“I’m a lawyer in a firm but I’m unhappy. I’m not really sure if I want to continue here or even in law. My family tells me I can make good money. Sometimes I feel I am a quitter for wanting to consider doing something else. I feel very confused. What can I do?” – Muriel, a frustrated lawyer.
Muriel, I once coached an anesthesiologist who also was unhappy in her chosen field. She went into medicine because of her father. Here’s what I told her to do before “throwing in the towel” and making a radical career change.
1. Separate the good from the bad in your current career.
So Muriel, what elements of law do you enjoy? What don’t you enjoy? Think back to when you were really excited – perhaps it was in law school or your first job or whenever. Now make a list of what you were doing. Was it the research, the client interaction, the courtroom, the writing of briefs, etc?
2. Then narrow down what is making you unhappy or frustrated.
Is it the kind of law you’re practicing? Is it work you’re doing – types of clientele or the cases? Is it the culture of the law firm? Is it life / work balance – too many hours spent in the office and not enough for other things important to you?
3. Take a hard look at your profession and perhaps others.
Putting aside everyone else’s opinions about the money, the education, the prestige, etc, are you still excited about the profession of law? If yes, what aspects of the profession? If not, what do you feel disenchanted about it? Can you diversify into other professions using your law background?
4. Finally, look at all your options.
If you want to stay in the legal profession, what other areas would be a better fit? If you enjoy the law firm, but it’s the work you’re doing, what how can you change you job to make it more amenable? If you find you don’t fit the firm’s culture (too hectic, too cut throat or too bureaucratic), then what other firms could be a better fit? What else do you currently do outside of work that you enjoy? Do you have any interests or hobbies that you could consider pursuing as a new career path?
So what did the anesthesiologist do? Perhaps you can learn from her experience. At the time of the coaching she was taking a course in mediation. She realized that she liked the analysis of conflict situations and then working with the parties to come to an agreement. She did not want to leave the medical profession entirely so she got involved in arbitration within a health insurance company. She’s utilizing her medical background in a new way and is much more satisfied with her career.
Readers, how have you dealt with unhappiness or frustrations in your career?
Career Success Tip
Don’t jump from the frying pan into the fire. Take time to assess your goals, your skills and interests, your options and most important the cultural fit before moving to another job, another company or another profession. Career change is a big decision.
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- Copyright © 2011 Marcia Zidle career and leadership coach.