This was a question that came into our business earlier this week from a solicitor in a corporate commercial field of law, looking at their life, wondering if this was it or whether there was something else missing.
Our advice is to usually look at a number of different factors when thinking about this, and to ask yourself the following questions:
Is it my job or is it the work I am doing?
This might seem a strange question, but you might find when you start to think it through, that the crossroads is nothing to do with you deciding that your current trajectory is not the right one, but rather it is the job you are doing, rather than the work you want to do.
Just to explain that a bit further. You might be a corporate commercial solicitor working in-house for a big company, with a six-figure salary and good working conditions. But, similarly you may be completely bored by this and the constraints of the daily work. The job you want to do is one that has interested and driven you through your career, but the work you are doing is not where you want to be.
In these circumstances, you are probably not at a crossroads in your career, but more simply in the wrong job, and you may want to have a think about looking around for alternatives.
You like your job and the type of work you do, but do you like your colleagues?
A lot of decisions in careers do not actually relate to ourselves, but rather to the people around us. If you are a successful solicitor, earning a good salary, undertaking work that you enjoy, but have the boss from hell, colleagues who hate your guts, and support staff who spend their whole time trying to undermine you, your existence at work is not going to be pleasant! A good number of the queries we get in where people say they have reached a crossroads and need to think about their future, do not relate to their work or job at all, but solely relate to the people they are working with and for.
This is an important distinction to make, because you can make decisions about changing careers or lifechanging moves without actually working out exactly what it is that’s causing you to think in the way you are doing. If it is the case that the colleagues you work with are causing you great difficulties, sleepless nights and huge amounts of stress, then you almost certainly need to be looking to change job, not career. This is assuming you enjoy your work and your job, but simply don’t like your colleagues. It is very important to think this through in your mind before making lifechanging decisions, as there are always consequences and you do not want to get the wrong consequences from making the wrong decision.
Let’s face it, everybody does not like everyone else, and there are always conflicts between individuals in a workplace. It is definitely never better to try and stick them out if there is a group of people at work who you simply do not like, don’t want to get on with, because it will affect your mental health, and inevitably your physical health in the longer term.
Is it the whole legal thing, and you need to change career?
This is rarely the case, but so many people seem to leave the profession for the wrong reasons, and then come back again within a few years because they realise this having made the mistake. You really need to think about the questions above before changing career, because it’s such a big decision to make, and you need to get it right.
Changing career is never as easy as just switching from one job to another, because as soon as you look to move into a different field, your earning potential drops very significantly, unless you strike it lucky and go into a career that actually pays more than law does. There are also family considerations, including the almost certainty in needing to retrain, and spending the time to do this. For example, a solicitor thinking about becoming a teacher will probably need to go and get a teaching qualification before they are allowed anywhere near a classroom. They will also need to be aware of the financial ramifications of dropping from a £75,000 salary down to a £30,000 salary, and make sure that their family are with them in the decision making.
Is it just a temporary state of mind?
Quite a lot of people get to their late 30s and early 40s and suddenly start to ask themselves whether this is it. Is there nothing else in life other than the drudgery and monotony of a 9 to 5 job, doing household chores, looking after the children, and going on holiday for a few weeks a year?
The simple answer is, yes of course there are always other options, and you have made thousands if not hundreds of thousands of decisions to get to where you are now, and it does not take that many decisions to change your options and to do something completely different, if only you have the courage to do this.
If you do not enjoy what you are doing now, you can change and you are not stuck in a role forever. The people who do not make decisions to change things and find themselves stuck in roles forever, are those who have not had the courage in their convictions, and being able to make a decision to change and move on. If this is how you are feeling, it is important to recognise that you are not stuck, your life is probably a heck of a lot better than you think it is, and you have probably achieved amazing things in your career to date, even if you do not think you have. However, until you get to your 70s or 80s, the world does remain your oyster, and you can change things if you want to. Change is something that the vast majority of the human race detest, but it is something that is inevitable in all of us at some point in our lives, regardless of whether we like it or not.
If you get to your late 30s/early 40s and think you are at a crossroads, and are finding your career and life not where you want it to be, you need to do a bit of work on yourself and not expect others to do it for you. We decide the path through life ourselves and our destiny, not those around us, and if you want to change something, only you can do this. You just need to recognise what the change needs to be, and do it for the right reasons…