A hobby can give you an awesome icebreaker at networking events, a great way to show off your passion, a nice break from the seemingly endless lack of progress in job hunting, and might even directly advance your job hunting efforts. Here’s the story behind my latest hobby – coding in Python – and how it’s helping me level up as an internet attorney.
A Hobby Gives You an Icebreaker
If you’re like me, or most anyone else, you hate networking. However, I discovered that picking up a hobby while job hunting gives you something to talk about. No longer am I forced into my schpeal about how I used to code for money before choosing to apply my technical prowess towards helping the legal system understand technology. Now I get to regale my captive networking audience with the epic tales of the Python-scripting Attorney that I am!
But Don’t Pick Just Any Hobby
Make sure you pick a hobby that people are going to want to hear about. Sure, I could’ve picked up knitting or something. And hey, maybe knitting would’ve been a great way to get hooked up with the women’s movement. Actually, now that I think about it, if knitting is something you think you could get passionate about, go for it! I bet that could open up all sorts of doors in the policy world, what with the pussy hats and such. Essentially, pick a hobby you can speak passionately about. That’s what’s most important.
Pick a Hobby that Feels Good
It’s important to pick a hobby that feels good because your hobby is your break from the frustrations and let-downs of job hunting. The hobby I picked was learning to code in Python. This, of course, brought me back to coding in general. Slate’s David Auerbach explains coder’s high like this:
“You’re boosted by the tight feedback cycle of coding, compiling, testing, and debugging, and each stage pretty much demands the next without delay. You write a feature, you want to see if it works. You test it, it breaks. It breaks, you want to fix it. You fix it, you want to build the next piece. And so on, with the tantalizing possibility of—just maybe!—a perfect piece of code gesturing at you in the distance.,” Coder’s high: The intense feeling of absorption exclusive to programmers.
If you’ve never written a line of code, the best way to describe the level of satisfaction one experiences when one successfully executes a line of code is the way you feel after you teach your dog a new trick. But, imagine that, at the moment Sparky stands on her hind legs on your command, you know that Sparky will perform the trick every single time you ask. As Slate’s David Auerbach wrote: “Code may be buggy, it may need serious overhaul later, but it compiles, it works (more or less), and it’s the same outside the trance as inside the trance.,” Coder’s high: The intense feeling of absorption exclusive to programmers. In law, your brief may or may not convince the judge to rule in your favor. But you won’t find out for a minimum of hours, if not months. In contrast, coding tells you in seconds whether your efforts result in a positive outcome or not.
Pick a Hobby that Makes Your Job Hunt Simpler
It’s helpful if you pick a hobby that will open doors for you during your job hunt. My goal with learning Python was originally to better understand machine learning algorithms. However, I quickly discovered that Python had some pretty robust data scraping tools that I could repurpose to automate my cover letter writing process. Suddenly, I went from hating writing cover letters to getting excited when a job application offered the opportunity to include a cover letter. Every application was a new opportunity to try out my script. I will note, however, that the biggest thing I’ve learned so far in fine-tuning my code is that most of the html on job board sites is awful, in that it’s completely unorganized and basically just a text dump, making it really tough to accurately scrape relevant data. For instance, identifying the job title on a page should be as simple as identifying the applicable html tag and content. Nope. Most sites just have the job title dropped into the description or something. Argh.
Have Fun! But Don’t Forget to Keep Job Hunting
Be careful not to let this happen:
A few people have suggested that I just switch back to being a programmer. In theory, I could do that. In reality, I like the flux in this strange intersection of technology and law that I work in. For me, learning Python and machine learning has been a necessary part of my continuing legal education, because I can’t effectively counsel folks who interact with these technologies if I don’t first understand the technologies. Ultimately, I recognize my rare talent for translating coding highs to excitement over training your dog and feel called to use that power to help find a way to facilitate innovation in a way that respects the law and human rights. With that said, definitely reach out to me on LinkedIn if you know of any positions I’d be a good fit for.