What Kind of Law Will You Practice?

Tuesday night, Career Services hosted “What Kind of Law Will You Practice?” a panel featuring seven Princeton alumni with legal degrees. Around thirty undergraduates attended, and the alumni shared their experiences in law school and beyond.

The majority of the event was given over to the alumni to describe their career trajectories and offer advice. Among the panel, there were several unconventional paths to law school, including Chris Colvin ’88, who was an MAE major at Princeton and Jason Eaddy ’98, who worked in computer science before obtaining a law degree through night school.  “It took my parents a good five, six years to understand what I do for a living,” Eaddy said, who now consults with lawyers on technology-related cases.

The panel also included two alumni who work in criminal law. Facing a question from the audience about the possibility of becoming jaded as a public defender, Arthur Hopkirk ’81 and Isabel McGinty *82 offered words of encouragement. Both agreed that working as a public defender was a very tough field. “There’s no let-up…in criminal law, it is people’s lives,” McGinty said. Hopkirk said it can be difficult to find fulfillment in public defense if you want to win cases, since even the best lose 80 – 90% of their cases. Instead, “you have to really take internal satisfaction,” Hopkirk said.

Two panelists who talked about the reality of debt incurred over law school were Christina Keddie ’03 and Ani Mason ’00. Keddie was drawn to law school as “the extended Robbie George experience.” She now works as a labor and employment lawyer, saying that nonprofit work may not pay enough to effectively manage the debt. In contrast, Mason was able to obtain scholarships because she was interested in human rights.

Mason also said networking through the Alumni Careers Network was instrumental in building her career. At any point in her career, she was trying to develop relationships with people in the field. Colvin, who founded two networking companies, supported this view. “Network now, and network for your entire careers,” Colvin said.

Though the panel distributed a lot of information on the difficulties of law school and a legal career, Zachary Goldstein ’05 was optimistic for the attendees’ future: “You go to Princeton. It’s up to you.”

For those looking for more information about law school, Lyon Zabsky is Career Services’ pre-law advisor. She was present at the event and can answer more detailed questions about law school applications.

Women’s History Month – Alumni Advice for STEM Majors

Three Princeton alumnae gathered Wednesday at Career Services Wisdom for Women in STEM Majors. Akira Bell Johnson ’95, Cheryl Rowe-Rendleman ’81 and Joanna Nice ’06 have all had substantial careers in the sciences since leaving Princeton, and they offered advice and perspectives on being a woman in the sciences.

One of the most repeated pieces of advice was to find a mentor. All the women spoke about being humbled during their undergraduate years, and Johnson put it succinctly when she said, “It doesn’t pay to try to figure something out for a long time.” In any situation, it’s important to recognize when you need help, because that produces better results. “It’s okay to ask questions,” said Nice. “Part of your job is to ask questions.”

The women also emphasized the importance of a support system while balancing work and family. A few grad students asked the panel members, all of whom had children, how they approached the work-home question. Rowe-Rendleman had her first child while in graduate school, and said, “He sat on my lap while I was writing my dissertation.” Though the women it said it’s impossible to be perfect, Johnson said that having a “network of support around your family” helps immensely.

For those not thinking that far into the future, the panel also shared their perspectives on what to do in college. “It’s never too early to start interning,” said Johnson. Even non-science pursuits can be valuable, added Nice. Nice did crew while at Princeton and said she learned about “hard work and discipline and tenacity and teamwork” from her teammates. As far as picking a major, the women agreed that it’s important to do something you’re passionate about that allows you to shine.

For their final words, the panel encouraged taking risks. And “if the guys are talking, talk louder,” said Rowe-Rendleman, later clarifying, “Or, talk differently.”

The Magic of Movies Meets the Reality of Hard Work: Careers in Film and Television

Students wanting to learn about careers in media received some tough love at Career Services’ Careers in Film and Television event. The panel featured three Princeton alumni, who spoke about the trajectory of their careers and then took the time to answer questions and offer advice to the students gathered.

Katherine Carpenter ’79 was the first to address the group. A documentary filmmaker, Carpenter showed a clip of “Bones of Turkana,” the National Geographic special she co-produced. She then spoke about her work with the Discovery Channel, which she joined in its early days. “It was just really fun to work in the early days of cable where everyone was just making it up as they [went] along,” Carpenter said. Fun seemed to be the driving force of Carpenter’s career; she had gotten involved in media after noticing that press teams on the campaign trail always had a good time, and from those beginnings she became an award-winning producer with an Emmy to her credit. (Not bad for a comparative literature major who didn’t give television a second thought in college!) Though she always followed what she thought would be enjoyable, Carpenter had some words of wisdom for the crowd: “Write the scripts, change the toilet paper, you need to be willing to do everything.” Her experience had been that skills in writing and Excel were especially useful in the field.

In contrast to Carpenter, Sandy Kenyon ’78 started looking at media careers when he was sixteen years old. While at Princeton, he joined a fellow student’s radio program, “Focus on You,” and became so involved that schoolwork was an extracurricular in comparison. Kenyon said the industry prizes endurance and offered his personal opinion and this analogy: a finance firm, Kenyon said, will put you through four days of excruciating interviews before giving you a hefty paycheck, but the film industry will put you through five to seven years of 80-hour weeks before paying you a pittance. A career in film and television, said Kenyon, is for people who “love it deep enough and wide enough and long enough.” Kenyon also warned about the possibility of burning out or becoming unmarketable after ten years, though he said he’s been lucky. Early experience doing film reviews in his career led him to his current job, doing concise movie reviews for ABC that air in New York City’s taxicabs.

A more recent graduate, Josephine Decker ’03 was able to talk about film and television as it relates to her job as an independent film producer. Like Carpenter and Kenyon, Decker said that hard work and initiative was key. After working as a production assistant, she has moved onto other projects where she has more creative control. However, these projects require a wider knowledge of filmmaking and handling items such as publicity. When asked if she would recommend film school, Decker responded that what’s important is choosing a path that will address a filmmaker’s specific strengths and weaknesses.

In all, the panelists agreed that following one’s passions would yield a difficult but rewarding path. Film and television careers may not be for everyone, but for those that don’t mind hard work, they are attainable.

For more information about careers in the arts, visit Abbey Racelis, career counselor for arts, nonprofit and public sector (and moderator for this panel). And if you want to improve your social media literacy (a valuable skill according to the panel), make sure to RSVP to “Do You Pass the Social Media Recruitment Test?” on April 16.

Princeton Alumni are a Great Resource

Last Friday, Danny Steiner ’10 spoke about Careers in Hollywood. It is great to meet alumni who can provide insight into the opportunities available to students. Career Services offers several options for connecting with alumni in your field. Here are your choices:

  1. Networking events. Career Services hosts several events specifically designed for students to network with alumni. Last Friday’s Careers in Social Entrepreneurship, for example, was part panel and part networking. Every fall they host an “Alumni Connections” event and networking receptions are held at regional alumni clubs every summer. Students have the opportunity to interact with several alumni at all of these events–not just one given speaker. These events are great ways to meet many people in your chosen field.
  2. Solo speakers. I’ve yet to go to a Career Services “Careers-in” event where the speaker didn’t spend a few extra minutes afterwards to talk to individual attendees. While it’s not the specific purpose of an event like Careers in Hollywood, asking questions of the speaker is a way to show interest in his field. Worst-case scenario, you learn more about a career that interests you; best case–you get a business card with an email address.
  3. Finding alumni on your own. The Alumni Careers Network is a great place to start. It’s a searchable database of nearly 5000 Princeton alumni who have volunteered to help students that’s run by TigerNet, another great resource. With the ACN, you can search by degree, employer, or job title. Some alumni make themselves available just to give general information, but others offer assistance on finding jobs or internships. All you have to do is send that first email.

While Career Services provides many ways to get to know alumni, all of them have one thing in common–the student has to take the initiative. For more tips on exactly what to say and where to look, visit the Career Services’ page on developing contacts here.