Breaking with the law

The trauma of realising you’re in the wrong game can be assuaged by clear thinking. By Rachel Brushfield

Do you love your career? If you do, great. If not, you’re not alone. Many people are looking for more meaning and fulfilment from their work. Today there is much more choice and scope available to young lawyers than for previous generations, and if they are not happy they will vote with their feet. It is estimated that today’s school-leavers will need to reinvent their careers at least seven times in their lives, whereas previous generations may have had a guaranteed job or career for life.

Many people fall into their career almost by chance. They may take the first seat offered to them or be following in the footsteps of their lawyer parents or going for law because a careers adviser at school suggested it when they were 18. But even if you liked law at 18, if you’re now in your 30s it is hardly surprising if it no longer fits. You are a different person now. You may feel the need to reinvent your career just as your likes and dislikes have been reinvented since you were a teenager.

So what makes people review their job or career in law? The factors include: feeling overworked; a glass ceiling existing at your firm; having kids and being a working mum with new and different priorities; experiencing a ‘values clash’ when your personal values are at odds with the values of your firm; or the law as a profession is just not feeling right for you any more, coupled with a desire to downshift and have a better work-life balance.

Some common fears and beliefs about changing your firm or escaping from law altogether are as follows: you’ll have to start at the bottom of the ladder; you’ll lose things that are important to you such as being known, status and money; you think that you’ll make a mistake and regret your decision; you believe it’s too late to change your career; you think it’s impossible to earn good money doing something that you love; you’re too old to change – the ‘can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ mentality; you lack confidence in your ability and hold on to what you have for dear life; security is very important to you and you mistakenly believe that you have a job for life at your current firm; it’s ages since you moved jobs and you feel rusty, so you do nothing; you hate marketing and/or networking and think this will hold you back.

The following 10 questions may help you to start to review your next career move:

1. What do you want from your next career move/change?
2. Who are the people who you want to influence, ie who are your target audiences?
3. What’s really important to you in life?
4. What are your skills?
5. What are your personal qualities?
6. What are your unique talents?
7. What sums up what makes you different to your competitors – your unique selling point (USP)?
8. What are the needs and problems of your target audiences?
9. How can you help solve the problems of your target audiences using your skills, personal qualities and unique talents?
10. How can you express your USP consistently and forcefully in an interview?

It makes sense to seek help when making a job or career change, and the first place to start is with yourself.

Rachel Brushfield is director of career coaching and reinvention at Energise