LL.M: Take control of it

By Desiree Jaeger-Fine

If there is one thing that gets me out of bed every morning, it is knowing that we have complete control over our professional development.

During our time in the U.S., it may feel like there is a great deal over which we do not have control. As to things over which we really do not have control: forget them! Since by definition they are outside our power of influence, they are not worth the time or energy that many LL.M. students spend worrying about.

Examples are the rules and regulations to become admitted as a foreign attorney in a U.S. state, the paperwork we must collect and submit or any other administrative hurdle we must jump that is due to our status being a foreign student. There is nothing we can do about it other than do as required and move on.

But before deciding that something is outside of our sphere of influence, we must be certain that this is true. Many LL.M. students tend to think that things are outside of their control when in fact they are not, and there is much wisdom in knowing the difference.

If we cede power over things that in fact we can control, we yield too much. Have you met someone who is consistently late for class and deadlines and believes that she does not have control over time? She is mistaken.

Time is hers to control through advance planning with thoughtfulness and flexibility for unexpected contingencies.Have you ever met someone who blames the career services office for his lack of success? People like this deflect responsibility, and perniciously, they miss opportunities at self-improvement.

I recently met with a foreign attorney who seeks to work in the U.S. who handled a situation in a way that I thought was wildly inappropriate. When I discussed this with him the following day, he said, “I am just not very good at these things,” and he seemed content to leave it at that. I found his response to be an extreme, and frankly shocking, response to something the colleague realized was a serious shortcoming.

His attitude toward his behavior is superbly career limiting. It is no surprise that this attorney is someone who others view with a certain lack of seriousness. Stuck as he is with behavior that he is either unable or unwilling to change, he has lost control over an important element of his career.

There are so many ways in which each of us can take responsibility for our career development in the U.S. and the professional image we want to project. Each of us has complete control over our professional life, and it is the single most important factor in determining whether we satisfy or even exceed our goals—or fall short. It is also the single most valuable asset each of us has.

Take charge, recognize the control you have over your own success, and build the career you came here to accomplish.

Desiree Jaeger-Fine is director of International Programs at Brooklyn Law School and author of "A Short & Happy Guide to Networking" (West Academic Publishing) and "A Short & Happy Guide to Being Hired" (West Academic Publishing).