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Lawyers: How Badly Do You Want Meaningful Work?

Look how psyched this guy is to start on his new path!

Look how psyched this guy is to start on his new path!

As lawyers and individuals, we all have a different definition of what “meaningful work” is.

Yet, many of you email me that your work feels petty and meaningless. You say it’s combative for the sake of being combative. It doesn’t connect with anything you care about. You’re unhappy. You’re wishing you could be doing something else.

My question to you is: What are you waiting for? When does wishing for meaningful work turn to action?

For the past few months, I’d been debating writing about how short life is. A little voice inside my head kept saying, “too morbid – no one wants to hear that.”

But each time we all read about another tragic mass shooting, we’re reminded of how short life can be. So I’m writing this piece.

Whenever we learn of a horrifying terror event, we hurt for the victims of the disgusting violence. Anyone with a trace of empathy could picture themselves in the shoes of the victims.

After all, who hasn’t spent time in a school or a house of worship or an office or at a concert? It could be any of us lying in a pool of blood just for going about our lives.

life-is-too-short-to-be-stuck-in-a-career-that-doesnt-fitWhat if that was you, having your life cut short by some @#$!& with a weapon? If you had the opportunity to reflect at that moment, how would you feel about the way you’ve been spending your professional time?

We often live like we’re in a dress rehearsal for the real thing. We spend our time doing one thing while we keep putting off the things we really want to do for “later”.

But this isn’t a dress rehearsal and we don’t necessarily get a “later”.

You never know…

My college roommate was in his medical residency in New York when we were 27. He assumed his backache was a pulled muscle from weightlifting in the gym. Turned out to be colon cancer. He died at age 28.

On my first day of 10th grade, my dad’s best friend went home for lunch feeling sick. He dropped dead of a heart attack. He was 43.

Just a decade ago, when my mom was 57, she had sharp pains in her neck. The doctor thought it was arthritis. It turned out to be lung cancer that had spread through her spinal cord. She’d never had a cough and had quit smoking at age 35. She died at age 58.

Morbid enough? There’s more. In the past year, I’ve had 3 good friends with close calls.

One came down with a bad cough at Lollapalooza in Chicago. A month later when the cough hadn’t gone away, tests revealed a tumor on her lung. It wasn’t lung cancer, but it was cancer. They had to remove 1/3 of a lobe of her lung.

Another friend (who is also a JDCOT video guest) was watching the Superbowl this year, when he suddenly got double vision. He went to the hospital, only to learn that he had a rare cancerous tumor on his brain stem. A week later he had major surgery.

Yet another friend discovered he had cancer when an itchy mole was removed. He had to have surgery to remove a chunk of his back and his lymph nodes to be sure it hadn’t spread through his body.

All of those friends are lucky. Although they were struck by bad news, they all caught their situations early and are now fine.

But what if this was you?

All of these stories, from tragic events to health issues, should remind us that our time here is limited. How does this concept impact the way you spend your time?

Consider this: before you travel somewhere, you probably think about how you’re going to spend your time at your destination so you can maximize it and get what you want out of that trip. Why not treat your life the same way?

 Before starting JDCOT, I thought a lot about what doing “meaningful work” means to me.

To help define that, I asked myself how I’d want to spend my professional time if I won the lottery and money was no longer an object. I also asked myself how I’d want to spend my professional time if I knew my days were incredibly numbered.

I concluded that I wanted to help lots of people. I wanted to share whatever I’d learned through being a legal recruiter and always pursuing careers that matched my interests, strengths and qualifications. I wanted to provide guidance to people. I wanted to help people live happier lives. I wanted to help people by incorporating voices beyond my own. I wanted to have my own interview show. And finally, I wanted to see if there was a way to combine all of that and leave something behind that could be helpful on an ongoing basis.

You can similarly take your own inventory.

Taking your own inventory can help you determine what “meaningful work” means for you and what you might want to do next.

Stepping back from your frustration and analyzing what you see in the mirror is the best first step. What you learn about yourself can guide you to work you would find meaningful and to a situation that aligns with the life you want.

 To help you take the first steps of looking in the mirror, I created The Career Mirror, the free JDCOT self-assessment questionnaire .

The Career Mirror has you assess your current work situation to see whether your dissatisfaction might stem from your current boss or place of employment, as opposed to the actual work of being a lawyer.

Then it has you dig deeper to look at what you have to offer and what you’re looking for in future work opportunities.

As you dig even deeper, you can look at some of the heavy issues like what you want out of life.

Do you really need to maintain your current salary and lifestyle? Or might you be happier and healthier reducing that lifestyle and doing something you enjoyed more but paid less?

Meaningful Work for Lawyers

Since doing “meaningful work” means something different to all of us, engaging in introspection like I’m describing above is essential. After that, it’s important to size up what you learn about yourself with the realities of your career change options.

Learning the realities of the alternative careers for lawyers that interest you will help you determine what paths meet your definition of “meaningful work.”

Until you learn the realities of each career path, you won’t know whether you would need to take a step back financially. You also won’t know whether a step back would be significant. Or how temporary it might be.

All of the introspection and realities described above are the types of things we look at in my JD Refugee® class.

For now, just remember that there is meaningful work for lawyers out there. Getting to it from where you’re currently at is a process.

But rather than getting overwhelmed thinking about all of the details of looking for a new job, leaving your current job, and making a major change, break the process down into bite-size pieces. Take the first step by looking in the mirror and asking some important questions.

For example, if you were told today that your days were really numbered, and you had to do something professionally (you can’t just drink umbrella drinks on a paradise-like beach), would you be satisfied knowing you spent them doing the work you’re doing? How would you want to spend your professional time?

For help taking your next step, download The Career Mirror from the link above and begin receiving additional guidance by email. You can also visit our page for unhappy lawyers. And remember: Life is short, so make the most of it!

Related Posts:

Finding Your Career
Careers Lawyers Commonly Change To
Leaving Law

 

GET MY FREE SELF-ASSESSMENT!

Thinking of leaving the law? The best first step you can take is a good look in the mirror. START HERE:

it's free!
You’ll also get periodic updates, reminders & access to career guidance programs sent to your inbox. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe via a click at any time.