Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Adapt to Reality

Just prior to my son's birth last April, I was cleaning out our garage to make room for baby stuff. I found my test results for several career tests I took in college, including The Career Key, and they pointed me in the direction of law. I enjoyed drama, debate, public speaking and politics. My RIASEC profile is Social, Enterprising and Artistic, although I'm more Enterprising now than I used to be. So employment and labor law was the right choice, and looking back on it I don't regret it. But I made large changes within my legal career to accommodate the reality of working in it, which was often unpleasant.

Like many lawyers, I underestimated how much I would dislike the business side of practicing law. Billable hours (at its worst, billing clients for time you think about their case in the shower), unless you work for government, is how you're measured. I learned about this in the abstract during law school in law firm jobs. But in order to pay off student loans, government jobs are not ideal unless you want to spend 20-30 years paying them off. So billable hours as part of a private firm become your life.

So after gaining experience and the help of a couple of great mentors, I started my own law firm. Self-employment gave me the flexibility to travel and have a personal life, although I made roughly the same amount of money as an entry level attorney. After several years of scrambling for work (the most unpleasant part of my practice), I decided to return to working for someone else, and to pay off my student loans. I found my dream legal job as the Legal Officer for the Washington State Patrol. My job was measured by results, not billable hours - a perfect medium for me. Then to make a long story short, it was time for me to have a family so I looked for other opportunities that would make use of my skills while providing flexibility for having a child. And I found The Career Key (more about this transition later).

My story about disillusionment with the business side of the law, and about adapting one's career to match the reality of the job market is not unusual, particularly for lawyers. And it's not unusual for people now to switch careers several times during their working life. I'd be interested in hearing other people's stories about making changes within their chosen career.

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