Kim M. Fields is Director of Career Services at Wake Forest University School of Law in Winston-Salem, NC. She oversees a staff of five professionals in the Office of Career Services, developing and supervising career programs for nearly 500 law students. She advises students and alumni on job search strategy and career development and also helps market the law school to employers in the legal community. She reports to an associate dean, who reports to the dean of the law school. Kim has worked in her field for nearly 17 years—just over five years in her current position and 11+ years in a similar position at another law school.
Here’s what Kim had to say about her job and why she LOVES it. AMA: What do you love about your job?
Kim Fields: It’s different every day. It provides me with the opportunity to be creative and to try new things, meet new people, work on projects, and to continually stretch myself in doing things I’m not always comfortable doing. So my job still remains challenging. AMA: What do you do to make your job more enjoyable?
KF: I guess it would be keeping a sense of humor, of not taking myself too seriously. But of course you have to be careful about the image you project, or others won’t take you seriously either. So that’s a balance you have to create. The other key factor is that the people I work with are so great. The staff in my office is wonderful and the people at the school are just fabulous to work with, very caring about the student body. What about your job gives you the greatest satisfaction?
KF: Being able to help people—the students and alumni—helping them find work that they really will enjoy as much as I enjoy my job and career. It’s also satisfying to be able to help turn around those people who are frustrated with the whole process, to help them find something to focus on so they can get to where they want to be. AMA: What’s the market like out there for your law school graduates?
KF: It’s gotten better recently. Even though we’re a small school—we graduate only150–160 students each year—our graduates go all over the country. That’s a challenge as well, trying to help people find employment in other markets. AMA: Let’s talk about work/life balance. It seems to be a pretty important factor in job satisfaction. Do you feel you’ve achieved a good work/life balance? If yes, what tips can you share with others who want to have a better balance between their work and personal life?
KF: That’s not a good question for me! I work 50 hours a week or more. But a lot of the time I choose to stay. It’s not that I’m forced to; it’s a choice I make. I think I choose not to have work/life balance. There are people in my office who do have work/life balance and I try to promote it for the people that I supervise. But I have to say I find it hard myself, because I get so caught up in what I do and I enjoy it so much that it’s hard sometimes to draw the line. I think it’s a give and take, depending on what the needs are at a given moment. Sometimes you spend more time with your family, sometimes you spend more time at the office. I don’t think it’s ever really balanced. AMA: What advice do you have for young people who are just entering the work force?
KF: I think Bill Gates said it best in a recent commencement address. He said that there is no fast way to achieve success. Often young people expect instant gratification and they may become frustrated with certain processes they have to go through on the road to success. My advice to students is that it’s important to develop social skills, to learn how to work with different kinds of people and different generations. As we continue to focus on technology as our primary means of communication
, we are in danger of our interpersonal skills becoming more obsolete. I believe those traits will be sought after even more in the future because a lot of young people are uncomfortable in social situations. They’ve become so used to communicating via e-mail and text messaging. They are much more apt to send an e-mail than to pick up the phone and call someone. They also need to learn about what’s appropriate in various situations. For example, a younger person may call someone by his or her first name in an interview, which is not considered proper by someone from the older generation. AMA: What advice would you give to young people regarding loving your job and finding career satisfaction?
KF: I think the key to career satisfaction is self-evaluation, determining what you really like, what your interests are, and what’s of value to you. You need to identify your skills early, finding out which skills you like to use and which you don’t. Once you find that—and it could be through shadowing someone, having an internship, working a summer job, or even going to work with mom or dad—you can take that information and explore the kinds of jobs that you will enjoy. The job search is much easier once you know what you’re looking for.
I always ask my students, if they’re not interested in practicing law, what does their bookcase look like? They look at me as if I’ve got three heads, but it gives insight into what they’re interested in. To this day, I continue to buy books about career development and helping people meet their goals. AMA: To sum up, if I asked you to fill in the sentence: “I love my job because…” what would you say?
KF: That’s hard, because there are so many things I like about my job. I’d have to say I love my job because it’s challenging, in a good way, and it’s rewarding because I get to help people do what they want to do.
If you love your job, write to Shari at [email protected]