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Overcoming Career Change Inertia

Overcoming Career Change Inertia

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Overcoming Career Change Inertia

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  1. Overcoming Career Change Inertia Lawyers Assistance Program Facilitated by Robert Bircher

  2. Its not the way I thought it would be! • Ex post facto career planning is normal for lawyers-many lawyers “fell into it” some were “pushed into it” some “stumbled into it” • Most lawyers had little idea of what the reality of practicing law was like until they actually did it • Most lawyers took the first or only articling job they were offered-then in first year proceeded to specialize in whatever the firm wanted or needed • This would be the same strategy as marrying the first person you ever went out with and trying to force that to work

  3. Why Lawyers stay Stuck • The reality is few lawyers have actually considered what they want or need to be happy and congruent as practicing lawyers • This results in a feeling of “I’m not sure I am in the right firm or I’m not sure what area I want to practice in” • Some are so “honored” to have been offered a job they don’t even consider their own needs, they just try and pretzel themselves to fit in • Some are unaware that law has probably more types of cultures than any other profession

  4. Inertia • Some lawyers simply feel they “can’t make a move” for reason X -in fact- the main reason is fear • Step one is self diagnosis-is it a problem of culture? (people you work with, hours required, overt/covert working conditions and expectations, salary) or is it a problem of area of law (barrister or solicitor work, tedium or boredom, comfort with conflict or adversarial systems) • If the fit is good you will have low levels of stress, depression and anxiety

  5. Inertia • Blaming yourself for the poor fit will result in you trying to be someone you are not or thinking there “must be something wrong with me” • If you misdiagnose you will end up with the “same crappy job in a different building” syndrome • If you are unhappy it usually means the universe is telling you to change the situation, accept the situation or leave the situation-most people do none of these-they get busy worrying and ruminating

  6. Inertia • When you are busy worrying and ruminating and generally over thinking the situation there is no energy left to do what works! • Thinking is useful only in the diagnosis stage-what works, of course, is effective action • A leading cause of job change inertia is believing you will solve the problem by thinking about it • It is much easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way in to a new way of acting

  7. Changing the Situation • Look first at changing your own role in the firm-if you are burned out setting boundaries may be your solution-saying no • You may need to be more assertive in some situations-you are an asset not a job beggar • Can you improve your self care where you are? Taking healthy lunch breaks, taking holidays and time off • I can already hear “there is no way I can do that at my firm”

  8. Changing the Situation • Most lawyers underestimate what healthy changes are possible “I must do what the herd does” the firm doesn’t want you to leave and will often accommodate any reasonable requests • It is actually quite rare for a firm to fail to make accommodation once it is brought to their attention-believe it or not! • It could be that the firm culture is too divergent from your own values meaning leaving is another choice e.g.. If it is a “live in order to work” firm and you are a “work in order to live” person you will need to find another more compatible culture • Be aware that provincially most firms are fairly laid back and have a “work in order to live culture”

  9. Changing the Situation • Really, only Metro Vancouver large firms have the “live in order to work culture” it is rare in other areas ,even in Victoria • You always have lots of choices! • For some people it is the reverse-their job is too dull or not challenging enough or they may want to make more money or highly value prestige, power and recognition • See- research on lawyer happiness

  10. Accepting the Situation • Some things are difficult or impossible to change-in private practice –billing/time-keeping/marketing/economics of law firms • Adversarial / combative nature of litigation is not likely to change soon-this may not suit your personality-most lawyers are not extroverted or aggressive/combative by nature and probably would be happier doing solicitors work

  11. Leaving the Situation • Once you have decided to leave and have diagnosed what the problem is you can plan to leave-for some people the universe does it for them-they get fired, suspended/disbarred, or get sick, depressed, anxious etc • Many lawyers get this far then freeze up and don’t move for years

  12. Barriers to Moving on • Lawyers get trapped by some repetitive cognitive distortions: • “I will wait until something comes up” this is a passive approach which allows you to avoid looking at yourself and you don’t have to change anything- nothing will come up unless you are proactive • “I have so many options I can’t decide” most lawyers do have many choices- but you do need to find a way to narrow the choices or you will be “living in potential forever”

  13. Barriers to Moving on • “I am looking for the right opportunity”-this usually means the “perfect choice” which doesn’t exist-it will always be a gamble to some degree • “I am waiting until I know, for sure, what I want” the hidden agenda here is also safety-this will never happen • “I will wait until I feel like it” this is another cognitive distortion-action precedes feeling-you must do it then feel like it

  14. Procrastination • There is no mystery to why you procrastinate, the benefits simply outweigh the costs ,the mystery is because you deny or ignore the benefits • Benefits include avoiding risk, living in potential, not having to make a decision, I can do something more pleasurable, I can put it out of my mind, job hunting is tedious, I can avoid rejection etc. • Cost benefit analysis exercise

  15. TIC-TOC • TIC stands for task interfering cognitions-these are thoughts that result in procrastination • “I’m too busy now” “I am not clear on what I want to do” “It’s not that bad here” “All legal jobs are hard and stressful” “If it wasn’t a struggle it wouldn’t be worthwhile” “My resume is not ready” “There are no other jobs out there that are any better” are all TIC’s • TOC means task oriented cognitions-these thoughts result in action

  16. TIC-TOC • “I’ll phone somebody and do an informational interview” “I’ll get my resume ready to go” “I’ll do some career planning” “I’ll ask the firm to work 4 days a week” “I’ll phone around and see who’s looking for lawyers” “I’ll check websites for jobs” etc. are TOC’s • TIC-TOC exercise if the TIC’s outweigh the TOC’s you won’t do much