Self-assessment is essential for identifying a career best suited to your strengths and interests. It is a simple prescription: law students and lawyers alike should routinely engage in self-assessment to maximize job satisfaction.
According to Deborah Arron, author of What Can You Do With a Law Degree?, self-assessment for lawyers involves finding answers to three basic questions:
Who Am I?
What Do I Want?
What Am I Willing to Give Up to Get What I Want?
Your flexibility in responding to these questions will directly impact your career planning strategies. Flexibility is important in today's challenging legal employment market. To effectively market yourself to a broad range of employers, capitalize on your general background, but highlight your specific areas of interest. While promoting the strength of your LL.M. degree is valuable to some employers, others are equally interested in lawyers who are versatile and adaptable.
Keep an open mind when deciding on geographic location, size of firm or organization, salary and ideal employer. While you may start with your "perfect job" in mind, there may be several unexpected steps or obstacles on the way to obtaining, or you may change your preferences as you start searching for it.
Who Am I?
Determine your interests and skills. Decide what motivates you professionally and what type of office environment appeals to you. Define your values.
What Do I Want?
Clearly define your career plan and goals for the future. Ask yourself and other professionals what kinds of experiences will be necessary to advance to the next level. Next, carefully evaluate how prior work experiences shaped your current professional goals. In a nutshell, did you enjoy those experiences or not? Use these impressions to guide your career planning strategy.
What Am I Willing to Give Up?
Determine what you will sacrifice to reach your goals. Are you willing to give up time, salary, security and/or professional satisfaction? It is important to ask yourself questions about your comfort level with the requirements of a particular position. Personal sacrifice is required for almost any job.
PCAP and PMaT
The Personal Career Action Plan, or PCAP, is designed for developing your personal career road map. It will help you put into words your vision for your career by helping you identify your career values and goals, and from there it will help you define specific action steps you can take – in both the short- and long-term – to move closer to that vision.
The Personal Marketing Tool, or PMaT, builds upon the personal insights offered by the PCAP to help you identify which of your specific skills and interests make you most valuable to potential employers. The PCAP will help you get a clearer picture of your whole professional self, the PMaT will help you to make choices about how to present the best parts of that self to the world.