While I was giving a talk last week, an audience member asked a great question. “I’m not sure I want to leave my job,” she said, “but I’m not sure I can make a change, either. I’m tired. What do you recommend to people who don’t have as much energy as you do?” It’s sad but true that I get so excited talking about post-law careers that I often forget how draining it can feel to come home at the end of a long day of doing something you dislike.
No matter how little time or energy you have, there are several ways to take baby steps – small yet actually productive – toward a possible career change. As an ex-lawyer, I feel the need to categorize them:
- The Daily Question.
- The Minor Adjustment.
- The Perfect Work.
The Daily Question: Sometimes, asking yourself a single question on a regular basis can help spark ideas that lead to your next great career. Mary-Alice Brady, an ex-lawyer turned award-winning entrepreneur, found it helpful to answer this question at the end of every day: “What did I enjoy today and what was a challenge to me?” A career coach had asked her to keep track of her answers. You don’t need a career coach, however, to see progress from your answers to that question over time. You just need a notebook.
The Minor Adjustment: Is there some relatively small change you could make that might lead to a big difference in your job satisfaction? Susannah Baruch, for example, switched from policymaking to policy consulting. Becoming a consultant allowed her to keep her substantive focus on a field she loves – reproductive health policy – and get a more flexible schedule, allowing her more time with her sons.
The Perfect Work: Take a moment to think about the following question. If you could design your perfect job, what would it look like? What kind of things would you do? What kind of people would you work with? Where would you work? What kinds of matters would you work on? Creating a crazily idealistic job description might not be so crazy after all. In fact, sketching out your dream job may help give you some new ideas about your next steps. Dreaming is the precursor to doing.
What other baby steps are you taking? What small moves might help you find work that fits you better?