Career Plans: If, Why, How

Career Plans: If, Why, How | CorporetteShould you have a career plan at all? Why? How should you go about creating a career plan? We’ve talked about how to change careers, and even tried to collect people’s 5-year career goals, but we haven’t really talked about HOW to plan your career, and I’m curious to hear what readers say.

For my $.02: I’ve read a lot AGAINST career plans over the years (see, e.g., HBR and Forbes) — everyone suggests you favor serendipity, having an open mind, letting opportunities present themselves to you. But I was thinking the other day about “Lean In,” and how difficult it can really be to “lean in” when you’re in tumultuous life years, such as the pregnancy years — hoping/planning on getting pregnant, dealing with pregnancy exhaustion, figuring out life with a newborn, and then possibly doing it all again if you want multiple kids… and I realized how helpful a career plan might be, just to drive yourself forward over those few years (at least).

I’ve done a bit of Googling on the topic this morning, and I haven’t seen any advice better than what I’ve used for business advice for myself (which I no longer remember where I read it!). The advice was to have (in writing!) one short-term goal, one medium-term goal, and one long-term goal, and then reassess as you accomplish the goals. The goals could be numbers focused — make X salary, get Y revenue — or a skill or accolade to acquire, or some other metric (negotiate a deal, take a deposition, etc). Sheryl Sandberg herself recommended something similar in Lean In when she described doing a regular 18-month assessment on herself, resulting in her recognizing and filling gaps in her own experience such as negotiating a deal from soup to nuts.

So here are the questions: readers, do you say yea or nay to career plans?  Why do you feel that way?  For those of you who DO have career plans, how did you go about creating them? What time frame did you seek to plan? (To the mamas in the group: do you think career plans are extra-helpful during the pregnancy years? Beyond? Or that they’re even more worthless when you’re in that time period? To other people who’ve had tumultuous life years for whatever reason — do you think career plans were helpful or worthless?)

(Pictured: 5/4/2010: To-Do List, originally uploaded to Flickr by john.schultz.)career plans



  1. new york associate :

    Question about Lean In – seems to me that the whole point about Lean In is to lean in BEFORE you have kids on the assumption that once you have kids, you can then lean out a little bit to manage the kid care. But what does Sandberg actually say about what you should do when you’re in the midst of those early-childhood years? (Perhaps I should just read the book.)

    • She says you should continue to “lean in” while raising your kids, but force your partner to pick up some of the kid slack, and not feel bad about adjusting your schedule for your kids to make it home in time to have dinner with your kids. Harder said than done, but I think her point is that it can be done.

    • Killer Kitten Heels :

      I read the book a while ago now, so I may be misstating this somewhat, but my impression was that she was pretty opaque about her own specific circumstances on this point (likely because she and her husband had financial resources for the type/quality/volume of childcare and other domestic assistance that the average couple can only dream of).

      What she describes, in a general way, sounds more like leaning sideways than out – working full-time/full force, but on a different schedule (i.e. having H handle daycare drop-off and working 6am-6pm instead of the 8-8 you worked before kids) and/or working with more flexibility (one of the examples she gives, if memory serves, is leaving “early” for daily dinners, and then working from home in the later evening hours once the evening-kid-rush was over).

      • Diana Barry :

        Yup. I think she didn’t address it straight out because her child care is NOT the same as the rest of us mere mortals. :) And leaving early for dinner probably didn’t include going home and making it herself while her kids were hanging on her legs.

        • Coach Laura :

          Ha – hanging on her legs. DB, you made me laugh. I remember having one hanging on my legs and the other in a front sling while prepping dinner ( not cooking at the stove – just mixing and serving).

    • To add to the prior comments, she does also describe watching her toddler injure himself and then call out for the nanny, not for mom, and acknowledges how much this hurt her. I think at the book’s best, it talks about managing expectations for both your work and your personal life: you’re not going to get perfect results in either.

  2. I tend to agree with the linked sources about the pitfalls of career planning. I think it may make more sense to have “goals” as opposed to plans per se, for the reasons mentioned: the working world is volatile, unpredictable changes will come up, and there are so many factors beyond your control.

    I had some “tumultuous years,” and found that my erstwhile career plan just made me feel even more inadequate at that time. I realized all my plans and goals were contingent on fairly arbitrary things going my way, which (surprise surprise!) they didn’t. It led to a major reorientation, and I no longer have what could be called a plan. I now have goals that could be achieved many different ways, depending on what happens.

    • Anonattorney :

      I agree. I have “plans” in a very broad sense – I’m an associate, and I plan to make partner at my firm. At the same time, I have deadlines for making certain moves, based on my career and job market. For example, in my market it makes the most sense to move firms no later than your 5th year as an associate. If you wait longer than that (voluntarily), then you run into a weird partner track.

      Beyond making partner, I don’t really have any specific long-term career plans. I’m more focused on doing the best work possible, hitting my yearly goals (x numbers of depositions, x dispositive hearings, x articles for litigation journals, etc.), and seeing what comes of that.

    • I am a big time planner and lately I have realized that it does more harm than good.

      A couple years back, all my plans collapsed when my company underwent a major re-org and restructuring. As I worked in a niche area (and was very proud and happy with it), I didn’t have much opportunities to continue working there. I was devastated as I had so many plans and my every move was designed to execute those plans. However my landscape had changed and the plans were meaningless. That experience taught me how unpredictable things can be and how less control you have with your career.

      For some people, plans may work out very well but for many they don’t. The best thing to to take a day at a time and enjoy what you do and do it the best way possible.
      Learn to roll with the punches and have an open mind. This will not devastate you when things go wrong and at the same time will not blind you so much executing the plan that you miss fabulous opportunities both in personal and professional life .

      Now, I just have one goal in my life which is to be happy. Every thing I do should contribute to my happiness. Being flexible has has been the key as it has taken off the tremendous amount of pressure on me. I take every day as it comes and try to see how I can make the best of the hands that are dealt to me. I see what I can do myself to increase my skills, become financially independent, spend more time with my family. I have taken measures to accomplish them. I am no longer stressed about what I will be doing in 20 years or if I have to face a re-org again, or if my promotion gets delayed by a year.

  3. Quick TJ (sorry)

    I received an offer to join a big law firm in a group slightly related to my current practice at a boutique. I have 1.5 years here and a one year federal clerkship. My offer was to be a first year associate. I really like the firm and I’m excited about transitioning to this practice, but should I negotiate to be a second year? More salary? I’ve had no billable work for a few weeks and have received little work since returning from maternity leave, so it’s important that I not do anything to jeopardize this offer. And they previously rescinded an offer to someone else based on his negotiations of the offer. What do I do?

    • Killer Kitten Heels :

      I might ask for their reasoning on the first-year thing, if only because most firms have a general policy of giving credit for a clerkship year (so even clerks who go straight from law school to clerking to the firm, with no other work experience, begin as second years). Maybe check the firm’s website? A number of firms have their clerkship-credit policies posted right in the recruiting section of their website.

      • new york associate :

        Agreed. I’d try to come in as a second-year. Having said that, my experience in BigLaw is that once you’re in, whether you’re a second-year or a third-year doesn’t actually make a difference to anything except your paycheck – and if anything, it can be better to be a more experienced first year because you’ll impress people.

        • Yeah, this. I think you should get credit for the clerkship, but your firm experience probably won’t transfer if it’s not that related. And while it can be disheartening to make less than you feel like you deserve, it’s so so so much better to be the super impressive second year that knows everything rather than the third year that doesn’t have the right kind of experience and is struggling to keep her head above water.

      • Diana Barry :

        +1. At many firms you get paid as a second year but are a first year for other stuff (promotion wise), if you have a clerkship.

        I would email the partner to ask -depending on the firm he/she is probably still looking at email this week even if on vacation.

    • I think if the offer is something that is only slightly related to your current practice, it makes sense that you are losing 1 year.

      • It makes sense and I’m okay because it means I’ll have lower expectations. But the related post is my engineering background, which is in high demand. The part I have no experience in is litigation, which is at least related to my federal clerkship. The hard part is that they need me asap, I want to start asap 3/24 at the latest) but the partner who said to let him know if salary is okay is skiing this week.

        • If he said to let him know if salary is okay, it means you should negotiate.
          You are losing 2.5 years essentially – I would push for no more than 1. In the event that’s a no-go, I’d ask to re-evaluate in September when new class would start. And don’t worry so much about the skiing – they need you to start ASAP, they can find someone to get back to you this week or they can wait.

    • This exact same situation happened to a friend of mine, who made the jump from botique to big law. The bimbo recruiting lady lied to her face and claimed that she could not get credit for her 2 years of clerkship b/c she did not come directly to the firm afterwards. My friend took the position, at the salary offered….only to discover that the three other (white male) laterals that were hired approximately at the same time were given credit for their clerkships. I sometimes think that recuriters run this game on women candidates (and esp women of color) because they figure we won’t push back. You have been at your current firm for 1.5 years – that 75% of the way towards the two year mark, how the hell does the clerkship not make up for 1/2 a year. Please make yourself aware of the clerkship policy, but also feel free to disregard it in your negotiation. You say you were hired out of small law to work in a group only slightly relatd to your former practice? Well, big law doesn’t hire just to be nice. Thre are probably many people with spot on experience that they could have hired, but they chose you b/c there is something about your experience that they value! My advice would be the following: 1)communicate to the recuriting person that you need a week to mull over the offer; 2)write the hiring partner/attornys on the hirning committe somethin to the following “grealty appreciate your offer for employment/really interested in working for you provided that we can resolve my compensation concers/ if their clerkship policy bolsters your cause quote it word for word, if not mention that you are 3/4 of the way to beeing a second year anyways and the clerkship should close that gap/also mention how your specifice experience in the botique firm enhances their practice area, as they may be a little thin on that expertise. Let them be your advocate with HR/recruiting. Remember the HR/recuriting folks get peformane bonusues for getting people on the cheap, in contrast the hiring manager will pay for a good associate as long as your number is in his budget. Good luck!

      • I second the advice of asking to come in as a second year instead of as a first year (I assume Toffee is actually a third year currently, given that she should have come to the boutique as a second year after clerking, and has been there more than a year). Law firm professional development people may say something like, “What’s $10,000 versus having an extra year on partnership track to establish yourself?” IMHO, this is disingenuous. Most firms these days are comfortable pushing a senior associate back a year for partnership for whatever reason needed, so I would not worry about “losing” a year to establish yourself, as long as you’re comfortable with a steep learning curve at the front end. Further, it’s not $10,000. Assuming Big Law salary scale, the CUMULATIVE difference between second year status and first year status is $10,000 in the first year after the bump-back ($170-$160) + $15,000 in the second ($185-170) + $25,000 in the third year ($210-185), etc. It’s basically a total of $100K over 5 years, disregarding differences in bonuses. Quite different from “it’s only $10K.” I came out of a federal clerkship in 2011 when my firm was pressuring people to take first year status (they had deferred my class, so they wouldn’t have any first years if they didn’t get people to drop back). I took second year status and have enjoyed a higher salary and better assignments ever since. No regrets.

    • Law Firm Recruiter :

      It’s fair. You have 1.5 years and just said you haven’t had much work since returning from maternity leave. So you really don’t have 1.5 years of law firm work experience. Clerkship credit was something we all gladly did when we were hiring 100+ summer associates each and every summer. Now that the market has shifted and there are fewer positions available, it’s not as important. Consider the pressure the firm is under by clients to not overcharge for your work. You indicated that you are switching practice areas. Why should a client pay second year bill rates/firm pay second year salary for you to get up to speed in this new practice area? My advice is to accept the offer, ask to have your class assignment reassessed at your first evaluation and do excellent work in the mean time while you get up to speed. New laterals and very junior people are typically reviewed twice per year at my firm.

      To TazDevil – please don’t refer to us as “bimbo recruiting lady”. It’s offensive. Many of us are serious professionals who know more about working in a professional services/law firms than most associates. Some of us are former attorneys. I for one take my position very seriously and have frequently recommended a haircut (i.e., ca cut in class/salary) for lateral associates. Associates are fungible. If you don’t like the offer, we will find someone one who does.

      • Thanks for the advice. They don’t know about the maternity leave or my lack of work. And it’s not entirely unrelated, just somewhat. My experience (patent prosecution) will be used in the new position (IP litigation), just not exactly the same way. Thus and the fact that my background is in demand it’s the only reason I’m considering negotiating. Otherwise, I would appreciate the lower billing rate and lower expectations. So do you think they made this offer without an expectation for negotiation?

        • Sorry for the typos. =)

          • Law Firm Recruiter :

            There’s no harm in asking for an explanation about the class cut and asking them to reconsider. A good recruiting manager should be able to explain it to you. If you’re not certain you can get that level of detail from him/her, contact the partner who made the hiring decision even if he is skiing (I presume he’s checking his email). He could have a very good explanation about why they want to hire at that level (client pressure, correct leverage, broader range of bill rates needed, could have more senior people in a clump a couple years up, hiring freeze at more senior levels, etc.). I tend to take a longer term outlook and would rather have a chance to overwhelm the partners with how good your work is, how quickly you get up to speed, how much you bill/how much they realize on your billings, etc. vs. coming in at a small salary bump with a higher bill rate and possibly underwhelming them. You can negotiate to be re-evaluated re your class year/comp at a mid-year evaluation. I’m assuming that since you’re coming from small law to big law that this will be a big salary bump regardless of class year. The switch from patent prosecution to litigation is a big one and while your underlying pre-legal education/experience is certainly a huge asset in litigation, you’ll still need to get up to speed on general litigation.

            As for making the offer with the expectation of the offeree not negotiating… I can’t say because it wasn’t my offer to extend. I do think some partners will take a negotiation attempt as an insult and might hold it against you later. I personally think that’s petty and wouldn’t want to work for people like that if given other options. Unfortunately it happens. However, this guy invited you to respond by asking you about the salary so I think it’s safe to have a conversation about why they are assigning you to a particular class/comp and to see whether they are willing to revisit those decisions (either right now, or at some point in the near future). I think you can tell that without saying “you need to put me in the second year class” by asking how frequently they make class cuts when hiring, whether they’ve ever reconsidered or re-evaluated (and bumped someone up after a couple months).

          • Thank you for the insight! I feel better about leaning towards not negotiating now. Everyone says always negotiate, but I don’t know that it is necessarily a good idea now.

        • FWIW, patent prosecution is not normally considered relevant to patent litigation and people are not generally credited for that time. If you have zero litigation experience, I think coming in as a first year is what you should expect. As I said above, I don’t think asking for clerkship credit is unreasonable, since that’s often given. But I don’t think you can make an argument that your patent prosecution experience helps. There is technology in both fields but the day to day work of a junior associate is incredibly different.

        • anon atty :

          As a patent litigator at a biglaw firm, I can tell you that patent prosecution has almost nothing to do with patent litigation. Sure, you have some more familiarity with the patent system in general, but if you have only been doing prosecution, you have no litigation experience, which is really what is important at this point. There are tons of patent litigators out there were are very good, are not admitted to the patent bar, and who therefore have no prosecution experience.

          • This is why I’m leaning towards just accepting. But they’re working with a specific technology that needs my background. They’ve tried general litigation associates and ip lit associates with other backgrounds and they struggled. So the only reason I got the job was my engineering speciality. But you’re right, I have little litigation experience outside of law school courses and internships.

            I actually don’t think it’s common to get credit for clerkships these days, at least I didn’t hear of many friends getting credit. So I think that’s a weaker argument.

            Anyway, thanks for the insight, everyone. I’m still thinking it over. I’m just really excited about the opportunity and don’t want the offer rescinded.

          • Anonymous :

            I know many big law firms that still give credit for clerkships, at least in the DC market. I think you should push for one year of experience, between your clerkship that should have provided litigation skills and yout time at the firm. Unless you really intend to stay and mark partner, it means that you are leaving a lot of money on the table.

      • You have my apologies. But as a woman of color, I do not take back my statement that people like you lowball people like me to line your wallet with more money!

        • @Law Firm Recruiter,

          The other half of my message got swallowed up. I am trully sorry that I made the refrence to the “bimbo recruiting lady”, but I gotta wonder why you are not as offended by the blantant sexism and racism that my friend experienced at a top law firm. Oh sorry, I forgot that’s how you get your perfomance bonus RIGHT!!!!!!

  4. Meg Murry :

    I thought I had a career plan. I was sure I was going to be a high powered superwoman, and my husband was going to handle most of the household and kid stuff, and we have an awesome daycare and great family support. And for a while, we did that, and it worked. It was before “Lean In” – but I definitely was putting in a lot of hours when I was young and had a more flexible schedule, knowing that I wouldn’t always be able to do that.

    And then my second son was born, and I realized I really didn’t want to go back to days where I left for work before he was awake and came home after he was in bed (or only saw him for 30 minutes). And my older son was in school and our only interaction all day would be fighting over him not wanting to eat dinner or do his homework. My husband was holding up his end of the deal to handle most of the household stuff, but I didn’t want that any more. I didn’t want to not go to parent-teacher conferences and just get the summary afterward. I didn’t want to keep telling my son no, he couldn’t be in sports/music/art class or if he did that I wasn’t going to attend his performances. I used to enjoy cooking, but I never did it anymore or when I did it was just one more chore. And my career path didn’t really allow for much “do more work after the kids were in bed”, plus all the years of shorting myself of sleep (and no longer being able to get more on weekends) caught up with me and I was exhausted and cranky all the time.

    So finally I said “enough”. So I left the field I had killed myself to get into. And now I’ve “Leaned Back.” Now I work 15 hours a week at a position that I would have looked down on when I was in college, or a young career person. But its a 5 minute commute instead of 50 minutes, and I can finally breathe, have a life, and enjoy my family. Our finances are much tighter now – but I’m not paying for weekly therapy that also cut into my family time, or eating out for 2-3 meals a day, or putting 20,000 miles a year on my car.

    I love Leaning Back, and I never, ever, ever thought that I would. I’m so grateful that I am able to make this choice, and that I don’t have massive student loans or a crazy mortgage to keep me tied to the workforce. And 5 years ago, I never would have thought I would want to, or that I would be able to afford to. But we’re making it work. Anyone else out there with me?

    • Yay! I agree with this OP — I want to be leaneing BACK, not leaneing in, and I do NOT even have children. I have been in the workeing world now for almost 6 year’s, and it is TIME for me to let my HUSBAND do all the work, as long as I am beareing him CHILDREN. I do NOT want to keep workeing so hard any more. FOOEY!

      I have PROVEN to my self and to dad and to the manageing partner that I have conkered the work world by being a partner and handeling alot of WC case’s almost flaw-lessley, meaning 93%+ favorable,(includeing settelment’s of course), so NOW is the time to lean back, as soon as I can find a guy to MARRY me and support me and our children. YAY! I realy do NOT want to keep workeing so hard any more. DOUBEL FOOEY!

      I have to ask Myrna if I can tell the HIVE what hapened to her, so I will wait, but in a NUT shell, the guy groped her on an esecalator at Grand Central. It is lucky it was winter, b/c in the Summer, he would have alot more to grope. DO not let a guy grope you. I will get more detail’s on a later p’ost. But FOOEY on that guy!

    • Not that it matters what a stranger would think of course, but I think Sheryl Sandberg would actually say “good for you.” Lean In isn’t about working as hard as you possibly can, no matter what, it’s about not selling yourself short and not “leaving before you leave”, e.g., taking a less stressful job because you might want to have kids one day. Stepping back a bit to be with the family you have is totally valid. I think your situation sounds great!

    • Thanks for writing this!

    • Diana Barry :

      This sounds REALLY REALLY AWESOME.

      I so relate to having everything be “just one more chore.” When I can manage to relax and enjoy my kids it is so much better, but getting there is a HUGE undertaking for me when everything is so rush rush all the time.

    • Anonattorney :

      Quick question related to Meg Murry’s post: are there any rette’s out there who leaned back when their children were young, and were able to rejoin the workforce fully when the kids reached high school age? Or, any part-time rette’s who have a plan in place to go full-time once the kids get older? I’ve heard from many people how happy they are with leaning back when their kids are young, but I’m very curious what happens when you no longer need to be a full-time parent. As someone who’s contemplating having kids soon, I’d love to get the perspective on what happens “after” in case I want to slow down work for a few years.

      • Senior Attorney :

        I can address this a bit, maybe.

        I actually stayed in the firm until my son was a freshman in high school, then “leaned out” to take a big pay cut and much less demanding government job. I pretty much thought it was a career-killing move, and that I’d be there forever in what was basically a highly-compensated dead-end job. Turned out that supposed dead-end opened the door to a whole ‘nother career path and I’m doing something I love and wouldn’t have really dreamed of when I was younger.

        The lesson I took from that experience is that careers and lives are long and there are lots of chances to do lots of different things.

        DISCLAIMER: The market wasn’t as bad then (8 years ago) as it is now. YMMV. But I think the lesson that very few choices are permanent still holds.

    • Anonattorney :

      Re-posting because I’m stuck in moderation.

      Quick question related to Meg Murry’s post: are there any women out there who leaned back when their children were young, and were able to rejoin the workforce fully when the kids reached high school age? Or, any part-timers who have a plan in place to go full-time once the kids get older? I’ve heard from many people how happy they are with leaning back when their kids are young, but I’m very curious what happens when you the kids grow up. As someone who’s contemplating having kids soon, I’d love to get the perspective on what happens “after” in case I want to slow down work for a few years.

      • Meg Murry :

        I probably can’t go back to the field I left (and I’m not sure I want to, since part of the issue is that there really isn’t much in that field less than an hour drive away). However, the position I’m in now that is only part time also has employees doing the same (or similar) job full time, with a preference for hiring internally, so its possible I could apply for one of those positions if the time came that I wanted to go back to full time. Although the definition of full time here is actually 40 hours or slightly less, not 40+++ like in most high powered careers.

        Also, as an interesting point – the field I left was a traditionally male dominated field, and the position I’m in now is 90% female. I always wonder – did men in the past used to hate that they were “stuck” being the breadwinners? Or is it only because our generation has a choice that I feel frustrated that I had to make that choice between career and family? I feel like I was always told “you can have it all – career and family – your generation of women is so lucky”. But no one ever added “if you are willing to work harder than you ever thought possible, make tons of sacrifices and often you’ll feel like you’re failing at your career, family or both at once”.

        I think “don’t leave before you leave” is good advice, but I think the flip side of “don’t sink yourself so far into debt that you CAN’T leave” is also never really mentioned, and it should be. Because I never thought I would want to stop being a career woman, and I expect a lot of women don’t, until all of a sudden one day they do.

        • Senior Attorney :

          AMEN to this! I worked full time the whole time my son was growing up, and it was largely because I was stuck in those golden handcuffs. Keep your overhead low, ladies. It will give you options.

          • +1000 to keeping overhead low. I have not reached a point yet where I need/want to dial back, but it is so freeing to know that I could.

      • I did; government lawyer. I went down to 4 days a week after kid # 1, 2 days a week after kid # 2, then back to 3 or 4 days a few years later, then back to full time once they were both in school. I don’t know if this is possible in a law firm, but it wasn’t a problem in my office. I have since been placed almost all of our most important/most interesting cases, so I don’t think the managers held it against me or anything.

        • Wannabe Runner :

          My cousin went to part-time when Kid #2 was born. He’s 4 now, and she’s back to full-time. But she switched to a job that has much less travel, and child care at her workplace. Husband is a teacher.

      • Once kids are 5 years old they’re in school 30-35 hours week for the next 12 years so that’s when a part-time job is great if you don’t want to go full-time.
        If you’re done raising kids by 45-50 and have not maintained a professional identity/work history, I don’t know what would be available for you to do for the remaining 40 years of your life.

    • Due to both how difficult pregnancy was, and our child’s needs, my husband and I have consciously decided to have only 1 child. We both work full time, travel on business, like our work, and don’t want to/can’t afford to scale back. Having one child allows us to have a lot more energy/flexibility than we’d be able to with multiple children.
      Anyone else intentionally decided on one child for work/life balance reasons? It does seem more common among the younger parents I know who both work.

      • Reiss Smithfield :

        Seriously considering it. “One and done” might just be my motto.

        • Anon in NYC :

          Same. I don’t have kids yet, but I am also concerned about the work/life/finances balance. My only concern is that me and my DH would become a burden on one kid, and that kid wouldn’t be able to share the burden with siblings. Obviously we can do some stuff to mitigate that, and having siblings is no guarantee that they’ll actually be helpful.

          • Agree with this. I’d say do what you can (put money in retirement, try to take care of your health so far as it is within your control, etc) to mitigate what may come, and the rest will happen no matter how many siblings your child has/doesn’t have.

            We each have 2 siblings. On my side, the siblings will balance caretaking/assistance fairly well – on his side, I think we’ll have the lion’s share due to circumstances out of our control. Life just doesn’t always shake out “equally” according to numbers.

      • I don’t have kids yet, but I only want one. Work-life balance is a factor as well as finances. We’re in an area where we’ll likely have to pay for private school and we want to pay for our kid’s college in full to any school they can get into. I also think the logistics of 1 kid are just a lot easier, for example, we love to travel and its easier to take 1 kid along on what is basically an adult vacation than 2 kids. FWIW, I’m an only and I’ve never wished for a sibling in either childhood or adulthood. Neither have most of my friends who are only children. I have one friend that really wanted a sibling, but her parents tried and failed to have a second child & I think that sadness and feeling that something was missing was passed down to her. If you are content with one and done, I doubt your kid will ever feel sad about being an only.

      • This was me. Always thought I wanted more kids but when it came time to add #2, was enjoying my work too much to ever do it. As a result, it’s allowed both DH and me to get to upper (not top) levels in our careers.

      • We are one and done. I thought I wanted 2, but after seeing how our lives worked with just 1, the choice is pretty clear. We love our child, love our jobs, and love that we can comfortably divide time and resources in a manner that makes us happy. DH is an only child, as are both of our moms so we have role models for what that life means.

        • That’s really reassuring to hear, thank you! And yes, comfortably dividing time and resources is a great way to put it.

          • I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who made the choice to be one and done and then later regretted it.

      • Senior Attorney :

        Yes. One of the best decisions I ever made was stopping at one child.

      • WorkingMom :

        I think we might be one & done as well! My husband would be fine to commit to no more children TODAY, I’m not quite ready to close the door forever yet. Our son is 3, and we just feel very content. I work a very demanding role, I’m the breadwinner – my husband runs his own small business. There are definitely financial challenges to our current setup, which is one reason why I don’t want to bring another child into our family right now, but again -we also just feel very content. Not that we’re rolling buckets of cash or anything, but sometimes we feel like we can have one kid + money, or 2 kids. As his business grows and our sons ages out of daycare, our finances will level out a bit (hopefully) and at that point we’ll decide do we really, truly want another child or not? (My guess is we’ll opt not to, and instead travel with our son, but who knows, I could get baby fever in 6 months and this could all go out the window, haha.)

      • This is what my parents did.

        Then they got divorced when I was in elementary school, and my dad remarried a rich woman. He’s taken care of. My mom never remarried and I worry about taking care of her as she ages. On the upside, there will never be anyone else challenging her estate or my decisions in how to care for her.

        I did wish for siblings as a kid, but ended up very independent.

    • WorkingMom :

      I also have to say good for you – I’m so glad that you found the balance that works for you and your family! There is no right and wrong when it comes to career and family life – we will all have a different solution that works for us, and like you – that solution might be different at various points in our lives. Sounds weird from an internet stranger – but I’m PROUD of you! :)

  5. For any younger folks who might be reading this, I really wish I had done more career planning earlier in my life. As someone in the nonprofit world, I worried more about the issues and people I was serving, and let jobs kind of find me while trying to be a martyr and not think about my own needs too much. Now I’ve found myself in my mid-30s in an extremely tiny niche that I don’t like At. All. and having to figure out how to make what looks like a huge career change at a bad time, all while being paid supermajorly below market. I wish someone had told me to watch my own a** when I was younger, since no employer is going to do it for you, no matter how much they say they care. Sigh.

    • Wannabe Runner :

      I hear this. I wanted to do all kinds of good work when I was younger, but it didn’t really translate to marketable skills. Everyone told me I needed something practical, but working on an organic farm just seemed right…

      I wish I could have a chat with my 10-years-ago self. :)

      But honestly, I did learn “so much about myself” (how cliche!) on all my travels/living like a pauper/etc.

  6. Sydney Bristow :

    This is something I struggle with since my current “plan” is to stick with my current type of work until I pay off my loans then likely leave the legal profession, but I’m not sure what I want to do after leaving.

    The thing I’ve heard is that if you have goals or plans, the key is to narrow down what type of skills or experiences you need to get to that point. I think of it as reverse engineering your dream job. I forget where I read it, but there was a guy used as an example of someone who wanted to become a CEO. He looked at the CEOs in the industry he wanted to be in to figure out what sort of practical skills and experiences they had then set out to get those instead of going to get his MBA right away. I wish I could remember the source because the path he took looks odd from the outside but made sense when he was finally made CEO because he had actual experience doing x, y, and z in different ways and took positions he otherwise would have avoided to specifically get those experiences.

    • I feel like I’m in the same position. I only have about $40,000 in debt left but I also have only been at my firm for one year and have no idea where I would go. I don’t think I necessarily have enough experience to be relevent in any other position.

  7. Shopaholic :

    I just wanted to say that I don’t know how you ladies do it. I find it SO difficult to balance my job, my friends and family, healthy living and taking enough time for myself to recharge. I have no idea how my friends with kids live their lives and how you ladies manage to balance your families and work.

    It’s a real inspiration!

    • Thanks! Although I think a lot of people in this position would say that part of the way to do it (with kids) is to dramatically redefine “healthy living” and “taking enough time for myself to recharge.” My “recharge” time now is basically my daily shower and 30 minutes of watching TV or reading before I fall asleep.

      • This…The thing that goes away is all that extra stuff you do for yourself. And everyone will tell you not to do that, put yourself first, blah blah. But children are PEOPLE. They aren’t pets. You can’t put them outside or kennel them or any of that, lol. They are human beings who depend on you, initially, for EVERYTHING. So yeah, a lot of the stuff that used to be “me time” just doesn’t exist anymore. I used to go to the gym and get regular mani/pedis and things like that. Now I’m lucky if I get 20 minutes on the treadmill while dinner is in the oven and last night I waxed my eyebrows (myself, I don’t have time to go somewhere) for the first time in over a year.

    • I’m 14 weeks pregnant with my first, and have not been sleeping well do to hormones. It worries about how I’m going to handle things once baby comes because I won’t be able to “lean back” because I’m the breadwinner with a lot of student loans to pay off. I’m contemplating recharging by taking a nap at my desk. Think that’s ok?

      • Due* to hormones…see what I mean?

      • If a nap will leave you refreshed, go for it. If it will make you fuzzy headed while you try to wake up for the next few hours, that might not be such a good idea and you’d be better off just closing your eyes than trying to actually sleep.

  8. I don’t have, or ever had, a career plan as such. I am where I am (head of office at a very small, very niche engineering firm) by a combination of very hard work and very good luck. Things that helped me go through the first years of kid-raising:

    – an excellent hosekeeper (I am not in the US, btw)
    – a massage every two weeks (for the first year after my elder was born, when I suffered post-partum depression)
    – my parents helping a lot
    – schools and office very close to home
    – excellent bosses

    I am sure a career plan might be good for some, though.

  9. YoungAtty :

    Hi Ladies!

    I am a new associate with a close friend’s mom who was previously solo. My job came with the understanding that I will eventually be handed a fairly successful small practice on a silver platter; I have a mentor I feel comfortable with; and I have more flexibility than a typical first year associate (I rarely work after 5PM and don’t generally have a problem getting time off for personal things, which will be huge when I decide to have children). However, the job requires a frustratingly long commute that for personal reasons I can’t avoid, pays poorly in a high cost of living area (my husband and I both have crazy law school debt and he doesn’t make great money yet either), and can be extremely boring and frustrating because the partner is old-fashioned and a control freak–I often feel like a glorified legal secretary and have way too much down time. I worry how long it’ll take me to reach a reasonable salary and if I’m ever going to feel professionally satisfied with this job. Full disclosure, I’ve been here less than a year, so it’s possible that things could get much better; however, I have no idea what her timeline looks like or when she plans to give me more control (and if all of that would even make me more satisfied).

    Notwithstanding my current unhappiness, I feel somewhat obligated to stay because of the personal connections I have with my boss and because she has been planning her retirement around having me on board (and also because my pride hopes that my sacrifices will eventually pay off). Also, the thought of telling my boss that I’m unhappy and want to leave (not to mention having to look for a new job in a tough market that I don’t feel prepared to be competitive in) makes me incredibly anxious.

    I wouldn’t even consider looking for something new for at least another 6 months, at which point I would hopefully get a feel for what this job will feel like long-term, but I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts. To what extent are potential future successes worth sacrificing for? Is having a lower paying but less demanding and stable job a blessing in disguise for when I’m ready to be a mom and want to be at all of the recitals and little league games? What should I be considering in all of this?

    Some advice and new perspective would be greatly appreciated!!

    • It probably all depends, but I would say that your choice isn’t necessarily between low paying, low interest job vs. leaving. If I were you, I’d trying to go above and beyond to prove myself capable for the next 6-8 month and then ask for a sit down to re-evaluate your responsibilities and compensation, as well as to go over what her plan is long term. Then do another reassessment in another year. If you’re not getting enough work, speak up. Ask for more assignments. Show more initiative. Even if there is not something for you to do specifically, ask to sit in with her on depositions or meetings or court appearances. Ask lots and lots of questions. Try to network and see if you can bring in some business even if it’s small business. If she’s been alone for a long time, she might not be very good at delegating. But it’s also possible that you are coming off as not being interested in doing more than the bare minimum. From my own experience, not everyone is good at giving you work or trusting you to get it right, but it’s on you to try to make that work and to show that you’re capable. I’d also say some people just do exactly what is asked of them and no more, which makes it difficult to give them a lot of work. I’ve had interns who take all summer to do one project and others who manage to get 5 projects done in that same period of time — it’s not because I give some more work than others, but because some are more interested in getting more things done. I’d say if you give it your 150% and she is still not delegating, doesn’t start to treat you like a partner, and has no exit strategy, then you should consider leaving. But it seems like you have some work to do before you get there.

    • Solo Practitioner :

      Are you actually interested in taking over this practice?

      You will likely take over the staff, the practice area, the office, etc.

      If it is not what you’re interested in, you should start looking for other work, and let your boss know.

      Not everyone is cut out for solo practice or heading a practice. It is full-time rainmaking. It takes a lot of networking and entrepreneurship, even if she’s handing you an established practice. Some lawyers are very happy working 8:00-4:30 for a government office or in-house, and would rather not have the pressure of timekeeping, financial decision-making, supervising staff, and bringing in clients. (For me, I’d be bored as heck at a government job with regular hours and less flexibility, but running a practice is really hard. There’s no denying that.)

      The best book I’ve seen on running a practice is called Solo By Choice by Carolyn Elefant. It’s available on amazon. You might want to read it and see if you’re even interested.

      It takes a certain kind of lawyer to want to run a practice. It doesn’t sound from your post like that’s you. There’s nothing wrong with that – you may also want to do it in 5-10 years, but not now.

      You need to figure out if this woman’s career plan for you is actually the career plan you want. Being honest with her about what you want out of your life is more respectful than to just go along with her plan, knowing it’s not what you want.

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