Passing the bar exam gave me a profound understanding of myself: I can learn anything. Yet, having that understanding is only half the battle, you also need the drive to learn. With the bar exam, I knew I needed to memorize a huge volume of information by a specific date or I wouldn’t pass the test. Having that fear of failure hanging over me was all I needed to succeed, but how do you create that drive within your every day life?
Put yourself in challenging situations that force you to become skilled. Nothing forces you to understand a new area of the business like taking on a project that you’re answerable for. I didn’t always look for the challenging projects. I wanted to come across as someone with the right answers, so I resisted situations where I wasn’t knowledgeable. Yet, that’s the wrong attitude when your goal is to maximize your ability to learn. When the opportunity arises to get a new skill, capitalize.
Take your innate ability to learn and dive into a new project. Study SQL, help out your support team, write a blog post, volunteer to speak, and always challenge yourself. Employers will value your flexibility, and you’ll learn something in the process.
I came out of law school in 2012 with few job prospects and no idea what to do. The legal profession was a shadow of its former self, and friends at the top of our class couldn’t get interviews at shit firms. I needed to do something different with my life.
The best advice I got during this time was to stop looking for the perfect job and get out and gain some practical experience. Take a position in an area you can tolerate and use it as a springboard to new opportunities.
No one was hiring attorneys, so I fell back on my finance background and took a job at a massive old school company. I knew the perfect job was in Business Development with a tech company, but wasn’t going to get there right off the bat. Everything I learned and did in my previous role was to put me in a position to get where I wanted to go. I worked my ass off and learned everything I could, and I was always looking for new opportunities.
I met with people in the tech industry, I emailed people who had the job I wanted, I figured out who was hiring and what they were looking for. Preparation allowed me to find the company I wanted to work for, and gave me the passion and enthusiasm to sell myself. After 6 months working the springboard job, I took a BD role at Moz. It took a lot of hard work, but in the end it all paid off.
This period of my life taught me that you need to be flexible, and if you really hustle good things will come. Put in the time it takes to get that dream job, you’re going to deal with a lot of BS on the way there, but in the end you’ll be glad you tried.