How to find a happy career, while searching for a job

By Hillary Mantis

New Year’s Day is long over. Your resolutions have probably been forgotten. You are back to school, back to work, and back to the daily grind. But there’s one resolution you shouldn’t forget. It’s the one about you. Making sure that you are designing your career so that you will be happy, career-wise. I know that is easier said than done in this era of downsizing and competitiveness for jobs. Do you even have the luxury of thinking about what kind of job would make you happy?

Yes and no. Yes, of course you have the right to be happy. And, no, you probably shouldn’t turn down a good job offer, without giving it a lot of serious thought. But if you are still a student, or early in your career, there are some steps you can take to make your career a good fit.

Have a Two Part Plan:

Plan A is to get a summer or permanent job as soon as possible, because you have bills to pay, a resume to fill, and a need to be employed. So, explore every job search avenue open to you. But, you are going to have the chance to practice law for a long, long time. You can be actively working on Plan B, discovering what practice area and setting is the best fit for you, long-term, while you are still accomplishing Plan A, finding a job for the immediate future. It will take the pressure off for now, and give you more options later.

Take Advantage of Internships:

So, you are hard at work on Plan A. You are checking all of the web sites and trying to network. But how can you know what type of job will really make you happy? In part, by taking advantage of every opportunity to intern that your school has for you. You can put yourself in different potential employment settings, to see how you like them. Of course, all of your classes will help you do that too. Most schools also offer some kind of mentor program, where alumni have agreed that students can meet with them and often shadow them to see what their work is like. It’s a great opportunity for you to either say, “This is great — I can really picture myself working here,” or “This is definitely not for me.”

Do Career Testing:

Most schools offer some type of career self assessment testing, and guess what, it’s generally free. The most commonly offered assessments are the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, and the Strong Inventory, but there are others. Go to your career center, and take them. If they give you a good idea of your likes and dislikes now, while it’s still early in the game, you might save yourself a lot of heartache down the road.

If you are wondering where the lawyers are who are most happy with their careers, talk to as many lawyers as you can, and check out some career books. For more information on the subject of happiness in general, also check out The Happiness Project, by lawyer Gretchen Rubin.

Hillary Mantis consults nationwide with law students, pre-law students, and lawyers. She is a Director of the Pre-Law Program at Fordham University, and the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers. You can write to Hillary at