You Can Always Start Over

The scales of justice

It’s always interesting for me to talk with people about their jobs (or the jobs they hope to have one day if they are still in school) because the views on work are so wide-ranging depending on the individual.  One common theme that I always seem to come across is a sense of trepidation about finding just the right career.  I can certainly understand why.  I was utterly focused from my senior year of high school on that I wanted to be a lawyer.  Nothing could possibly dissuade me from that mission and, truthfully, no one really tried to anyway.  Why would they?  Despite all the jokes to the contrary, being an attorney is widely viewed as a very respectable career choice, so it was all systems go.

Well, it took me less than a year of actual law practice for me to realize I simply hated it… and that’s a pretty ugly feeling when you’ve spent the previous 8 years studying and preparing for that role.  Now what?

I think a lot of people fall into that same fear – what if I don’t like it?  What if I put in all that time, effort and money to pursue this career and it just doesn’t work out?  Believe me… I understand that trepidation and sense of caution.  Ohhhhh how I understand, gentle reader!

What got me thinking over all of this was an interesting piece at MSNBC about high profile career changers.  It’s actually quite the list and for a number of them, I never knew they started off doing something else beyond what they are so known for now.

What’s just so striking to me about the list?  The number of them who started off as lawyers and moved onto something completely different.

I suppose that really shouldn’t be all that striking to me after all.  While there is still a certain amount of glamour and sexiness to being an attorney, I can hardly count the number of conversations I’ve had with friends of mine from law school or just in the legal profession at large who talk a lot about how they wish they could get out.

From the billable hour pressures to the often soul-crushing nature of certain kinds of legal work (seriously, some of it is numbingly repetitive) to the cut-throat style of many larger firms, there are a just a lot of lawyers who wish they were something else.  And I don’t blame them one iota.  The worst part for many is they are locked in by the golden handcuffs.  They make an absolutely great salary, but their lifestyle is right up to the edge of what they can afford… and if they want to leave for something different, many cannot afford to do so.  Crazy situation to find yourself in, eh?

It’s obviously not every lawyer and I know a fair number who love what they do and find true meaning to their efforts.  Kudos to them for sure.

However, the point is not just about lawyers… that’s just an easy jumping point for me since that’s my own background.  Heck, I’m not sure I ended up getting completely away from the law given that I work within a corporate legal department now.

The point is that you always, always, ALWAYS have a chance to start anew.  It was really liberating for me when I did and heck, maybe I will again some day.  Even having gone through it before, there is still that scary moment at the edge of the precipice where it looks like a 1,000 foot drop to certain doom… but really?  It’s an illusion.

It’s actually more akin to that moment in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” when Indy has to take a leap of faith step across a yawning chasm… only to realize that there is a bridge there, cleverly hidden to blend in with the canyon below.  It was just a matter of steeling himself to take that step in the first place.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about taking that step is that if you truly need a change… if you really see some other path that utterly calls out to your heart and will not be silenced… the step is scary until you take it.  Once your foot lands, you would be surprised how quickly the ensuing steps will come.

4 Replies to “You Can Always Start Over”

  1. Great blog post! I know those feelings exactly. They were what kept me from pursuing what I really wanted to do. Imagine my delight when I realized I could follow my dream without feeling like I’d completely wasted so much time and money.

  2. Great blog post! I know those feelings exactly. They were what kept me from pursuing what I really wanted to do. Imagine my delight when I realized I could follow my dream without feeling like I’d completely wasted so much time and money.

  3. Spot on. I tried to be very careful on the “golden handcuffs” piece – I always planned my lifestyle with an in-house salary in mind, and saved the rest (too bad a bunch of that got eaten by a down payment on a house at the absolute height of the market (locally)).

    I think a large part of the issue is that a lot of people get in to law without really knowing any lawyers, so they think being a lawyer is like whatever lawyer show happens to be popular on TV while they are in school. There should be a lot more apprenticeships or internships in college…

    It seems like women are more likely to get out of these types of professions (bankers, lawyers, etc.) – or maybe that’s just my view based on an unrepresentative sample that includes only the people I know. We can speculate on why that may be (if it’s true), but I know a lot of guys who are jealous.

    I guess the take-home is maintain flexibility in your lifestyle, try to find out as much as possible about what it’s really like in your dream job, and figure out how to get yourself to the point where you can take that first step.

  4. I love your post and also can relate. Altho not a lawyer I have had several career changes which were quite scary. I find that life pushes you really hard in the direction you are supposed to go in and you are right once you take the first step the rest is easy!

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