WORK THAT WORKS FOR YOU
“Finding the right work can influence your emotions, your physical
well being, your energy levels, indeed your whole way of life…”
As a psychologist
who specialises in career consultancy, this quote caught my
eye some eight years ago. It continues to resonate as I meet with
clients and engage with stories of their lives and work.
interest has been the increasing volume of younger lawyers
who have made their way to my office. It is striking how
the threads of their stories echo similar refrains disillusionment,
dissatisfaction and exhaustion. It followed that many were
struggling with psychological and physical symptoms of ill
Long before visiting
with me, they had begun to engage with the idea of identity,
“If not a lawyer then who am I? Who do I want to be and further,
what do I want my life to look like?” It takes resolve to excavate
uncertainty and to honestly explore aspects of life supporting nagging
dissatisfaction. Themes appeared of work not sitting comfortably
with personal values and principles; for example discovering that
their chosen vocation (law) was not focused on helping people in
the way they had imagined. For other practitioners, disrespectful
communication and behaviour create toxic working environments, a
strong part of the picture related to their unhappiness.
Stories come forward
of traditional ways of working that have contributed to compromising
health, relationships and confidence. Clients speak of high volumes
of work and overlong work days, a regular feature of their week.
The prospect of a fifty to sixty hour week would not be uncommon
for many lawyers. Accounts of giving up life-generating activities
(creative and physical), of having little or no time to catch-up
with friends as well as fractious personal relationships. Others
want to start a family but find it difficult to imagine how these
responsibilities can fit with the demands of their profession. Once
clients begin to acknowledge that they are grappling with realities
that may not be able to shift, these realisations become compelling
motivations for change.
profession of law is not the only one where difficult and sometimes
unhealthy work practices survive. Indeed for some clients rather
than questionable work practices, requirements of a profession or
vocation just don’t fit with the qualities, skills and personalities
of many individuals. With sustained effort clients begin to see
how other careers and options are more compatible. Regardless of
work history, all clients speak of wanting satisfying work, work
that fits with who they are and with their identified priorities.
Most clients come
through the door saying, “I know what I don’t want to do, but I
don’t know what I do want to do with my work life”. So the prospect
of change often begins with the acceptance of not knowing. Changing
a career, finding work that works for you, can be a major life transition,
one that requires thought, planning and action. Giving ourselves
permission to question our lives and explore the roots of disappointment
include examining the prevailing notions of success and achievement,
as well as noticing how our ideas may differ from the work culture
with which we are aligned.
The option is not
simply will I stay or go but includes some thoughts around what
you want to let go of and what might be really important to you
in life. It’s often about finding the courage to execute decisions
that will chart the path to better health, to balance in the way
that you need it and to a sense of fulfillment that drives you.
A law degree is a valuable achievement and solid foundation from
which to survey other possibilities. Taking that first step, having
conversations about how life is for you and how it can be different,
are actions that can support your efforts to reclaim the ways you
value your life.
of these activities and ideas….
a binder/book that can accommodate your career research/notes/information/advertisements.
You could also carry a small pocket notebook of ideas,
recording ideas and thoughts without evaluating them…just
in writing “pros and cons” of leaving current employment.
about how you can alter the way you work
to leave space
for other activities of high priority to you?
• Look for strategies
to manage your current employer/supervising partner more skillfully.
Focus on how you're thinking? … what you are doing/saying? … how
do your current habits contribute to dissatisfaction? How can you
shift even 1 or 2 of these? Notice what difference even small changes
• Give yourself
permission to leave your work and as a consequence become more
alert to other career directions of interest. Review the Careers
section of the newspaper (local and interstate), cut out and keep
a log of interesting advertisements.
have conversations with people who cross your path about the work
they do…really allow yourself to take an interest.
• Browse the internet,
large career sites, small professional sites, etc.
• Notice your
intuition and allow yourself to act on it, even when these actions
seem strange or really different for you.
• Look at volunteer
possibilities in areas of interest – even though you may be
unready to commit to these, even researching them is a good beginning.
Allow yourself to consider those that generate energy, are enjoyable
and get you to loosen up your thinking…..
Contributing Author: Helen Campbell Harder
For more information about Helen Campbell Harder and how her services
can facilitate career transition see www.psychcareer.com