking to in house people to get a sense of the types of jobs that are out there and what the p,uses and minuses are. Then come up with what your priorities are. Substantively, do you want to be more of a specialist or generalist? How important is it to have upward mobility? How much upward mobility (if you want to be GC of a publicly traded company, you need a different path than if you would be happy being a senior counsel)? Are regular hours important? Is flexibility in your hours/teleworking important? (In house positions are generally less flexible than firms -- they don't own your soul the same way, so they do expect you to be at your desk during normal business hours. They also tend to be much stricter about vacation time policies.)

When you go in house you really need to figure out what makes a "good job" for you.

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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby nouseforaname123 » Sat Jan 25, 2014 2:02 pm

This is going to come off as tone deaf or accusatory, but there is no other way to ask this question. My apologies in advance:

Why do you think you haven't settled into a career track with any one entity or even sector (big law vs midlaw vs big gov vs in house)?

I worked for one employer for close to a decade before law school. If I have to leave my firm (we all know the odds of a long-term career with one firm), I really want my next employer to be somewhere I am at for a couple of decades. Any advice on making that happen?

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Jan 25, 2014 2:07 pm

nouseforaname123 wrote:This is going to come off as tone deaf or accusatory, but there is no other way to ask this question. My apologies in advance:

Why do you think you haven't settled into a career track with any one entity or even sector (big law vs midlaw vs big gov vs in house)?

I worked for one employer for close to a decade before law school. If I have to leave my firm (we all know the odds of a long-term career with one firm), I really want my next employer to be somewhere I am at for a couple of decades. Any advice on making that happen?

With the same caveat about sounding tone deaf/accusatory - this is not a criticism (or advice), but I don't think many people stay with one employer for decades any more. It just seems pretty unusual in the modern labor market. Which isn't to say it's not possible or even not desirable, just that I don't think moving around should be seen as any kind of red flag these days. (Not sure that's what you were suggesting, just something that occurred to me.) (Unless maybe you're job-hopping literally every 6 months for 5 years straight or something, in which case you probably need to stop and think about what you really want to do.)

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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby nouseforaname123 » Sat Jan 25, 2014 2:44 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
nouseforaname123 wrote:This is going to come off as tone deaf or accusatory, but there is no other way to ask this question. My apologies in advance:

Why do you think you haven't settled into a career track with any one entity or even sector (big law vs midlaw vs big gov vs in house)?

I worked for one employer for close to a decade before law school. If I have to leave my firm (we all know the odds of a long-term career with one firm), I really want my next employer to be somewhere I am at for a couple of decades. Any advice on making that happen?

With the same caveat about sounding tone deaf/accusatory - this is not a criticism (or advice), but I don't think many people stay with one employer for decades any more. It just seems pretty unusual in the modern labor market. Which isn't to say it's not possible or even not desirable, just that I don't think moving around should be seen as any kind of red flag these days. (Not sure that's what you were suggesting, just something that occurred to me.) (Unless maybe you're job-hopping literally every 6 months for 5 years straight or something, in which case you probably need to stop and think about what you really want to do.)


No, I understand that. I worked for a F100 company for a decade before law school. I value that my resume shows a clear progression of promotions and additional responsibility with my previous employer. I also learned from my previous experience that I value the institutional expertise and reputation that I was able to build with my previous employer (meaning that if one jumps from job to job every five years one also has to reestablish a reputation and earn co-worker trust over and over).

I understand big law isn't set up to run the same way as the private sector or big fed. I also understand that numerous variables beyond my control influence my ability to stay with one employer for a long period of time. If I ever leave my firm, I still have my goals to the extent that I can find something that will allow me to grow with an employer.

I suppos what's also striking to me about OP is that OP appears to have jumped from sector to sector within law (big vs. mid-size vs. fed gov vs in house).

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Re: "Old" taking questions

Postby TooOld4This » Sat Jan 25, 2014 5:09 pm

I'm guessing part of the previous poster's question is whether I've gotten shown the door anywhere. The answer is no. All of my moves have been voluntary. :D

As I mentioned previously, I'm married to someone who shares a similar level of ambition to me. That requires both of us to be flexible. Also, I am not a patient person. I was able to accumulate a lot more substantive experience a lot faster by moving around than if I had stayed put.

Longevity has never been something I've sought out. If it happens, that's fine. But I'm not afraid to take jobs where I think the shelf life might only be 3 years.

This is definitely a risky way to build a career. It's part of why I said I don't recommend someone plan on taking this path. But it has worked for me and I'm happy with what I do, the experiences I have had and my future prospects.




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