For lawyers considering a career change, figuring out an alternative career can be the hardest part of the process. For some people, like Warren Brown, their next career stems from a longstanding passion or two – in Warren’s case, baking and public education. The rest of us find our next career through a combination of research and introspection. One of the most important forms of research you can do is talking with people who are actually doing the work you are interested in. The day to day reality of a job is often very different from the way it looks from the outside.
“Please don’t tell me to do informational interviews,” you may be thinking. Let me explain why those interviews may be much easier and more fun than you expect. Lawyers are, by training, very good at interviewing other people. Depositions, after all, are directed interviews designed to achieve a set of objectives. Informational interviews are the same, although they are not adversarial and usually involve better coffee and fewer staff people. Even non-litigators have experience advising their clients, which usually starts with listening to them. As a lawyer researching other careers, your analytical skills and ability to listen carefully to the answers you get give you a leg up over other career changers.
In Life After Law, I give detailed advice on how to make the informational interview process work well for you no matter how introverted or busy you are. Some basic words of wisdom for your informational interview, however, are:
- Ask 3-5 questions about the other person’s work. How did they start their career? What do they like about their work? What don’t they like about it? What is a typical week or month like? That sort of thing.
- Take no more than 15-20 minutes of their time, unless they *beg* you to stay longer.
- Be extremely courteous before, during and afterward – err on the side of overly polite.
And here’s one last piece of advice: unless you are talking with someone who knows you well, don’t ask someone else to give you ideas for your next career. What’s right for you is a more complex question than a quick look at your resume can reveal. If you keep the focus on the other person, you’re more likely to learn what will ultimately help you make the right career decision.