Bill Wilson spent over 20 years in legal departments at corporations large and small, from high tech to brick and mortar, and is writing about various topics while trying to find that next great career opportunity.
Fired. Laid-off. Quit. Whichever verb got you where you are today, I suggest you celebrate. No, I am not crazy. I am simply going to encourage you to seize the “opportunity” to take a look at the world in ways you would not have tried if you weren’t unemployed.
I was a “selective” eater growing up. My preferred menu was quite limited, though tasty, or so I thought. Then I got married. My wife opened my palate up to some exquisite options, and traveling did its part. As I look back on my fussiness regarding food, how many great meals did it keep me from? The same thing can be true of our careers. We get slotted, too focused on our chosen path to be open to the incredible possibilities on every side. When we were at the front end of this path, it no doubt held all sorts of attractions. Now that we have walked it for a while, we are beginning to see that the destination may not be all that we had hoped.
Sometimes we change – what was important to us once is no longer. Now you have a family and a mortgage. Sometimes our environment changes – when you moved here, it was a great place to live, but now the development and traffic make it miserable more often than wonderful. Occasionally the thing itself changes – practically no one will disagree that the practice of law is undergoing some cosmic changes, some very good, some very, very bad, and probably more are on the way. In any case, your current circumstances may not be what you signed up for.
So now’s the time to reassess. If after following the advice below, you feel the law is still the place for you, even with everything that’s changing, great. On the other hand, if the reality of legal practice no longer seems as inviting, necessity makes this moment the ideal time to change.
Explore what your life would be like as a (fill in blank here). Talk to your college roommate who is a doctor/accountant/music therapist/hot dog vendor/Peace Corps volunteer. Why are they happy/unhappy? Ask them what they wish they were doing. Take a very focused, objective view of your finances. Can you live with less? Do you have to have more? While money is indeed the root of most, if not all evil, try going without “enough,” whatever that is.
And as part of this process, be very bold. Now is not the time for myopia. Go a little crazy in imagining yourself in new places/jobs/circumstances. Make a concerted effort to step outside of your comfort zone and visualize yourself doing X. Don’t let obstacles interfere with the process; focus on the outcome, let the “how” come later. Good brainstorming doesn’t reject ideas because they’re hard or unlikely. The good news to some extent resulting from the current recession is that it has become necessary for a lot of people to re-invent. There are more available resources to help. Once you decide what seems to be the direction with the greatest promise for you, delve into the details. Plan the journey. Perform some reality checks. Imagine the worst. Remember there are few guarantees. Then if it still seems like the thing to do, with apologies to Nike, just do it.
If insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results, staying in your current career may not be your ticket to a great life.