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Ep 35: Should your passion define your career path? -Ben Cooper,Law School Admissions & Car

Updated: Jun 22, 2023


Hello, This is Sirisha, welcome to my podcast!

How do you figure out if the career you are pursuing is the right fit for you?

In this interview with Ben Cooper, we discuss,

1) Should we pursue our passion

2) The pitfalls of not understanding all aspects of a job

3) What to ask in a Career conversation

Ben Cooper is a lawyer by profession who has pivoted into Career Counselling so that students can make informed decisions. He also enables early and mid-career professionals to navigate their careers and Hosts and produces a podcast...He recently joined the Forbes Advisor, Education Advisory Board, where he will review articles, advise on content and support Forbes Advisor's mission to help readers make well-informed education-related decisions.

Come, let's #paintlifetogether!

Drop me a note: I would love to hear from you about your stories and your journey. You can reach me on Instagram @womencareerandlife or Gmail at .

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Guest: Ben Cooper

Other episodes you'll enjoy:

Interview with Lydia Fenet [LINK]

Interview with Sally Helgesen [LINK]

Interview with Vidya Krishnan [LINK]

Connect with me:

Instagram: womencareerandlife


Below is a transcript of the episode, slightly modified for reading.


[00:00] INTRO [Jump to section]

[02:54] How do you discover what to career pivot to... Grass is not greener [Jump to section]

[09:03] Networking & Information Interviews [Jump to section]


[00:00] INTRO

Sirisha: So today we are recording live from the podcast Movement 2022 at the HubSpot booth. This is exciting. This is my first recording. In a studio. I do it at home in a little room actually with, I guess you know, other furniture inside. And I met Ben Cooper yesterday at the speed networking event.

Ben: Yeah.

Sirisha: And Ben is, was a full-time carrier as a lawyer, and he's just prevented from becoming a podcaster, running his own business as well.

Ben: Yeah.

Sirisha: And what is. Fantastic is his experience, not just professionally, but a lot of the stuff he's doing now is targeted towards getting young people and others trying to prevent their careers. And what makes that transition successful?

Ben: Yeah, it's tough. I feel like we have to make all these decisions when we are 18, 19, about the rest of our lives, and there's a lot of room for error enjoy working with people. To get them on a clearer path and to get a sense of, what it is they value professionally and help them come up with a plan to be in a career that meets most of those values, most of the time. That's very interesting because my son is a high school senior. He's going to be heading out to college and trying to figure out what he wants to study if it's a passion thing. Decides, but I don't think 18 I knew what I wanted to do after. Yeah. And it's very hard to figure out. And I think the, us being here in this podcast movement, I think speaks to itself, right? You can have passion, projects, side hustles, and very many people you meet who have pivoted their careers. So whatever you set yourself up. But for 18 as. Something to remember is it's a stepping stone. It's a building block, but it doesn't have to be the one and be all for the next 40 years. Oh, yeah. I think people put themselves under a lot of pressure thinking the first job is the only job they're ever going to have, and it's just the first job. That's all it is. It gives you a little sliver of what life might be like if you continue to go in that direction. And for some people, That's exciting and for other people, they realize, need to go in a different direction. Part of what I enjoy helping people realize isn't what their passion is, but what are they good at. Because personally, I'm not an advocate of, if you just find the thing that you love, you'll never work a day in your life. I think that's a misconception that has been sold to millennials and Gen Z I love what I do. And I know you do too. But it's still working on different days. It's there are days I'd rather be at home on the couch with my wife just enjoying a cocktail instead of working on email sequences and whatnot. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy it. So the goal is to help people find out what are good at. Because that proficiency and that excellence are gonna help you enjoy what you do more. But it also opens up a bunch of other opportunities that you can then invest time and effort. It becomes a side hustle and maybe it becomes a full-time job down the road.

Sirisha: Yeah, and I've heard this intersection of three things. There's, your passion, what you're good at, and actually, the third thing to remember is what the market needs.

Ben: Yeah.

[02:54] How do you discover what career pivot to... The grass is not greener

Sirisha: It's something that has to come together because there's always a timing piece of it, but you can't, when you start say college or start something, you don't earn four years what the trend even looks like.

Who knew about TikTok? Two years ago. So it's the same thing. So what do you, what do people can do to prepare themselves for this? What do they think about it? What's the process?

Ben: I think it varies a little bit depending on where they are, what a high school student's gonna be doing is a little bit different to a college student and what that, what a college student does, will be different to a young, to mid, mid-career professional. I think really what it boils down to is a couple of things. The first thing is just doing some honest self-assessment. What are you very good at? Cause we talked about the importance of proficiency. I also think it's important to talk to people who are doing some of the things that you're interested in doing. I work with a lot of people who are aspiring to go to law school. It can cost more than 300,000. To go to law school, you probably want to have a really good idea of what a lawyer does and whether or not you want to do that thing before you go and invest three years for law school, an extra six months for the bar exam, and more than a quarter of a million dollars. So first thing is, Don't be afraid to go out and reach out to people who are doing some of those things that you're interested in. Because human nature means people are generally pretty excited to talk about themselves and you can get some wonderful information and very few people will say no and this process takes time. And part of that process that's fun for me is it's a very scary process for a lot of people, especially Gen Z, to pick up and have a human interaction because they're so used to tech-related interactions. And I get a kick out seeing people develop those skills and put them into practice.

Sirisha: That's fascinating because I think of them as information interviews. Yeah. Even when you're pivoting a career and. It's very imperative like you said before, you invest in it because even for people who are well established in that career, when they're trying to find a new role Yeah. And they think this is their dream role.

I've had friends and colleagues who jumped into the dream role and realized it three months later, and they've been trying for this two years, five years, and. It was such a hard transition. They made it and then realized, oh, that wasn't what I liked at all. And they're so ready to go do something else. It's not about the grass being greener, but the roles are not always as described or by the title. Yeah, and the same role in different organizations and different groups is very distinctly different. So there are pieces that you have as a normal job function, but there are things that you can expand and make slightly different in your scope to make it more interesting for you. So while impacting whatever organization or your career.

Ben: So classic example is either being a podcaster or being a lawyer. People think of lawyers and they think of the courtroom. There's a huge chunk of the profession that never sets foot in a courtroom. And those that practice in areas of law where they're in the courtroom don't spend most of their time in the courtroom. But if you think that's what you're going to do most of your time as an attorney, it's not surprising that you'd be disappointed in the same way that as a podcaster, Most of what we do does not involve the actual interview or the actual podcast itself, it's all behind the scenes type stuff, and if you don't enjoy that little sliver of being in front of the microphone is often not enough to keep you motivated to keep doing all the other stuff. that's a necessary part.

Sirisha: Very true. I think most of us, including me when we walk into podcasting, the learning part, the interviewing part, there's so much pre-production and post-production.

Ben: Oh gosh. Yeah.

Sirisha: At least the learning part, kept me going through that and it's kept the enthusiasm going but it can be quite challenging because there are so many things outside your comfort zone to do.

Ben: Oh. And I think your friends' experience is not an uncommon one where, We'll put this they're not happy where they are and there, there can be several reasons why that's the case. So they put this exit strategy up on a pedestal as if it's going to be always awesome. Every day is just a dream. And then they get there and they realize it's not what you know, what they needed. And often that's because there's some underlying issue. That isn't related to what you do for a nine-to-five. And that's also a big piece of this is if you're about to make this big shift, it's going to invest a lot of your time. It's gonna require the investment of your time and your money and your effort. It's gonna remo, it's gonna require compromise from maybe a spouse who's gonna have to pick up some weight while you pursue this. That's not easy. So if you're going to do that, if you're gonna make that change, you do need to have done your due diligence ahead of time to know that it's gonna give you what you think.

Sirisha: one way to do that is to see if you can get like a stretch project or intern with someone or, spend two, three hours shadowing them or, doing, some piece of the work for them, paid, unpaid, whichever way, gives you some experience and get a feel for the office environment or some other feel so that you know what reality is.

Ben: Yeah. And that's where the coffee interactions are great because, The thing about going and interning with somebody is it's very unlikely that if I go and intern with you and you're employed at a company that you're gonna tell me, you know what? I hate this company and I'm looking for a job... You're not gonna tell me that. But if maybe we go out for a cup of coffee and I'm not coming into the workplace and I'm just building this relationship with you, where I get to know a little bit about how you got to where you are and what you are. As that conversation is gonna deepen, you may say to me, you know what? These are the things that I don't like about what I do, and if I had my time over may do something differently. That conversation might open up the door to having another conversation with you or with somebody else, and it might save me $300,000.

Sirisha: That's a distinctly good point because what you're trying to say is that industries change.

Yeah, someone may go interview for an industry they think is new, but is still a great place to be, but the person who's working there knows that okay, it will last their career, but may not last a new person's career for the next, many years. So before you spend time investing in that, it would be good to have that offline conversation.

It's, you're right, interning is not the forum to find such information.

Ben: it's still good experience.

[09:03] Networking & Information Interviews

Sirisha: Yes. And which is great. And then what building a network? Always making sure you ask the person you talk to. First, thank them for that time. Absolutely. Make sure to ask them for a connection to speak to someone else who can give you a different perspective and helps you build that network and find more information as you go along.

Ben: You're spot on. There are two questions I. Insist everybody asks in informational interviews, whether that's over the phone, or via Zoom cup of coffee, it always will involve. What advice would you have for someone like me who wants to get experience? In the best-case scenario, you get an opportunity. Worst case scenario, you get some advice. The second question is there anyone else you know, That you think might be able to give me a good perspective because now all of a sudden you're opening up their connections and their network and they might have two or three other people that feel very similar to the way that they do. That's good information. Yeah. You also don't wanna be put off by just one negative conversation because you might have made, let's take, you and I having that conversation, that person might have had might have made some decisions that have led them to be less than happy. Maybe they went to the wrong kind of school and they paid too much. And they have too much debt, so they had to take the job that paid the most as opposed to the job that they wanted. Maybe some other factors in their personal life are influencing the way they see their life. So these informational interviews, you have to have a decent data set. You can't just interview one doctor. Who says, I love what I do, and go, all doctors are happy. Medicine is the most amazing career. If you go and talk to 10 doctors and the majority of them give you that response, then it's reasonable to say, okay, this might be an exciting and interesting fit for me, but you can't just talk to one person here.

Sirisha: Very true. And Ben, I know it's been great too. I have one final question I ask everyone I interview. What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Ben: Oh, I would tell myself to chill out. I think I would tell myself to slow down. I don't have to have everything figured out by the time I turn 30. Enjoy life and ask lots of good questions.

Sirisha: Very good. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Ben: Yes, absolutely.

Sirisha: Remember that. And what is the one word you'd use to describe yourself?

Ben: Ooh, I hope resilient.

Sirisha: Excellent. I hope very well. And wish you all the best.

Ben: Thank you so much for having me on the show.

Sirisha: Thanks.

Ben: Thank you. It was great fun.

Guest : Ben Cooper

Host: Sirisha

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