Seventeen years ago, when I started out as a lawyer, big firms did not give advice to young lawyers. They provided an office and a firm handshake and bid one good luck. It was up to the new lawyer to figure out how to go around and get work. It was also up to her/him to figure out how to find mentors and navigate the always treacherous waters of law firm politics.
I personally did get one bit of advice in my first month on the job, though, and it has stuck with me. One of the most senior partners, definitely the “strong, silent” type, who had argued before the US Supreme Court and had a long pedigree, took me aside. He told me that too many young lawyers made the mistake that “action” equalled “service.” He told me in no uncertain terms that we as lawyers were being paid to think, to
strategize, and make judgments….not to write memos, not even to write briefs or prepare contracts. I found that whenever I followed his advice I did well. And whenever I didn’t, well, I didn’t.
This advice applies equally to career development. I would say 90% of career development is mulling things over, thinking about what you want, who you are and what your goals are. If you spend quality time doing some day-dreaming, the remaining 10% of your time will have more power, and do no harm. It has always proved true for me. Conversely, whenever I took the scorched earth application approach to job search, I would find a position, yes, and for good money, yes, but it invariably was a set-back in my career--one that took precious time to undo. Sitting and thinking, and not taking action until you feel confident about it, is a valuable career advancement technique. It is one that introverts are good at (often) and extroverts are terrible at (usually). As one of the latter, it’s definitely been a learning process for me.
Trust me, spend your quiet moments fantasizing about your end-goals and your ideal present state. It will make a difference.