For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a lawyer. At least, I remember saying I wanted to be a lawyer.
That pronouncement took me right through to my senior year in college, resolute as I was, until it came time to apply to law school.
Suddenly, what had once felt like a natural choice and next step in a pre-ordained progression of sorts felt… off.
As I sat for the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) not once but twice, canceling my scores the first time because my nerves (or something deeper) got the best of me, I had the sinking feeling I was not where I was supposed to be in my life.
I took the LSAT a second time anyway, ignoring my growing dissension. Not surprising to me, I did not perform as well as my high cumulative GPA had predicted but well enough to grant me entrance the following year to the first-tier law school I attended following graduation.
During the same period, I prepared for the LSAT, I also studied (though arguably not as much as I should have) for the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and sat for that test as well. My score was lackluster at best but, again, high enough to get me accepted to the two disparate graduate programs I had applied to at two prestigious east coast universities.
When the time finally came to choose, I felt myself standing at a crossroad, torn between what I had been programmed to believe was my destiny and what, at the time, I knew my true calling was — anything but the practice of law.
I put deposits down at both the law school and graduate school of my choosing and waffled between the two for months. The choice became the subject of many heated debates as well as a battle of the wills between my fiancé who did not see law school in my future, and my mother and stepfather who saw my upcoming nuptials as a threat to my professional aspirations.
In the end, the decision was mine to make. Choosing to honor the family tradition, I began law school that fall.
Almost immediately, I found myself out of my comfort zone. I had betrayed my inner voice and went from being the eager student I was in college to the apathetic one I was in high school.
Those who listened to my constant complaints urged me to quit. Perhaps I should have, though at the time I felt doing so meant defeat. I still remember the guy in my section who knew every case cold, exhibited innate skill as he argued esoteric points in a way I never could, and who, much to everyone’s surprise including the professors who adored him, did not return after Christmas break because he realized law school was not right for him.
He left. I stayed.
After graduation, I began working in an unrelated field, taking jobs “beneath” my education level yet still falling along the trajectory I had carefully mapped out for myself. When I finally reached my sweet spot, a third and final round of interviews for a consulting position that required weekly bi-coastal travel, a position I affectionately dubbed my dream job, I discovered I was pregnant.
One miscarriage later, the subsequent birth of three children in under five years, and a three-year tour living overseas in furtherance of my then husband’s career goals, I found myself suddenly single at 39 without an established career to fall back on.
Again, law school reared its head as everyone, including my divorce lawyer, saw my entrance to the field an obvious one.
Not for me, though I did briefly entertain the prospect, albeit reluctantly, until accepting once and for all my talents and passion lay elsewhere.
Turns out, I was right.
Being away from the workplace for an extended time like I was, whether the result of a layoff, firing, parenthood or what have you, can be precisely the excuse you have been waiting for to do what you love and love what you do.
With careful thought, research, the right tools, and a positive attitude, the career you have always dreamed of can finally be within reach. Admittedly, taking that first step may be scary because what we often fear is the unknown. But in the wise words of Abraham Lincoln, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
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This article appeared on the Huffington Post February 3, 2016.