I recently read an article on brazencareerist.com about a woman who had spent nearly five years at a high-powered top law firm and made a gigantic career change after realizing that she was absolutely miserable. She was making a glittering six figures, had a fancy office and her own legal secretary. Instead of continuing to wallow in her misery, she went back to school at Cornell University and earned another degree in Human Resource Management, dabbled at Goldman Sachs and ended up running her own business as a .CO domain master where she remains today–doing what she can confidently say she loves without ifs, ands or buts. I was fascinated by her ability to take life by the horns, realize she was unhappy and do something about it. Most people never do anything to attempt to find their true passions. They stay at the job they despise because they are attempting to live up to someone else’s standards, or they have convinced themselves that if they do anything less than what they’re doing now that means they’ve failed, or for a litany of other reasons. What an awful streamline of thinking. The author of the article, Lori Ann Wardi, also listed a string of helpful and liberating advice. My favorites were: “open your heart” and “tune out the naysayers.” It’s easy to get caught up in what “you’re supposed to be,” and it’s easy to let what others think of you dictate your career moves, but both of these statements should be the furthest from your mind.
I’m still discovering and uncovering and exploring who I want to be and what speaks to my heart. In a time when the economy is less than stellar it’s becoming more and more difficult to really land a position in a niche that encompasses all of one’s passions. I for one didn’t have a clue where my first job would be. I had applied for so many jobs out of desperation without fully listening to who I was and what my interests were. My main concern was that I needed to start gaining experience soon, and I was willing to do it anywhere legal-related–there are tons of pros and cons to this way of thinking though. Beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose. However, I do recommend fully analyzing and researching a job to the best of your ability to ensure a position is somewhat in-line with where you might see yourself. Even then, it’s okay not to know what you want to do right away and explore. Even after bouncing around in the working world for years, I still know people who are still discovering their true passions. I understand that monetary concerns and panic can play a large role in one’s job choices, but if unhappiness is a serious issue, there is no reason not to at least keep options open.
“What if instead of how much money we could make in life, we tried to see how little money we could be happy with?”
Throughout my life I’ve learned a lot about myself as a person. Sometimes I learn something new about myself that I’ve either realized but denied in the past or realized but suppressed to please someone else or someone’s else’s expectations of me. That’s so odd for me to say because my parents have always encouraged me to be what I wanted to be, to never stop learning, and to always go after what I was passionate about. I grew up in a family that never had a lot of money, but my childhood was happy. I want to enjoy life, sure, but I will never let money dictate my career path entirely. With that being said, I went to law school, not for the earning potential, but for the transferable skills, the curiosity I had of the law, the intersection of law with a variety of other paths, and, mostly, the impact I’d have on others’ lives. I never wanted to go into big law, and I never cared for litigation (I still remember delivering my first graded oral argument to this day, and it is not a pretty thought). I’ve also realized that my love of writing and researching has only increased with time. It’s what I’m good at. Law school allowed me to further develop sound critical thinking skills, and I can scour hundreds of pages of documents and deliver my well-thought out analysis of defensive claims within a short period of time. The partners at my firm know they can come to me with research projects or drafting assignments because they know I can handle it. In an area of law that I’m not entirely proficient in yet, that is such a humbling feeling.
On the other end of the spectrum, my heart is still in serving the public. There’s not a feeling in the world that can quite match the feeling I get when I’ve made a profound impact on someone’s life or am working for the greater good of my community. It’s what drew me to journalism, it’s what drew me to law, and it is what will continue to fuel the fire in my heart.
Life is anything but easy, but if something doesn’t quite feel right in your life I encourage you to listen to your heart, to take a chance, to experience new experiences and new people–you might be incredibly surprised. As Lori Ann Wardi said in her article, “your life and career are going to be filled with mistakes and failures. Don’t get hung up on them. After all, it’s the collection of your experiences—especially the hard knocks—that make you uniquely you.”