So, two years ago, which already feels like a lifetime, I started my job in policy (within a local govt branch). To say it’s been eventful is an understatement. Not only was this my first job in policy, it was only second job post-law school—after working for almost a decade. I had been at my old job in legal aid since I graduated. I grew up in legal aid and will forever feel like a legal aid attorney. But it was time to go and me being me, I picked something so different and challenging that the first few months, I honestly wasn’t sure if I could succeed. Then came one crisis after another, and then a pandemic which turned everything and everyone upside down…it’s just been a lot! But I also know that these two years have been ones of major growth both in skills and as a person. The job has challenged me but helped me be a better advocate.
While I feel steadier in this role and the work that I’m doing it did require a lot of shifting. Here are some lessons learned, two years in:
One—value routine. The ability of staying up late, not eating breakfast and somehow surviving a 14 hour day was not feasible. My body had a serious shock to this change and I had to address it. Organizing my day/week by ensuring I had breakfast, that I packed a lunch, that I had down time, and prioritizing sleep—all of that made the difference to help energize me for this work and make me feel physically much more alert and capable. Honestly, if you feel a little fuzzy at work try creating routines that value your nutrition and sleep and see what difference it makes.
Two—be ok with the uncomfortable. I’ve always promoted the idea of getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, but in this role I had to really live by that advice. Learning how to navigate uncomfortable/tense situations, strategizing solutions quickly, and pushing myself to try things that are outside my comfort zone have made certain skills stronger. And that’s not to say doing them takes the awkwardness out of the situation, it doesn’t always—but there is growth in wading through the bad to get to the good.
Three—lean into your knowledge. If I had to identify one thing I’d re-do when I started is the same issue that kind of did me in my 1L year. But thankfully this time around I recognized what I was doing and adjusted. What I did 1L year, like I did here, was question my abilities and the reason I was selected. In law school that disempowered mindset held me back for many semesters. Thankfully, a little wiser, I rallied and reminded myself of my abilities and talent. There was also emergency after emergency in the immigration world which left little time for me to wallow and rather I had to use my skills to make sure I did my job right. And leaning into my knowledge, feeling confident providing advice, feeling comfortable that I’m a subject matter expert and guiding others on that issue all have made such a difference in the work I’m able to produce. It is so easy to try to diminish yourself but the sooner you harness your abilities the better it is for all involved.
Two short years, three big lessons. It’s funny because when I was in legal aid my next steps in my career now seem so contained because I really didn’t understand the power a law degree truly gives (and the skillset that comes with strong lawyering). That may be the most important lesson here—we have the power truly create careers that are fulfilling to us, that challenge us, and lawyering doesn’t look any certain way.