The last ten years have definitely changed many industries, including my legal world. The technological advances coupled with the Great Recession have led many to rethink their career options and priorities in life. Clearly moving forward in the 21st century, those that can proceed with an open mind and see the opportunities that come with change will be far better off than those that just want stability and predictability, which are almost impossible to find anymore.
Whenever I have lectured to students (typically ranging in ages from 9-29), I have always emphasized the importance of continually exploring new options. The funny thing is even after grad school we need to keep thinking this way. In my own case, the way I practice law today is nothing like the way I was originally trained 16 years ago when I first began my career, or even 5 years ago, when I first gained recognition for promoting a more collaborative approach to divorce. Given the way things keep evolving, I have no doubt the next 5 years my practice will continue to change drastically, as will my needs in terms of what I find satisfying.
Our careers are built on our skills, interests and values, but we must recognize that these things will all continue to evolve over time, and therefore, I think it is essential that we periodically reassess if what we are doing is truly in line with our ultimate mission in life. And if you have a life partner, it is critical that you check in with that person and make sure you are both on the same page as to where you want to head, otherwise you run the risk of having a major disconnect and growing so far apart that the connection you once felt will be nothing more than a distant memory of something from a previous life.
Hopefully my work leaves no doubt that I care immensely about personal connections, and yet it is important for everyone to realize that work is such a huge part of our lives– indeed most of us spend much more of our waking hours at work than we do with our families, and if we want to feel fulfilled, we have to find a purpose in our work life.
We all need to feel connected and alive, otherwise what is the point? More importantly, if we are not happy at work, will seep into our personal relationships off the clock, and it is now proven that all this negativity will impact our health.
You don’t need an MD to recognize that stress leads to major illnesses, including heart attacks, cancer, and compromised immune systems. Even though I am not trained as a medical professional, I see this cause and effect every day as a divorce lawyer with my clients– and it is thanks to them all that I was able to learn from their mistakes and change my own ways before it was too late.
Fortunately, many of my colleagues and friends, who decided after age 35 to redefine their careers, were able to inspire me with their stories, and now I’m at the point where I get to repay the favor. For those of you on the fence about making a switch, just take a good look around you, and talk to those that have made life-altering decisions. You will notice one remarkable thing: not a single former rat-racer has ever regretted leaving the race. Not a single one that I’ve ever met– so what does that tell you?
If you are unhappy at work, home, or both don’t despair– simply follow 3 simple steps as outlined by the Dali Lama: (1) identify the source of discontent; (2) address it; and then (3) form a new path. Many of us have also found that using a life coach is immensely helpful, and I highly recommend this free ebook by Stephen Davis: Butterflies are Free to Fly at www.butterfliesfree.com
For those wishing to rethink their legal careers in particular, since that is my field of study, here is the Youtube link to the webinar I gave this month for Georgetown University students and alumni on Rethinking Legal Careers in the 21st century: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_T0VcWvdzw
Let me leave no doubt that the transformation/shake-up process itself is a bit scary, but that is where good friends, family and colleagues will all come in handy to help calm you down and assist you in achieving your fullest potential in life. Once you find a way to be authentic and true to yourself, it is amazing how everything else will all fall into place.
So, whatever path you choose to take in the end, just make sure you are doing it because it brings you joy, then the rest of the pieces of your puzzle in life should all come together, and that my friends is real bliss.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.