Sean Southern graduated from Ball State University in 2000 as a double major in English and History. He earned an M.A. in English at DePaul University in 2002 and a J.D. at Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 2007, where he graduated cum laude.
Following law school, Sean practiced law in both the public and private sectors. First, he focused on real estate matters at a Chicago law firm. Sean later represented indigent criminal defendants at the Office of the State Appellate Defender, obtaining favorable decisions on both direct appeal and in collateral proceedings.
In 2011, Sean became the Associate Director for the Office of Professional Development at Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law. Sean’s responsibilities included developing and maintaining effective relationships with the greater legal community, assisting alumni and students with job search strategies, and administering the on-campus interview program.
In 2018, Sean transitioned to Faegre Baker Daniels as a Legal Talent Manager. He assisted the firm with recruiting, practice group management, and the administration of the Summer Associate Program. Sean is now a Practice Group Manager at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath where he works with the practice group leader on the day-to-day management of the group.
How did your English major lead to your career in law–as well as your job as a career counselor? What skills did you learn as an English major that helped you transition?
Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.”
Looking back, I can connect a few dots to my English degree through my various roles. They all involve finding people and their stories interesting and worth encouraging.
Literature may largely be the study of made-up things, but, ultimately, literature gives life a story. This story encourages us to view ourselves as working toward goals while confronting challenges in the road. For me, this is the basic guidepost of a career counselor or talent manager. Without my English degree, I doubt I would approach or appreciate my work in the same way.
I keep an article on my desk titled, “In the Minds of Others.” The article notes that reading fiction improves our ability to understand others. In reading fiction, we enter the characters’ minds, and this experience teaches us to appreciate the views and perspectives of others. This ability is important when assisting others. Our careers can be stressful and challenging at times, so a little bit of empathy is needed.
What’s a typical day like for you?
As a Practice Group Manager, I expect to wear a lot of hats as I assist with the management of my group. My role is new so I am still learning!
Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out what comes next in their lives?
As a former career counselor and talent manager, I have thought about my English major, my career, and the careers of others quite a bit. Today’s English majors have strong critical thinking, research, and writing skills. They also possess a thoughtful approach to human interactions. These are all important skills in today’s working world.
If an English major is unsure about the future, he or she should use these skills to research potential careers, to talk with individuals in those careers, and to make smart decisions based on the available information. Bring along a willingness to try new things and a determination to always grow.
At the same time, don’t be afraid to be practical. An empty resume is never persuasive. An opportunity may not be ideal, but it could help build the place you want to be.
Remember, you can connect with Sean Southern on LinkedIn.