The Work: Going Internal

People are changing jobs right now. It is a thing. The pandemic has abated and the little space given has unleashed and untethered all of us from our before-times. A year out of step with your normal-times can do that. Work situations that felt intolerable are getting a second look. People are on the move.

Looking for a job is a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual process. It can be exhausting. Every time you tweak your resume, network, apply to a job, and interview, you put yourself out into the world for scrutiny. You open yourself up for rejection. The most confident and self-assured person can end in a puddle.

Self-inquiry and being very clear about what you seek from this process is one way to mitigate its pain. Often, people just feel the pain of their current job situation and their desire to escape as quickly as possible. And this hot, itchy feeling causes them to skip directly to their job search without taking a moment to do the internal work necessary to get clear about their dreams and what it is they truly want from this next career step. The step may seem a small one, from law firm to law firm or law firm to in-house, or it may be bigger, it may be leaving law entirely. The inquiry and its need is the same, no matter the size of the leap.

The type of pain to which I refer is mental and emotional in nature. It lives in the head, a bit in the heart, and sometimes in the stomach. Always, it is inextricably bound with our sense of self-worth in a very essential, basic way. It is the pain created by our expectations and dreams and the gap between these and our reality. At bumpy times in our lives, the delta between them seems a chasm. We don’t tend to frame our displeasure with a job as pain. Instead, we may kvetch about a boss or a coworker, or a policy, blame external things. If we can focus on the external, it becomes easier to dismiss what may be happening to us internally, where the real tangle may lay.  

But it is to this real tangle where I want to delve. When things are not working at your job, for whatever reason, the first thought may be to escape. But I advocate taking a moment, a breath even, and sitting with the pain that you are associating with your job. Can you articulate it? If so, it may well be time for a change. If not, this is the surest sign that you are not quite clear as to the true cause of your discontent. Change may seem an obvious answer, but if you cannot articulate what is wrong then the odds of your making a change that resolves what ails you are very slim. 

The thing I have learned and observed from my many years of counseling lawyers is that ultimately, everyone has that moment when they are unsure about the direction of their career. This moment will happen more than once over the course of your professional life. You will question your choices and may feel anxiety as to the goal, the point of it all. As individuals, we are constantly changing, evolving, and our priorities may shift as we get older, get married, start a family or not. Goals that had seemed so clear when they were far away, may look very different once they draw near. This is a tough space to occupy when you are a Type A overachiever, but at some point, we all have to sit with who we are, wrestle and reckon with it to more clearly decide what it is we want to build in this life. 

The internal work is a deeply personal process of self-inquiry. Everyone’s inquiry will look different. For some, taking a trip to a place they love will bring clarity. For others, writing lists, looking at old journals, rounds of discussions with your inner circle help illuminate what may be the root issue. In this last year, there has been a lot of noise, what is the thing that has helped you quiet it? Grab that thing, go to that space.

With this ongoing pandemic, it only makes sense that we are beginning to see people make all sorts of changes in their lives. Changing jobs is not a small undertaking, it gets at the very heart of your professional self and is bound with who you currently believe that self to be.  When thinking about a career change, it is important to switch off your normal mode of engagement and tune into another. Doing the internal work before you leap has a lot of upfront costs and fees, to be sure, but it will better prepare you for any bumps in the road that you encounter. It most certainly will provide you the ability to take advantage of any unexpected opportunity that presents itself.  I encourage you to take that moment, slow things down, look inside for what truly may be motivating this change. The answers will bubble up and with the work done, you will have a framework and a context to make your best choice.

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