6 Ways To Make A Career Change Less Difficult - Legally Bold

6 Ways To Make A Career Change Less Difficult

6 Ways To Make A Legal Career Change Less Difficult

One of the most often cited reasons for attending law school is this:  

I didn’t know what to do after college, but I had good grades and didn’t like math.  Law school seemed like the best solution.

Ahhh…young decision-making. So thorough, right?

In any event, once the thrill of getting through law school, passing the bar, and landing a job wears off, many attorneys are left taking a good hard look at their career. Do they really like being lawyers or are they just smart liberal arts kids who liked getting good grades and didn’t know what else to do after college? 

If you fall in the second category, recognizing that you were excited by the thrill of achievement rather than the profession can be jarring because:  a) you’re not exactly sure what you want to do next, and b) you don’t know if you have the skills necessary to do what you want to do next.  

To help alleviate that feeling, here are 6 ways to make figuring out what’s next less difficult.

Stop Trying To Fit A Round Peg Into A Square Hole

When you become an attorney, you gain a sense of prestige and status. It’s the little gift attached to the esq. that you get to write after your name. You can instantly impress anyone by telling them you are an attorney. People seem to treat you with a little more respect. And when there is a political discussion, your opinion matters more than most.

Whether you want to admit it or not, that feeling of status and prestige can be intoxicating and a bit of a challenge to give up. You worked hard to become an attorney, shouldn’t you get to enjoy it a little? The only problem with that line of thinking is that you hate the job that gives you those feelings. Believe it or not, it is entirely possible to find a career that makes you feel good and is work that you’ll enjoy.

The first step – stop trying to fit into a career you hate. Admit to yourself that your job no longer serves you and start the process of a career change.

Be Ok With Being A Late Bloomer

Many lawyers stick with the profession instead of making a career change because they think it’s too late.  They feel like they’ve already invested all of this time and money into the legal profession and changing mid-career is an uphill battle they are too old to fight.  

I would agree that changing careers in your 30s and 40s was too late in the 1940s. The average life expectancy was only 62.9 years old back then. So if you were a 45-year-old lawyer in 1942 and you hated your career, odds are you could just ride it out until retirement in 5 years. But that’s not the case today. People are living longer, healthier lives well into their 80s and 90s. That means there is enough time to have 1, 2, or 3 viable careers within a lifetime. It also says that sticking with a job you hate for any period is unnecessary. Time is on your side. Make the change.

You Actually Don’t Have A Money Problem

Two years ago, I was in my doctor’s office discussing my need to take a sabbatical from work (more on that here). I resisted the notion of taking a break because I thought I couldn’t afford it. I was paying all of my bills, but I didn’t believe that my coffers were full enough to take a leave from work for any period of time.

I kept telling my therapist, “if I stop working, I’ll be homeless.”  My doctor challenged me on this.

She prodded,

“Aren’t you paying your bills? Don’t you have a bit of money saved for retirement that you could use if you needed too? Can’t you call your student loan company and ask them to suspend payment if you stop working for a while? Don’t you have family that you can borrow from or live with if you need to do so? Most importantly, if you really needed to go back to work, couldn’t you find a job within a couple of months?”  

When I answered yes to all those questions, my therapist let me in on the secret – I didn’t have a money problem. And for the first time in my life, I understood why that was true. Even though the financial options she mentioned weren’t ideal, I didn’t have a money problem because I had options. When you have a money problem, you have no options. 

It’s likely that you, reading this from your iPhone, do not have a money problem either.  A money problem is when you don’t know how you will feed, clothe, or shelter yourself in the immediate future, and you have no prospects of figuring that out. A money problem means that there are no alternatives. For most of us, even if we left our jobs today with nothing, we wouldn’t fall into that category. Sure we might have to sell some of our things, dip into our 401ks, or move in with family, but we wouldn’t go hungry.  So if you are forestalling your career change because you think you can’t afford it, think again.

Be Grateful that You Have Skills AND Accept That You May Have to Learn New Ones

Like most professions, the legal career requires a particular set of skills including critical reading, problem-solving, and analytical thinking. At work, you use these skills in precise ways for your clients. So when you try to make a career change and describe your skills in a way that fits the requirements of non-legal jobs, you can find yourself at a loss for words.  

The truth is that while you’ve been fine-tuning your legal skills, professionals in non-legal areas have been building a very specific set of skills too. So if you are looking to compete with those professionals, you are going to have to learn some new things. This may mean taking a class or two, learning via a part-time internship, or offering up your services as a side-hustle. But rest assured. Your legal skills won’t go to waste. No matter how you slice it, a legal education gives you insight into any position that all employers will find valuable.

Resolve to Go Through The Process

If the only thing you know is that you’d rather be doing a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g but your current job, it’s going to take you some time to figure out what you want to do next. That process involves figuring out your strengths, resources, personality, and traits to figure out what makes you unique in this world. Then you use that insight to try on different careers that interest you. In other words, if you really want to make a change it’s going to take some time. Nevertheless, if you trust the process, it will lead you where you want to go.

Create Time For a Career Change

As lawyers, we always feel like we never have enough time to do anything. There are barely enough hours in the day to complete our client work, eat, and sleep. So the idea that you need to devote more time to figure out your next career change can make you want to lie down and take a nap.

However, creating more time for yourself isn’t about getting less sleep. It’s about establishing boundaries and saying no. Choose a couple of days out of your week and decide that you are going to leave the office an hour earlier or that you are going to take a long lunch. Use that time to reflect, do some self-assessment, and try on new careers.  Once you have the time to reflect, you’ll gain clarity and insight into your next moves.

The key here is consistency.  If you truly want a change, you must stick to your decision and say no if anyone tries to invade those boundaries.

Got any thoughts or questions about your own career change?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. We can figure it out together.