“How Do I Stop Caring What Other People Think?”

Tania's job is secure, comfortable, and making her miserable. She's facing a clear choice – the stable route or taking a risk – but the cacophony of opinions she's hearing from others is making her doubt herself. How do you listen to your own voice, when others speak so loud?

What's your career history and current job?

I've worked as a lawyer for nine years, since I graduated from law school.

I currently work for a private practice.

How do you feel about your work?

There are positives to working for a private practice: the salary, the prestige.

I enjoy drafting documents and analysing problems to come up with practical solutions.

I like the teamwork and getting positive feedback.

However, unless you're looking to progress to being a partner, which I've no interest in, there aren't really any senior opportunities.

I find that if I'm too busy and bill a lot of hours, I feel miserable. I also feel miserable if I'm not busy enough and I'm not meeting my billable hours.

I dislike having to explain how long I've spent on my different tasks, especially when I've no interest in the subject matter (financial products and regulation).

What would you like to be doing instead?

I'm considering a few options.

Longer term, I'd like to do something I'm passionate about, maybe in the performing arts, in creative writing, or teaching piano to kids; I'm not 100% sure yet.

Right now, my struggle is to do with crafting a stable route that will allow me to figure that out.

I have no mortgage or family obligations at the moment, and have savings enough to last me at least a year or two without working. However, my boyfriend and I do want to buy a house and start a family at some point. He's very supportive of my career change, but I don't want to let him down, which could happen if I take a risk and end up financially worse off.

The most stable route would be to stay where I am because it's secure and comfortable. My current boss is wonderful, so maybe it's a case of 'better the devil you know'. At least here I know what it is I'm doing each day, I've a team I can work with and respect from my colleagues, so at least I'm in a position of security from where I can explore my options. That's what stopped me leaving to date.

I could also move into a bank or a corporate firm where I could work in-house as a lawyer, which isn't as risky. That could kick-start my change mentality so that I'm prepared for an even bigger change once I eventually figure out what that would look like, but I'd be starting over working for someone else and I'm not sure if I'm agile enough for that.

Maybe I should try it out and eliminate it as an option. At least there wouldn't be the pressure of becoming a partner in an in-house role and it might be a good challenge for me.

The riskier route would be to become a legal contractor. I would hope I could then negotiate a day off a week that would allow me to think more deeply about what I want to do in terms of a bigger, long-term career change.

Lawyers are by their nature, risk averse, so the least risky option to which I'm drawn is to move into an in-house legal position in a bank or a corporate.

But I'm not passionate about this; it's more a case of sticking with what I can do.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

I'm heavily influenced by what other people think.

I've asked so many people about whether I should stay in my current job and make the most of it being a comfortable position, so that I can put my energy into exploring my options.

I've spoken to other lawyers about whether contracting is the right way to go. They say that would be a crazy thing to do because I'd be giving up a steady salary for less money and less prestigious work.

Friends and colleagues keep telling me how hard it is to get a job as an in-house lawyer. Their advice is that if I do get an in-house job offer, I should take the job no matter what, which sounds pretty desperate to me.

I'm still unsure about what will be right for me in terms of helping me move towards the bigger career change that I feel is on the horizon at some point.

There's an unspoken rule that you leave a private practice law firm to get an in-house job within three to seven years of qualifying. After that, you're considered too expensive or too senior for most of the roles out there. I'm in that post-qualification window at the moment.

Even though whatever people say shouldn't be as important as what I believe is important to me, it's a psychological hurdle I'm struggling to overcome.

How do I find the headspace to figure out what I want to do, rather than what everyone else thinks is a good idea?

Can you help Tania?
  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Tania could move her shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone she could talk to?

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