This post is also available at my LinkedIn page.
Several weeks ago, I made the drive from Midland up to Norman, Oklahoma to attend the Institute for Energy Law’s Hartrick Symposium, designed to show law students and young attorneys career paths in oil, gas, and energy law (shameless plug: please check out the IEL website as they put on great programming in oil, gas, and energy law). Though I am a few years into my career I still have a lot to learn about the industry, and I’m still at a point where multiple pathways are open to me – or will be, once oil prices exit the $40s. Though there were several panels constructed pertaining to various career paths, ostensibly the theme underpinning the whole event was “how to get the job you want.” There was one word that I heard invoked enough to stick out in my mind afterward:
I recall at the time thinking to myself, “serendipity is how you get a job?” Serendipity is defined by Merriam-Webster thusly: luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for. This was a dissatisfying answer to me – I’m not really one to ascribe much credit to the forces of luck and/or fate. However, in revisiting this line of thinking recently I have gotten on board with the idea that there is serendipity involved in the process, but with certain modifications.
First, even if you are not necessarily on the prowl for that ideal job opportunity, you can put yourself in the best position to “find valuable or pleasant things (i.e., that job you would like) that are not looked for.” Being a known quantity in your field has value; it has been said before but any methods that you can use to get your name and persona out there are worth pursuing. Networking, professional organizations, conferences, et cetera.
Second (and most difficult for me personally), being motivated to make your next move is important but it shouldn’t dominate your thinking. This is certainly a difficult proposition, especially for those who are as impatient as I tend to be; balance is needed, though. I have talked with some people, however, who seem to be dissatisfied with where they are at but not at all interested in doing anything about it. Far be it for me to pontificate about how anybody operates, but it’s not that hard now to keep your eyes open and your ear to the ground using job aggregators (i.e., Indeed, Monster), industry forums, and most importantly, your connections. It pays to look. I doubt most of us are so unbelievably wonderful at our jobs that potential suitors will helicopter to our homes, knock on our doors, and demand that we fill their job vacancy (though I am not opposed to this if anyone out there can make this happen). Strike a balance and keep an eye out.
Lastly, seeking out self-improvement professionally will make you better at your job; this will make you a more attractive candidate. That much is clear to most of us, but “self-improvement” is not “years of experience.” This has more to do with reading new cases, staying current on industry news, and going to seminars/conferences. Every single person who has a job currently is improving in the “years of experience” department – this isn’t a unique criterion.
There will oftentimes be events outside of your control that may loom large in getting your ideal job, but by making a few modifications you can put yourself in a better position to get it. Those willing to put in the time and effort should reap the rewards in the long-term.