Follow Your Instincts to Find Passion

Guest Post by: Christy Steele (C’06)

What was your favorite activity as a child? What was easy for you? These might sound like frivolous questions, but consider for a moment what truly brought you joy. Was it finding frogs in the pond? Drawing with colored pencils? Banging on the drums in music class? Solving math problems? The answers to these questions can reveal valuable information that will help you build a meaningful and fulfilling career.

As an artist and producer in the media industry, I have taken many left turns and woven multiple interests and skills into my work. I pursued my love of photography after college and found a job working as a photographic coordinator at National Geographic Magazine. I worked with world-renowned photographers, learned from experienced photo editors, and discovered that I have a passion for visual storytelling. Since leaving National Geographic, I have directed photo shoots for Science Magazine, worked on documentaries and television series for Smithsonian Channel, Animal Planet and Travel Channel, created videos and websites for individuals and small businesses, completed a post-baccalaureate pre-medical program, and acted on stage and in films.

Each time I make a decision about leaving a job or working with a new company, I try to determine whether I will feel fulfilled and engaged if I take the opportunity. Here are four guiding principles that I use when making decisions.

Ask what brings you alive.

If you can’t remember what excited you as a child, simply list activities that you love doing. This can include caring for a pet, organizing dinner parties, traveling, baking, or watching movies. As you consider all of the activities that bring you joy and satisfaction, you will begin to see common threads. Steven Spielberg once said “the hardest thing to listen to, your instincts, your human personal intuition, always whispers, it never shouts. Every day of your life you have to be ready to hear what whispers in your ear.” When you start incorporating the activities into your life that bring you joy, your soul will begin “whisper” to you.

Have a mission!

When you choose to follow your instincts and pursue the things you love, it may not lead you down a straight path. When you encounter uncharted territory, your personal mission statement will become your guiding compass. As Tony Robbins suggests, “If you have a big enough why, you can figure out how to do anything.” If you have a strong enough reason for wanting to get a new job, move to a new country, or start your own company, it will be harder for obstacles and setbacks to stop you.

Ask lots of questions.

Talk to as many people as possible who share your passions. Also talk to people who are passionate about their work even if their work does not align with your interests. Passion is contagious, and these conversations will inspire you and give you ideas. People love to talk about what brings them alive, so let them! These conversations will help you put your own interests, skills, experiences and passions into a greater context. They will also help you make meaningful connections. Through my documentary film series, Uncovering Passion, I put this practice into action by talking to dozens of people who love their work. I created short documentary films with some of these people and published them at uncoveringpassion.com.

Create space for great insights!

In order to identify what brings you alive and hear the “whispers,” you must cultivate a sense of peace and quiet in your body and mind. The best way to start doing this is to simply focus on your breath for a few moments every day. There are simple and powerful energy and breathing techniques like Emotional Freedom Techniques (also called “tapping”) and Presence Process that can help you reduce stress in your body and deal with negative emotions. But any activity like taking a walk, doing yoga, or putting your bare feet on the earth is a great start.

Follow your instincts and trust yourself. While your passions may not instantly translate into a successful job or career, following these principles will open doors and make life more fulfilling.

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Lawyers: Maximizing Your Mobility

timon-studler-63413-unsplashGuest Post by: Inti Knapp

As legal recruiters, we work closely with employers to fulfill their lateral attorney hiring needs. Without exception, when legal industry employers describe their ideal candidate to us, they specify the following three criteria:

Level of Experience
In the legal job market, it’s possible to have “too much” experience because more job opportunities exist for junior to midlevel attorneys. That’s because most law firms and corporate legal departments have a pyramid structure, with more attorneys at junior levels reporting to fewer senior attorneys at the top.

For example, if you are a law firm associate wanting to move to a different law firm, the easiest time is when you have 2-6 years of legal experience. Once you have 7+ years of experience, law firms have fewer lateral openings at your level, unless you have a book of portable business.

If you are an attorney wanting to move in-house, most openings are at the corporate counsel/senior corporate counsel level, requiring typically a range of 5 – 15 years’ legal experience. Of course, attorneys with even more years of experience make moves in house, but often they are surprised they have fewer opportunities than earlier in their career.

Practice Area
Depending on the economy, some practice areas are more marketable than others (for example, in a booming economy, transactional work like M&A and IP licensing is busier than bankruptcy or litigation). After you have practiced law for a couple of years, you can market your experience to law firms that need a lateral attorney hire to hit the ground running with minimal training. If you want to change law firms, you’ll get more traction when your practice area is in demand, so don’t delay a job search even if you’re buried in work.

Consider also whether you want to go in-house, because certain practice areas are more attractive to in house legal departments. If you have the ability to choose your practice area, and want to go in house someday, be aware there are more in-house openings for transactional attorneys than litigators. Although lawyers of all specialties go in house, attorneys with desired areas of expertise—such as corporate or tech transactions—typically enjoy more opportunities to join startups and corporate legal departments.

Credentials
For better or worse, the legal industry is credentials conscious. Law firms and corporate legal departments ask us to present candidates from “top” law schools, with “top” grades, or from “top” law firms, as defined by that particular employer. As attorneys get more senior, law school pedigree becomes less important as law firms focus more on whether a candidate brings portable business, or whether the attorney has good training in a high-demand specialty.

Conclusion

If you are considering law school, or a current law student, consider how your choice of law school and practice area may impact your future job prospects—attorneys rarely stay at one employer their entire career. If you are a practicing lawyer who wants to change employers, be alert to your best windows of opportunity in terms of your experience level, practice area, and local economy. With strategy and forethought, attorneys can maximize their opportunities to make a fulfilling lateral move.

Inti Knapp (F’95) is Managing Director at Harris Legal Search in Seattle. Her search firm has placed hundreds of attorneys nationwide, including general counsel and in-house counsel at companies, and partners and associates at law firms. Inti has shared her legal recruiting expertise as a published author and speaker, presenting to law schools such as the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, and the University of Washington School of Law, and professional organizations including the Association of Corporate Counsel. Prior to becoming a legal recruiter in 2004, Inti earned her B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University and J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, and practiced litigation at Perkins Coie. She lives in Seattle with her husband, John Knapp (F’93, L’97), and two young children.