How Can I Take Control Over My Career Satisfaction?
Managing stress and finding a healthy work-life balance as a practicing lawyer can be a difficult journey. Perhaps you’ve had moments where you’ve thought: Is this what I signed up for? Or maybe you’ve contemplated the question: How will I last?
We’ve all been seeing an increasing number of reposts about lawyer dissatisfaction, and statistics that indicate that attorneys suffer from higher rates of depression than most other professionals. While this may be true on a macro-level, if you find yourself struggling with some of these issues, don’t interpret these reports as irrefutable proof of your own lack of power to better your current situation. The truth is that you have more control over your own satisfaction than it may appear, and that lawyering – when approached from a place of empowerment – is not only 100% sustainable, but can be a rewarding and fulfilling career path.
Here are some examples of how you can improve your professional satisfaction:
1. Find a Great Mentor
There are so many reasons why a mentor can add to your happiness at work. But how do you find one? First, don’t assume that your mentor is the person your law firm has formally paired you with. Great mentorship can start with a formal relationship, but it can also develop more organically. As you find yourself gravitating towards particular people in your orbit, it’s useful to remind yourself that great mentors aren’t necessarily the same thing as great friends. A mentor should be someone you look up to, and most importantly, who you can trust. He/she should have an active interest in your career, as well as your personal development – including your happiness. That said, mentorship, like any other relationship, is give-and-take. In order for a mentor to fully understand who you are, and how to help you, you need to make sure that you, too, are actively investing in the connection. If you’re able to find, and strike that balance with someone, you’re bound to reap real emotional benefits. Why? Because a mentor will teach you how to take better care of your career, and when you’re taking better care of your career, you’re taking better care of yourself. The equation is simple: a better you is a happier you.
Sometimes, you need more than a mentor. Mentors are, at the end of the day, still colleagues, and you may feel they’re just too closely intertwined with your professional life to give objective advice. Other times, you might be experiencing feelings that you just don’t want to share with a senior lawyer in your own organization. Recognizing these limitations, some law firms have begun to provide their attorneys with coaches, either by bringing in third-parties, or hiring someone permanent to be on staff. If your firm is one of these forward-thinking organizations, leverage this opportunity to your benefit. A good coach will get you to ask questions of yourself that will help you to get to a happier place. Often this starts with the basics such as, why did I become a lawyer in the first place and what do and don’t I like about my practice. A good coach will often help you figure out a way to navigate a difficult personality. This self-inquiry is crucial in helping you bring happiness to your work. If your firm does not provide coaching services then a great place to start is you City Bar Association. Quite often they will have resources to get you connected to a coach.
3. Add Mindfulness to Your Day
Mindfulness seems to be the “it” word of the 21st century. Exercises that focus on your prefrontal cortex (your happiness center) work and studies have shown that such exercises can reduce stress and depression and help you make better choices. Often the training that one receives as a lawyer can be counter-intuitive to a mindfulness practice. As lawyers, we are taught to be critical and reactive, but not necessarily thoughtful. However, as humans we are lucky in that our brains are capable of being re-trained. Developing a mindfulness practice, or an exploration of one’s mind, can often re-wire the brain. Lawyers who engage in such a practice are not only better equipped to handle unexpected surprises, but they have the capacity to be more genuine and aware of their interactions with their clients and colleagues. In addition, it has been shown that a mindfulness practice allows lawyers to focus with greater clarity on assignments and work. This momentous shift often leads to happier, more productive attorneys. If you’re interested in mindfulness, https://www.calm.com/ is a place to start.
4. Be Open to Possibility of Transition
If, despite all your best attempts, you still are unable to strike the right balance while in your current position, it’s worthwhile to consider meeting with a recruiter. Associates too often feel trapped or believe that all law firms are the same. That could not be further from the truth. As people are different, so are law firms. Sometimes, finding a better fit of people whose goals are more in line with your own can make the difference in going from an unhappy lawyer to one that feels joy with their practice. Coaches often encourage building such bridges, if only because exploring other alternatives allows an attorney to reclaim what may feel like an increasingly diminished sense of control over his/her career. In other words, taking the time to sit down with a professional in the industry to talk through your career and speak about platforms for which you may be better suited – whether or not you ultimately choose to take any additional action – is empowering, in and of itself. Speaking about your career and goals can help clarify them, and if that’s all that you get out of it, then you’re the better for it.
There are no easy answers surrounding long-term career satisfaction – we all know this. But the first step in finding greener pastures is to harness your own power to better your circumstances. These opportunities are all around you, you just have to notice them.
It may not be a permanent solution, but no solution is permanent. So take the reins, and remember this: empowerment can equal happiness.