Control your careers or let opportunities come to you: which do you follow?

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
misterjames

Bronze
Posts: 219
Joined: Fri Dec 06, 2013 1:20 am

Control your careers or let opportunities come to you: which do you follow?

Postby misterjames » Fri Jun 02, 2017 11:07 am

I had an interesting discussion about this recently and it's left me thinking. So there's two schools of thought here:

Category 1 asks if you're the type of person who seeks to guide every single aspect of their career. You have a 5, 10, 15, 30 year plan and beyond. You know where you want to end up and you've planned each and every step along the way. Your goals are extremely specific (perhaps "I will be an associate at Vx firm for x years, then AUSA in x district for x years, then partner at Vx firm for x years")

Category 2 asks if you're the type of person that will work hard and produce great results, but with no specific goal in mind. The idea here is to let opportunities come to you through recognition of great work and a wide network. You've set some markers for your future, but they're far broader than above (perhaps "be successful and recognized in my field").

Personally when I started law school I was squarely in Category 1 - I knew what I wanted and how I wanted to get there. Unfortunately I've learned life happens and even though you can try and try to control every aspect of your life or career, there's always that small bit of luck or chance that can throw those plans into a tailspin. These days, with only a couple years of practice, I'm finding myself slowly slipping from Category 1 to 2.

Anyone care to share their thoughts?

lolwat

Silver
Posts: 1216
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 2:30 pm

Re: Control your careers or let opportunities come to you: which do you follow?

Postby lolwat » Fri Jun 02, 2017 12:09 pm

misterjames wrote:I had an interesting discussion about this recently and it's left me thinking. So there's two schools of thought here:

Category 1 asks if you're the type of person who seeks to guide every single aspect of their career. You have a 5, 10, 15, 30 year plan and beyond. You know where you want to end up and you've planned each and every step along the way. Your goals are extremely specific (perhaps "I will be an associate at Vx firm for x years, then AUSA in x district for x years, then partner at Vx firm for x years")

Category 2 asks if you're the type of person that will work hard and produce great results, but with no specific goal in mind. The idea here is to let opportunities come to you through recognition of great work and a wide network. You've set some markers for your future, but they're far broader than above (perhaps "be successful and recognized in my field").

Personally when I started law school I was squarely in Category 1 - I knew what I wanted and how I wanted to get there. Unfortunately I've learned life happens and even though you can try and try to control every aspect of your life or career, there's always that small bit of luck or chance that can throw those plans into a tailspin. These days, with only a couple years of practice, I'm finding myself slowly slipping from Category 1 to 2.

Anyone care to share their thoughts?


I don't think #1 can ever really happen realistically. Shit happens and plans get derailed (not necessarily always in a bad way -- back in the day I thought I wanted NYC, now I'm happy as hell I'm in CA) and unless all doors are literally open for you barring a major fuckup (let's say you already graduated at the top of your class and you're clerking at SCOTUS) you're likely not going to achieve every single goal you set. Plus, you never know what you might really want. There are those people who thought they wanted to be an AUSA and once they got there they hated it.

I'm a mix of #1-2: I'm going to work hard and produce great results, but I do know what I hope to do in the future, and if where I am does not produce the opportunity for me to become what I want to become, I will "control my career" (to use your phrase) and steer it towards my goal.

User avatar
UVA2B

Gold
Posts: 3421
Joined: Sun May 22, 2016 10:48 pm

Re: Control your careers or let opportunities come to you: which do you follow?

Postby UVA2B » Fri Jun 02, 2017 12:14 pm

lolwat wrote:
misterjames wrote:I had an interesting discussion about this recently and it's left me thinking. So there's two schools of thought here:

Category 1 asks if you're the type of person who seeks to guide every single aspect of their career. You have a 5, 10, 15, 30 year plan and beyond. You know where you want to end up and you've planned each and every step along the way. Your goals are extremely specific (perhaps "I will be an associate at Vx firm for x years, then AUSA in x district for x years, then partner at Vx firm for x years")

Category 2 asks if you're the type of person that will work hard and produce great results, but with no specific goal in mind. The idea here is to let opportunities come to you through recognition of great work and a wide network. You've set some markers for your future, but they're far broader than above (perhaps "be successful and recognized in my field").

Personally when I started law school I was squarely in Category 1 - I knew what I wanted and how I wanted to get there. Unfortunately I've learned life happens and even though you can try and try to control every aspect of your life or career, there's always that small bit of luck or chance that can throw those plans into a tailspin. These days, with only a couple years of practice, I'm finding myself slowly slipping from Category 1 to 2.

Anyone care to share their thoughts?


I don't think #1 can ever really happen realistically. Shit happens and plans get derailed (not necessarily always in a bad way -- back in the day I thought I wanted NYC, now I'm happy as hell I'm in CA) and unless all doors are literally open for you barring a major fuckup (let's say you already graduated at the top of your class and you're clerking at SCOTUS) you're likely not going to achieve every single goal you set. Plus, you never know what you might really want. There are those people who thought they wanted to be an AUSA and once they got there they hated it.

I'm a mix of #1-2: I'm going to work hard and produce great results, but I do know what I hope to do in the future, and if where I am does not produce the opportunity for me to become what I want to become, I will "control my career" (to use your phrase) and steer it towards my goal.


This is pretty much everyone in a nutshell IMO. It's natural for people to set goals, sometimes even goals as specific as you outlined in category 1, but there is always the possibility of change in your life that is unanticipated that people have to adjust those goals to fit their new reality.

Maybe I'm not seeing this in the same way you are, but I don't see this idea as particularly revelatory or even unique to certain people. People exist on a spectrum between concrete goals and more fluid goals, and most people have to move over that spectrum as life happens and things change.

dixiecupdrinking

Gold
Posts: 3440
Joined: Sun Oct 26, 2008 2:39 pm

Re: Control your careers or let opportunities come to you: which do you follow?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Fri Jun 02, 2017 12:16 pm

2, but you have to be careful not to just let yourself get swept up and give up all agency over your life. 1 is bad for at least two reasons. You set yourself up for rejection and disappointment if you define success so narrowly. And you lose track of what you might really want out of your career, because the goals you set for yourself as a 1L, or a 3L, or a second year associate, might not really suit you anymore at age 35.

User avatar
seahawk32

Bronze
Posts: 294
Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2011 3:19 pm

Re: Control your careers or let opportunities come to you: which do you follow?

Postby seahawk32 » Fri Jun 02, 2017 12:19 pm

I don't see why you can't both (1) have a more-or-less detailed plan for your career, while at the same time (2) networking and being open to accepting opportunities as they arise.

User avatar
mjb447

Silver
Posts: 1280
Joined: Fri Jul 26, 2013 4:36 am

Re: Control your careers or let opportunities come to you: which do you follow?

Postby mjb447 » Fri Jun 02, 2017 12:31 pm

I think I'm with UVA2B. There's a ton of conceptual space between the specificity of "I will be an associate at Vx firm for x years, then AUSA in x district for x years, then partner at Vx firm for x years" and the vagueness of "[I will] be successful and recognized in my field," and the vast majority of people fall somewhere in between. (Also, like others are saying, there are downsides to being either too category 1 or too category 2, so it also makes the most sense to live somewhere in the middle.)

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse

Diamond
Posts: 29316
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Control your careers or let opportunities come to you: which do you follow?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Jun 02, 2017 12:49 pm

I've definitely had specific goals (and even accomplished some of them! Like clerking was a goal when I started law school, and I also set out to get the job I have now). But how I accomplished them has always been completely fortuitous (I never would have IMAGINED living where I did to clerk, or in the location of my first office, or even where I work now). And I could just as easily have NOT accomplished them (I nearly ended up in a totally different job and it was mostly an accident of timing - if I'd been offered the other job first I'd have taken it).

I think particularly the timing thing is really hard to control. I didn't think I'd necessarily stay in my first job forever but I probably wouldn't have moved when I did except for a lot of circumstances totally outside my control.

So I guess I tend to have goals for the kind of things that I want to do but I've never laid out any kind of schedule for it except in the vaguest terms (like, "if I want to do job x I probably need # more years of experience).

But really I think serendipity is a HUGE force in all this.

Jchance

Silver
Posts: 721
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2012 2:17 am

Re: Control your careers or let opportunities come to you: which do you follow?

Postby Jchance » Fri Jun 02, 2017 1:35 pm

Both paths seem extreme. There are more nuances than what's listed. (1) should be the goals (i.e., the ends, not the means). At the same time, (1) should be flexible in case better opportunities arise--which is sort of like (2).

User avatar
Mickfromgm

Bronze
Posts: 144
Joined: Thu Apr 20, 2017 11:40 pm

Re: Control your careers or let opportunities come to you: which do you follow?

Postby Mickfromgm » Fri Jun 02, 2017 3:09 pm

Not everything is in your absolute control . . . . a lot of luck and other people involved, just like in any aspect of life. Thus, Cat. 1 won't work, except to provide a very general framework. It's like an NCAA tournament -- if there is a first-round upset, your whole bracket is f&*ked. . . . there goes your master plan; better adapt based on the then current conditions. Being flexible is how I became a crystal meth dealer (ps, j/k my friends at NSA, FBI).

User avatar
Pokemon

Gold
Posts: 3527
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:58 pm

Re: Control your careers or let opportunities come to you: which do you follow?

Postby Pokemon » Fri Jun 02, 2017 5:28 pm

This is a bizarre and unhelpful dichotomy.



Return to “Legal Employment�

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.