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In Search of a New Career?

What do you do if you have a bad case of the Sunday Scaries – every single weekend? How long should you continue on the same path? How long can you possibly continue on the same path? The answer is different for everyone, but if you know you need a change and just can’t figure out where to begin, I have a simple tip.

At work and in your day-to-day life, open up your eyes and analyze every task you do, no matter how small or insignificant it seems. What do you enjoy doing? What lights you up? You might be surprised how a new career idea might pop up out of seemingly nowhere.  Like I wrote about in an earlier post on looking for the signs, you never know when something will click and inspiration will strike. But in order for this to happen, you have to keep your mind and your eyes open to the possibilities.

This post is about what I could have accomplished earlier if I had opened my eyes to other possibilities when I was feeling totally stuck in my law firm job. Not only were there external signs suggesting I was in the wrong place, but there were signs in my actual work that clearly showed that I had other skills and interests.

Even when I thought I was too busy at work to possibly think about a new career, if I had paused for a moment, I would have realized my true interests were written down right in front of me, clear as day. Maybe they are for you, too.

Inspired to Search for a New Career by the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills – Sort Of

I was recently listening to a podcast that had on a guest named Laura Belgray. I had never heard of Laura but I figured I’d give the episode a shot because you never know what you are going to learn and from whom (I was implementing the same strategy I advocate for in this post – keep your eyes and ears open for new ideas!).

Laura has a successful and eclectic career in a variety of industries. One of her jobs is writing “tag lines” for popular Bravo TV shows like the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (the “RHOB”). If you’ve never seen the RHOB, this is all you need to know about it: it is a reality show that follows a few absurdly rich women around Beverly Hills. Their day-to-day lives are filled with spending lots of money and constantly fighting with each other and their families.

(A side lesson that the Real Housewives franchises prove over and over again is that no matter how much money you have, it doesn’t mean you’re happy. Which reminds me of a certain other industry (ahem, the law) where the money is abundant but happiness levels don’t correlate with that abundance. But that’s a post for another day).

Beverly Hills and Law Firms Can Be Cold, Cold Places

For one of her assignments, Laura was tasked with creating a promo for the RHOB. She staged the women in various places around Beverly Hills: one was seen stepping into a pool and as she did it turned to ice; another appeared on screen and froze everything in her path.

At the end of the promo, each woman had turned a different part of the city to ice as she walked by, and the promo voiceover simply said, “Sometimes sunny Beverly Hills can be a cold, cold place.” I thought it was brilliant!

What lesson did I take away from this? Aside from the obvious analogy that both Beverly Hills and law firms can be cut-throat and cold, cold places, I was immediately reminded of one of my favorite “assignments” as a law firm associate. I say “assignment” in quotation marks because I really took a simple off-hand comment and turned it into my own, pretend assignment.

Our small group was writing an article to publish and send to our clients about a recent securities regulation that was about to go into effect and would directly affect our deals. Every law firm in the space was surely going to be writing a similar article (there is not much creativity when you are summarizing a securities law for banking clients who only want to know, in as straightforward a manner as possible, what the new law means for them). There was, however, one way we could stand out – with a catchy headline.

Our boss mentioned (mostly as a joke, I think) that we should come up with a funny title to grab our clients’ attention. Well, I took that suggestion and ran with it. Instead of reading the draft article and providing my substantive comments, I spent the afternoon coming up with a list of clever titles. Securities law puns are not exactly funny to anyone outside the securities law world, but I saw a small glimmer of a chance to be creative and I seized the opportunity.

Except that I didn’t really seize the opportunity. When it came time to suggest titles, I only submitted a few of mine. The ones I thought were funny enough, but not super witty. And certainly not as great as that RHOB promo. I think our title ultimately ended up being something like “What Investment Banks Need to Know About the Recent Changes to the Bank Secrecy Act.” Doesn’t exactly grab the reader’s attention now, does it?

A New Career – In Writing?

I re-read my catchy headlines a few times, laughed at them by myself in my office, and filed the list away somewhere never to be read again. But when I recently heard Laura on the podcast, I remembered that list and had an epiphany. If I had been open to new careers, new ideas and signs of what I actually was interested in when I was a law firm lawyer, maybe I would have taken a step back and thought more about that assignment and what it meant for me.

This is what I would have realized: that I had basically zero interest in reading and editing the substance of the law article, but I had so much fun coming up with catchy titles for it. If that wasn’t a clear sign that I was in the wrong field I don’t know what would be.

What New Career Is Waiting for YOU?

Now I am open to all the possibilities that are out there for me. And you can be, too. Even if you are still stuck in a job you hate, dislike or are just neutral about, if you open your eyes and become hyper-aware of what it is you do like to do, you might just figure it out sooner rather than later.

What are the things you do like to do at work? If it has nothing to do with your technical job description, that’s ok too. Don’t forget to notice the small things that might be out of scope of your day-to-day work (like writing a witty headline), because that is likely where your real interests will shine through.

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