Contrarian Career Move

Categories Career

Biography is my favorite reading genre.  I can learn a great deal about how different people think and see a different worldview without getting out of the house.  You can also see they made different decisions throughout their life.

The biography of Sonia Sotamayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, offers an interesting decision about career choice.  She came from a very humble background in the Bronx (Co-op City – I knew a thing a few things about the Bronx as my wife and I lived there for a few years.) and managed to break many glass ceilings. After obtaining a law degree from Yale, she started her career as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan.  In her memoir, she described the DA’s office was not the most sought-after place to work by Yalies.   Compared to private sector jobs, paid was low.  The prestige of DA’s job was also not comparable to more traditional route such as judge clerkship.  Importantly, New York City in the late 70s and early 80s was rife with crime and problems.  Her friends and families questioned her decision to take this job.  She could get into more “lucrative” and comfortable career.  I believe she would never become a Supreme Court justice if she did not take this job, arguably a contrarian move.  She followed her instinct as this job would provide her the opportunity to “seek justice in the courtroom”, something uncommon for fresh law graduates.  The important lesson here is that frontline experience allows a person to learn and accumulate valuable knowledge on an accelerated schedule.  You might not earn as much as others, or get involved in fancy big name projects.  However, you can get your hands dirty and learn things that neither school nor other jobs would teach you.  

You can look at where the crowd is not going and you might be surprised to find something very interesting for your career.

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