Judge Sonia SotomayorWhen it comes to choosing a career, some people begin to narrow down their options early. As a girl, Sonia Sotomayor wanted to be a detective, like her favorite fictional heroine, Nancy Drew.

In her memoir, she reveals that she was convinced she would make a great detective, because her mind worked like Nancy’s. She realized:

“I was a keen observer and listener. I picked up on clues. I figured things out logically and I enjoyed puzzles. I loved the clear, focused feeling that came when I concentrated on solving a problem and everything else faded out.”

After learning that diabetics weren’t allowed to become police officers, she realized she wouldn’t be following in Nancy Drew’s footsteps.

From watching Perry Mason on TV, she became enamored with the idea of becoming a lawyer or judge. The world of law revealed in each episode reminded Sotomayor of the puzzles she enjoyed. It was a “complex game with its own rules, and one that intersected with grand themes of right and wrong.”

We know how this story plays out. Sotomayor worked hard, went to law school, practiced international law, made partner, and then became a judge. Since 2009, she has served on the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor’s approach is instructive. If you’re interested in a career, it helps to search for clues. How do the minds of people who excel in that job work?  Is it rational, linear thinking? Or intuitive leaps?

Next, consider how your own mind works. What kind of thinking are you drawn to most? Have you begun to display an ability to think that way? Questions like these can help you find work that fits you best.

It worked for Justice Sotomayor. Her first day at court as a new federal judge in 1992, she told a friend, “I think this fish has found her pond.”

Source: Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World.