Career Development: Cultivating a Satisfying Career Path Via Narrow Focus
In this space, I’ve discussed common causes of career dissatisfaction among lawyers as well as tips to avoid those career dissatisfaction pitfalls and thoughtfully build a legal career. Unfortunately, many young lawyers that I encounter regard narrowly focused career cultivation as an unaffordable luxury. For example, they think that it is better to apply to the highest possible number of jobs rather than focusing their efforts on identifying a smaller area of the legal world that fits them and seeking employment in that area. But, not only is the former strategy less like to yield a satisfying result, it’s probably less likely to yield any result.
By channeling one’s career development efforts more narrowly, it prevents diffusion of your efforts, the way a narrow nozzle on a hose increases water pressure. Rather than being forced to rely on one-size-fits-all cover letters and resumes, you can tailor your submissions to the employer. You can also work on researching the employer of your choice, developing contacts there, and formulating a plan to shepherd your application through the employer’s review process. Moreover, once your job search is narrowly focused, you can work on discovering some of the 80% of job openings that are never listed.
In thinking about criteria for assessing the desirability of prospective jobs (as well as current job satisfaction), I was intrigued by the concept of “self-expansion.” The concept comes from scholarship examining the dynamics of marriage, which, like career, is a long-term commitment demanding dedication and careful attention. At its core, “self-expansion” refers to elevating the relationship with one’s spouse (or job) beyond an economic and social arrangement to one that is personally fulfilling. Not surprisingly, when we achieve self-expansion in marriage (or career), we are happier and more successful and our relationships are stronger and more resilient. For those who are interested, the New York Times published a Cosmopolitan-style quiz for readers to assess the self-expansion quotient of their marriages (or jobs).