Houston, TX – The intention of the blog series is to have millennials discussing what is important to them while giving advice to older and younger generations in the workforce.
This exciting thing about being in dialogue with these millennials is the great advice, talent and commitment they share in wanting to make a real difference. I know this talent exists across all industries and this blog series will highlight everyday people doing extraordinary things. Fortunately, these young professionals are being recognized in their organizations and there are lessons to learn from each of them.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Christal who is a Senior Associate Attorney at Seyfarth Shaw specializing in Employment Law and is 36 years of age. Christal received her bachelor’s degree from UT Austin where she studied Economics and Business and her law degree from Texas Tech University.
Christal would say that she is currently working her dream job and looks forward to going to work each day. But she can trace it back to when she was 12 years old in school. The teacher had each student cut pictures out of a magazine of their future self. You can imagine at that age most of the girls cut out fashion photos of hair, makeup, clothes, and jewelry, but not Christal. Christal clipped out a picture of a woman with long dark hair and carrying a briefcase and wearing a suit, modest and light makeup and hair pulled back in a ponytail. That is pretty much the image of Christal today. Polished and professional. She feels very lucky that she knew from an early age what she wanted to become in her future self.
In addition to her passion for her professional life, she is extremely passionate about serving the community. After Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in late August 2017, she spent the next couple of months in the East Side of Houston “mucking” the homes of dozens of Houstonians that lost everything. After the demo projects ended, she worked for several more months with a local church, her running club, and her law firm to raise money to restore two homes. Christal also organized a free legal clinic for the East Side homeowners. Her law firm recognized her efforts by naming her the “Pro Bono Associate of the Year,” which is a recognition that Seyfarth Shaw awards to one of their nearly 300 associates nationwide each year.
What really struck a chord with Christal is that so many people were willing to help their neighbors. Christal remembers that after she sent her first work email explaining her project and requesting that her colleagues help to collect Hurricane relief items, nearly half the items she had requested were waiting for her in her office the following day. Water cooler conversations changed overnight. Instead of work-related topics, Christal’s colleagues were asking her “what are we collecting next” or “when are we going to do another service day”? Everyone came together to help. This is truly the spirit of Houston.
In addition to serving the community, Christal also loves staying fit. She runs, does CrossFit, and does different types of yoga (including her favorite–got yoga).
Christal shared a specific example of this when the situation in her life looked bleak. It was the daunting task of taking the bar exam! For law students, it’s an incredibly stressful time. If you are lucky enough to secure a job, the position is usually contingent on passing the bar. Christal remembers that when she prepared for the 3-day exam, she would ask her loved ones to confirm that she could rent their couch if she failed the exam. Thankfully, Christal ended up not needing to lease anyone’s living room. She passed the bar on her first try. Preparation is key.
Christal attributes her success to her parents and their hard-working values and strong and strict family upbringing. She grew up with 8 brothers and sisters. Christal is the third child in birth order of the nine children. She was the first one in her family to go to college and then earn her law degree. This is a quite a testament to her parents as initially, they did not understand the return on investment of a college degree, which is true of many families but when it is your family, it seems like you are the only one. As you can imagine, her family is extremely proud of her.
The other part of her success is based on the way she was raised and her faith.
I asked Christal if she had advice for younger professionals entering the workforce and here is what she said: “Keep knocking on doors. Do not be afraid of failure. Be ready for rejection. It is easy to get frustrated or disappointed, but life does not work always work the way you think it should. Just because you do not get selected, keep trying.”
Christal shared her own story. For law students, it’s usually critical to find a law clerk position after you complete your first year of law school. It’s incredibly stressful because you are often competing with law students nationwide to work at a firm that might only have one spot available.
For Christal, she was super excited to be invited to a follow up in person interview for a prestigious law clerk position in Chicago. After meeting several partners and being “wined and dined,” Christal was confident she secured the job. When she learned she did not get the position, she was incredibly disappointed. But that did not stop her. On the plane ride home after being rejected for the Chicago job, Christal coincidentally sat next to an attorney. Christal recalls that the woman was very well-dressed. She was carrying a beautiful handbag that was filled with lots of paper. Early in the flight, the woman placed the bag and documents on her tray–the stack ended up being law school resumes. This triggered a conversation. A couple of months later, Christal was hired by this same woman to work as a law clerk at her law firm. Christal ended up working for this Texas-based firm for the first two years of her legal practice.
I asked Christal to help baby boomers better understand about some of the biggest misconceptions people have about people her age. Christal said would remind her boss that she’s committed to the firm for the long haul even though she has only been there four years while her core team has been there twenty plus years.
Finally, I asked Christal what question do you wished I asked and did not?
Her answer was “Did you ever live outside of the US”?
I learned after the interview that Christal lived in Tokyo as an English teacher for two years before she attended law school. She absolutely loved her job as she had the opportunity to travel every week and learn something new daily about Japanese culture. Christal says that when she arrived, she didn’t know a single word in Japanese. But Christal left Japan with conversational knowledge of the language, international friends, and a hunger to find work/life balance so she can continue her travels!
As the interviewer, I would describe Christal’s success in large part because of her generosity of spirit, eclectic background, authenticity, energy of being, problem solver and strong work ethic. Christal has what I call the X-factor, you might not be able to describe it, but you know it when you see it.