Feeling Stuck? Everybody has a story as to why they can’t make a change in their careers. What’s yours?

By Darlene Tonelli, July 31, 2018.

I hear a consistent story among lawyers – they’re stuck in jobs they can’t stand. Their relationships are suffering, their kids don’t see them, the stress is (literally) killing them. They feel like the turtle in the photo above.

The question is why. How can so many people who have the wealth of education and so much opportunity feel so stuck?

One piece of the answer is that everyone has a story they tell themselves as to why they can’t leave – and it’s the story more than the actual circumstances that keep them stuck.

For many lawyers, it’s a story about finances. First we “need” high-paying jobs in Big Law so we can pay back student loans. Then we “need” six figures to put the kids through school, support aging parents, live in the neighbourhood we want, keep up with the Joneses, etc.

For others, it’s about security – we “need” a steady paycheque from an established company to provide for our families. We must be practical. And responsible.

And for the rest, their stories are made up of a need for finances, security and a sizable ego – one that comes with “making it” year after year in the dog eat dog environment of a successful law firm.

So what’s your story?

What keeps you stuck when you know you’d be happier and more fulfilled elsewhere – sometimes anywhere – than where you are now? I have asked myself this important question a few times in my career.

Here’s my story on how I originally got unstuck in my own career, in the hopes it’s helpful.

My story was: I couldn’t leave and find a job more in line with my interests because I was too niche, my experience wasn’t broad enough, few places would have a need for me… and so on. And I was in my twenties! I questioned the choices that had led me to that point, telling myself I should have gone into entertainment law right after graduation. I told myself I had to keep going because I had student debt and, if I’m being perfectly honest, I didn’t want people to think I couldn’t hack it.

Like many others, the people around me – from recruiters to friends – didn’t really understand why I felt stuck. I was in a good job in a good firm, surrounded by good people. There was little support for change back then. I had to sort it out on my own and decide once and for all if I wanted to invest in my own happiness or not.

And of course, I decided yes. I wanted change. However, I knew more about what I didn’t want than what I did. I had to not only write myself a new story but I had to create one first.

I started with what I knew would make me happy. By this, I meant excelling as a lawyer and loving the subject matter of my practice. I would be choosing life-long career satisfaction over an increase in salary – (in the short term at least).

And in the end, I chose the music industry. I took a fantastic, dynamic post as a Contract Administrator for a record label. I initially took a huge pay cut to make the big move but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. On paper it looked like a risk. It really wasn’t.

I spent eight fulfilling years at my new post, with too many life highlights to count… but here’s one: In my first week on the job, I attended a company conference where my favourite band at the time, Metric, performed to a room of about 200 people. Needless to say, I stood right up at the front and had to pinch myself through the whole thing saying, “It’s my JOB to be here. I’m getting PAID to be here…” I took a leap again to start Inter Alia. But that’s a story for another blog post – coming soon!

In the meantime, my advice is to write out the story you are telling yourself right now.

You’re familiar with it because you’ve heard it over and over in your mind, likely for many years. The choices you make and the energy you invest every day are based on this one story. So write it out, look at it and see if it’s actually true, meaning verifiable in fact when you really break it apart, just as you would the other side’s argument in a negotiation or litigation file.

Then follow us as we take the first steps in helping you dismantle that story and find a new one for yourself.


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