More than a decade ago, I worked for a publishing company as an in-house lawyer, advising primarily the schools division and direct marketing groups. The really ‘plum’ job in the department was the publishing counsel position; this lawyer negotiated with the bestselling authors, got to read advance copies of all the books, and went to the fancy book parties in the executive suite. The rest of us chugged along at the day-to-day business of writing contracts, counseling on human resources issues, and negotiating leases.
At one point, we were starting a new division focusing on developing scientific software and online books. The publishing lawyer had no interest in practicing the new ‘computer law’. It did not have the cachet of the copyright lawyers’ bar or the esteemed and sexy libel lawyers’ bar, and included none of the internal political connections in the company. My boss asked if I would handle the work. Always up for a new challenge, I agreed. What I learned from that experience has helped me move forward in my life in many subsequent situations. I learned that it pays to volunteer for unpopular assignments.
I began a new channel of learning— technology.I met the senior executives in another division of the company—the publishing and information services groups. By taking on this new assignment, I expanded my skill set. Since then, I have incorporated this strategy in many of my career decisions.
A few suggestions: Don’t be afraid to try new things. Volunteer for new or unpopular assignments; you will learn another skill and meet business colleagues who may be valuable to your growth. Ask questions; seek advice; and listen and be willing to learn from others. Don’t be afraid to speak up, make mistakes, and have your own style. Every idea you contribute does not have to be brilliant or new. There is no straight path. Be reliable. Never sacrifice your character or integrity. Don’t take things personally. Grow thick skin. Some days are like boot camp—hang in, you’ll recover.