Don’t be afraid to ask contacts for job leads, resume critiques or interviewing tips, says Kathleen D. Wilkinson, Esquire, chancellor of the 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association, partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP and advisory council member of the Pennsylvania Conference for Women. Read on for more advice shared in our Q&A.
Q: How did your professional career begin and how did you end up where you are today?
A: I graduated Villanova Law School in 1981, worked at Krusen Evans and Byrne for three years, and then joined Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman and Dicker. I am an equity partner and handle complex litigation. My clients include businesses, commercial entities, insurers and individuals. I also am the chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, the oldest association of lawyers in the US, with over 13,000 members. I am only the 6th woman to serve as chancellor in 211 years. I also serve on numerous boards and am involved in constant networking.
Q: Can you name a leader for whom you have great respect and tell us why?
A: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor served as the first woman justice of the US Supreme Court. As the first woman justice she was a trailblazer and role model to countless women lawyers. She was appointed the year I graduated law school. As chancellor, I invited Justice O’Connor to speak before 800 lawyers at our June quarterly meeting. Since retiring from the bench, Justice O’Connor has also spoken on many topics, including merit selection of judges and creating an advancing civics program for elementary school students. Justice O’Connor also has written many books about the law.
Also, Hillary Clinton. She served as first lady and secretary of state with dignity and poise. I also respect her because she is a lawyer, used her legal skills to the fullest, held prominent positions, and got involved in the American Bar Association, all while raising a daughter and supporting her very busy husband.
Q: As a leader in your company, what is the best piece of advice you would offer to a new employee to help them succeed?
A: Always aspire to work your hardest and never give up. Keep your sense of humor and stay calm at all times.
Q: What would you say has been your driving force in your staying power in a male-dominated industry?
A: My father taught me a woman can do anything a man can do. I do not give up and will find creative solutions to every challenge.
Q: What are your top three tips for a woman who is ready to make her next career move?
A: Network with people who can help you take that move. Get advice on potential job leads, your resume, and interviewing skills. Be prepared to have an open mind as to that next move.
Q: What is the one thing you make time for in your daily life that helps keeps you refreshed and positive?
A: I have a sense of humor and use it to diffuse situations. However, I need down time everyday. I make time to get to the beach and bring my reading there as much as possible. I avoid distractions and am willing to let things play out.