The end of summer looms ever closer. And maybe also a deadline you’ve created to get the hell out of law by Labor Day, the end of summer, September, whatever.
So how is your alternative legal career job search going? Have you done lots of informational interviews, created a master resume with your legal experience recast in business lingo, diligently scoured the online legal ads? Networked like a mad thing, since summer is the perfect time to ask old friends out for a drink? Yeah, I thought not. And I’ll bet you think you’re lazy if you haven’t done all of that and more, right?
Here’s the really hard truth about laziness: It doesn’t exist. It’s a cover for scared. Shit scared to the point of paralysis, with a fat layer of “I’m OK, in fact I’m having fun!” deception slathered on top. It fools a lot of people.
The Laziness Myth, Explained
Clients often tell me that they’re lazy. I have to try very hard not to laugh hysterically when they say it. (Sometimes I’m even successful.) Because really, you worked hard enough to get into a decent college, did well enough there to get into law school, then got through law school, then studied hard enough to pass the bar, then worked crazy law firms hours—and I’m supposed to believe you’re lazy because you “only” billed 1950 last year and haven’t set up 25 lunches/coffees/drinks to network? Uh-huh.
But I have to be careful here to not equate industriousness with the actual work that will get you past the scared paralysis of lazy. As I’ve mentioned before, simply scouring the legal want ads and sending out lots of resumes isn’t the cure for your glacial career search momentum. If you want momentum, you first have to know where you truly want to go.
Knowing their destination is the stumbling block for most of my clients. Because really acknowledging and honoring what you truly want to do might mean some very big changes for you and those around you. Instinctively, you know that, and it scares you straight into paralysis. And then you beat yourself up for being lazy.
You might, for example, be afraid you will have to step out of your comfort zone of doing what’s expected and societally approved. You might fear having to give up the set, rigid career path of law and instead create your own—which means risking failure, then having to pick up and move on anyway. You might be terrified of taking real responsibility for your happiness, rather than having the convenient whipping post of the toxic legal culture to blame for your misery.
Crap, It Sounds Hard
All of those things sound like a lot of work—because they are. From one vantage point, it is a lot easier to chase after a job that sounds OK, and at least less miserable than what you’re doing now. And there’s a decent chance that landing that job will result in a less acute misery. For a while. You might even get very lucky and find something by accident that you are perfectly suited for. I hope you do, actually.
Let’s say you take that bearable job as your career goal, rather than either seeking out your dream job, or using the bearable job as a conscious stepping stone to the dream job. Most likely, taking the bearable job means that in a couple years (or far less), you’ll be pretty unhappy at work again.
When you’re not happy after leaving law, trust me, you’ll think
- that you’re a failure,
- that you aren’t meant to work a real job, or
- that there isn’t any place in the work world you can feel at home.
Yet those aren’t the problem, they’re just your lizard ranting. The problem is that you didn’t do the difficult, but incredibly worthwhile, work of figuring out what you’re really meant to do on this earth.
So while you’re on vacation or taking Labor Day off (I really hope at least one applies), or you’re taking a short walk around the block or are sweating at the gym, detach from your headphones and ponder what you’re here to do.
What Batshit Crazy Thing Do You Secretly Long To Do?
Don’t make anything off limits. It’s usually more helpful to think about activity types than a job title. For example (just to get you started):
- helping at-risk youth,
- working with the elderly,
- creating art,
- training dogs,
- leading people to wisdom,
- playing with words,
- making people laugh,
- developing strategies for solving big problems, or
- making the workplace more humane.
Teaching, for example, could mean a pre-K teacher, corporate trainer, fundraiser, outreach director, law school professor, or a host of other things. Don’t reject an activity out-of-hand because you’re convinced that a particular job title for it won’t work for you. That’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Once you know the activities or the type of work, then see if you don’t feel more energized about your search. If you don’t, then drop me a line. I’ll help you start piecing it together.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who has taken a few excursions on the lazy train, but now manages to disembark much more quickly than she used to. If you would like help finding your way off the lazy train and into a fired-up alternative legal career search, email Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Discounted sample sessions are available to test whether coaching can help you get off the lazy train.