I am 29 years old, so I suppose I’m already “grown up”, but lately, I have been running into the issue of wondering if the career path I am in is the right one for me.
I graduated high school at age 17 and went straight to college. I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a communications degree at 21, and went straight through to law school at Pitt Law, where I graduated at 24. Pretty standard, especially since I thought I wanted to be a lawyer from when I was in middle school. Now, I’m not so sure. I have had a couple of litigation based law firm experiences so far, and while I learned a lot in both of them, I’m not in love with my work. and I want to be. I want to love what I do so much that it doesn’t feel like work. That should be possible, right? I’m sure I won’t love every minute of work that I do, but I want to love it overall, and as of now, I don’t think I love being a lawyer. I think I have felt this way for a while, but I kept pushing it to the back of my mind because “this is what I went to school for”.
Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that I went to law school. I appreciate the legal knowledge that I gained and it helps me every day. I approach things differently, and analyze issues that I face with a legal mind. I know that regardless of what I end up doing career-wise, I’ll use this legal way of thinking.
As I search for my next step, I have started to explore other options, and after getting advice from several people, I have found that it’s actually fairly common for people to be working in a field that they didn’t go to school for.
As I started to draw out the roadmap to figuring out what I should do next, I found it helpful to itemize the things that are important to me, and the things that I don’t want in a job or career. I highly recommend doing this as it will help you illuminate the things that are your priorities.
WANTS: I know I like interacting with people, connecting with them, and providing them advice / tips. I also know that I want to do different things, as opposed to tackling the same project every day. I know that flexibility is important to me, and so is being able to have the option to work remotely on some days. I want to be able to spend time with my family, and have the ability to travel with them.
NOPE: I don’t want to be stuck at a desk for 8+ hours per day. I don’t want a work environment that frowns upon you leaving when you work is done. I have seen many work cultures where even if you are done you should stay because you want to be perceived as dedicated. I don’t want to wear a suit.
I realize that this is the first step to figuring out what makes you happy: coming to terms with what does not make you happy. It is okay to be picky when looking for a career path. You might have to take “just a job” while you work towards achieving the kind of career-job that you want for your long-term plan, and that’s okay. Just don’t lose sight of what makes you happy, and never stop working towards achieving that happiness.
I have many classmates who have found lawyer jobs and love them. I have just as many classmates who are doing something in a completely different field and are so happy to not be practicing law. I may find a law-based job that I love, but I also think I owe it to myself to do some thinking to figure out what other career paths might give me joy.
Have you made a career switch from what you originally went to school for? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments (or contact me directly!)