Your Job, Your Career, or You: When to Quit Your Career

hate job or hate careerWhen should you quit your career? How do you know when you’ve chosen the wrong one? How long should you give yourself before you quit — and how many jobs should you try in that career? Reader F has SUCH a great question about this:

Question for you: how do you know if you hate your particular JOB or hate your whole CAREER? I’m a first year associate in (the biggest of) big law, and I know it was supposed to be hard — I knew I was going to bill 200 hours a month coming into this! — but I think my position might be particularly hard because of people I work for. How do I know the difference between a challenging environment (and maybe should switch jobs) or a terrible career choice (and maybe should switch careers)? At what point do you throw in the towel and say, “It’s not them, it’s me”?

I can’t wait to hear what readers say here because I think this is something a LOT of people — particularly entry-level BigLaw lawyers — struggle with. We’ve talked about changing careers before (the pros and cons of different careers, as well as my own experience in career changes. While I had yet to find my fit in the law before I decided to focus on this blog, many of our readers are happy lawyers, and hopefully they’ll have some great advice for Reader F. For what it’s worth, though, here’s my take:

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Career Hiccups

career-hiccupsI’ve gotten a few requests lately to address “career hiccups” — how to deal with failing the bar, being awkward with coworkers, making a huge mistake — and I think this is a great question. So: let’s discuss.

For my $.02, I think that YOU are the biggest hurdle to get over after a career hiccup. You can say the right thing in the moment and after the fact, and coworkers either accept you or they don’t — but until you forgive yourself you’ll never be at the top of your game again. I remember a time in my career when I started a list of all the screw-ups I’d made, slight or otherwise. As in, an Excel spreadsheet (because that’s how I roll). And you can sit there and say, objectively, “Kat, that is crazy,” but in the moment it made perfect sense to me. Let’s remember everything I ever did wrong, in a sort-able chart! (Let’s just say this idea didn’t work out for the best.)

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When Fear and Low Self-Esteem Hold You Back

low self esteem and self confidenceWhat should you do when mental health issues are holding you back and making it difficult for you to build the career you want? Reader O wonders…

I have struggled with mental health problems for years and as a result have always worked really terrible jobs (combination of poorly paid, admin/dogsbody type roles with bullying managers). I know it’s a combination of fear and rock bottom self esteem that’s the problem. I am in my early twenties and have luckily never been unemployed but I’ve never liked any of the jobs I’ve had. I am planning on going back to university for a masters degree soon with the hope of working in either journal publishing or widening participation but how can I make sure, once I’ve graduated (again), that I don’t keep going for bad jobs? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I’m so sorry to hear that, O. We’ve talked a bit about imposter syndrome, as well as discussing the book The Confidence Code, and I would encourage you to read both of those posts. I have a few thoughts for you, but I can’t wait to see what the readers say.

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What To Do When You’re Overqualified

What to Do When You're Overqualified For Your Job | CorporetteHave you ever taken a job for which you’re overqualified?  Reader C recently took a step back from her career in order to spend more time with her family, and while she likes the money and hours, she isn’t thrilled with the level of daily challenge:

I’m a midcareer professional taking a step back into a new company. I made this choice to spend more time with my family and because the pay is great. However, I miscalculated how much of a step back it was and I want to position myself for rapid advancement within the co. to a level more consistent with my capabilities by trying to highlight my strengths and experience. I find myself handling many clerical level tasks due lack of staff to delegate to and I’m often complimented on very mundane activities (“nice job organizing that meeting!”) which happen to be much more visible than my strategic responsibilities and I don’t know how to respond. I want to acknowledge the compliment but also make clear that work of that nature doesn’t reflect my full role or potential. Jokes like “you should see what I’m really capable of” are vague, not always appropriate and wear thin quickly. Any recommendations for responding to these specific comments and for positioning for future advancement?

Hmmmn.  I’m curious to hear what readers say here.  You say the pay is great, and it sounds like the work/life juggle is in alignment — so what you want is more challenging work for the hours you’re there.  A few things to ask yourself:

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Battling Burnout

Burn Out, originally uploaded to Flickr by mikecogh.Are you feeling burned out by your career — even if you’ve only been at it for a few years? A month or so ago a reader sent me a link to this article on career burnout for the under 30 set, and it seemed to generate a lot of discussion on Twitter/Facebook — and my link last Friday to the Men’s Health article on how to recognize and cure career fatigue (including some, er, interesting advice, such as “get laid more”) seemed to generate even more discussion. So let’s talk about this — have you felt burned out? What have you done to correct the issue, if anything? We’ve talked about this a bit before in my post about how I got my own groove back after feeling out of sync with my career and life, but let’s discuss more today. (Pictured: Burn Out, originally uploaded to Flickr by mikecogh.)

If your career exhausts you, here are some of my top tips to help start the journey back from burnout… [Read more…]

How Your Career Affects Your Happiness (or: Are There Any Happy Lawyers?)

Rainbow Valley, originally uploaded to Flickr by rwangsa.Reader C wonders who the happy lawyers are… but I think this leads us to a bigger question that will hopefully make for an interesting discussion: how do you view your career in your general quest for happiness?

Hi Kat, I have a question for you and your incredible readers. I am an undergrad applying to law schools now for next fall and I do recognize the oft-quoted “realities” (from friends of family, professors, etc) of being a lawyer- mountains of dense reading, long (sometimes extremely so) hours, getting stuck in a job you hate just to pay of the $200k of student loans your education cost you. I sort of stumbled onto the idea of law, I wasn’t one of those who dreamed my whole life of putting away the bad guys or anything; I randomly found it through a class but I have never been more in love with a subject. I am an avid Corporette reader, but the things I read in the comments section of many posts terrify me and leave me to ask, rather desperately: Is anyone happy being a lawyer? I know everyone is different, had a different idea of “the dream lawyering job,” reacts differently to stress, etc. but if there is anyone out there who loves being a lawyer, it would be a huge comfort to hear about it!

First off: apologies to the non-lawyer/JD students among Corporette readers; hopefully our discussion will take us to greater truths about happiness and your career.  That said… reader C’s question is a great, great question, and I think the readers will give far better answers than I will considering that I never really found my happy sweet spot in the law, personally. Something I’ve heard often, and agree with wholeheartedly, is that there are two kinds of people: those who enjoy law school, and those who enjoy the practice of law. I am totally in the first camp of people — I loved law school, which I found to be filled with ethereal questions that you can ponder at your leisure and come to your own conclusion. There are clear paths to “success,” and good work is tangibly rewarded with grades and other honors. (Pictured: Rainbow Valley, originally uploaded to Flickr by rwangsa.) [Read more…]