Shifting careers is a tough nut to crack at any stage of a professional life. That's because it usually requires adopting new mental models, a knowledge base, agility in the field, and contacts. Beyond 30, it can be so scary that, in itself, the fear becomes the major obstacle. Here is the dialogue between a burnt-out therapist and Liz Ryan in Forbes. Obviously, the wannabe career-changer is grabbing for reasons not to take the leap.
In the somewhat small world of law that fear often balloons into complete inaction. Even what another path opens up magically, the JD, who is no longer earning a living in the legal sector, stays put. A classic case was the former BigLaw senior associate who was welcomed by car dealerships during the sales boom in that category. Before law school that's what he had been doing. That came out and offers dropped in his lap. His choice? He uprooted his family to be closer to the law market in the New York Metro area.
So, how to exorcise the ghosts of law-careers past? The simple but profound lesson is presented in Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Ebenezer Scrooge allows himself to take on another world view. He does not do a Hamlet or Hillary Clinton of, "Should I or shouldn't I."
Then he immediately takes action. Changed is the company policy for Christmas Eve. Just as important is what he doesn't do. For example, there is no contacting the old network to deconstruct his insight and the acquisition of joy.
In the legal sector, ghosts are invited in. The memory bank is bulging with snippets from law school, studying for the bar, the one friend on the first job, the overbearing first boss, the signs of supposedly doing well, and the series of early disappointments. If the ghosts were not so warmly welcomed, taking the leap onto another career path would be less traumatic. Perhaps even seamless.
The major factor in my ability to transition back to the high-end of ghostwrwriting/speechwriting from bottom-feeding during the downturn was ditching, abruptly, four one-time classmates (The Seton Hill, Greensburg, Pennsylvania Four). Like a bag of rotting fruit, I was dragging their take around with me. The stench drove off possibility. Perhaps the next time I will encounter them will be in court.