Last week, I received a message from an old law school friend who is now working as a barrister in town. She asked me if I could have a chat to the law student currently clerking for her regarding her career. This is actually the second time that I’ve been asked for career advice as a blogger. Those of you who have been following my blog might remember my post about X, another lawyer who wanted to leave the profession and asked if I would open up about my journey.
I agreed again, but it made me laugh. I’m the last person anyone should ask for career advice, especially when it comes to a career in law. I’m not a very good role model. After moving back to New Zealand, I changed practice areas from contentious to transactional, meaning that I had to pretty much start over in my mid-30s. I have always been a junior, never a senior. To compound to that, despite obtaining two degrees and working my butt off in private practice to gain as much experience as I could, I now run a boutique garden centre. I’ve essentially ended up in retail, which is what I did as a part-time job while I was at uni. I should have just listened to the managers of all the stores I worked at, who all encouraged me to forget about law and stick with retail. In hindsight, it would have been a short cut to get to where I am today.
But I’ve learnt to laugh about these things. As they say, things in life come full circle. You don’t make any progress no matter hard you try, so there’s no point even bothering. If you can’t take the piss out of yourself, there’ll be someone close to you that’ll be very quick to do it (like one of my cousins) or people that don’t like you will laugh at you, which is much worse than if you join in the fun and don’t take yourself too seriously. But on that note, people like that shouldn’t gloat about other people’s misfortunes, as you never know what’s in store for you or a loved one in the future.
There is a story about why my career has evolved in such a peculiar way. There is always a story. Spoken like a journalist, not that I am one. In my case, it’s a pretty good one which will be developed over the course of my blog and examined from different aspects of life. Like a normal person, I did have a plan and that was to pursue a career in law. However, I hit a few obstacles along the way, which I covered in a previous blog post. It’s not really feasible to stick to the original plan so I’ve had to forge a fresh, creative way forward in order to work around some issues in relation to my health.
I’m happy to offer my thoughts on career development to anyone on a confidential basis and as a friend. I promise I won’t publish your name in my blog! I’m no expert when it comes to these things but sometimes it’s nice to chat to someone about these things, especially someone a little older who has more work and life experience.
Why am I doing this, if there’s nothing in it for me? In my opinion, too many people have the policy of “I’ll help you if you help me”. I don’t think this is a particularly effective way for society to operate. As I once told my old boss, there’s no way I can ever repay him for all the support he’s given me over the years, but I’ll hopefully be able to help someone else one day, and that has already started happening, which I am pleased about. On the same token, I hope someone different helps him if and when he needs it, because I might not be the one that can help him myself.
The person best placed to help you might be someone you don’t know personally. I’ll give you a little example. The doctor best placed to act as a sounding board when I needed to reconcile some complex health issues ended up being a friend’s sister who went to Oxford and lives on the other side of the world. While I had done a lot of my own thinking and sketched out a tentative treatment plan, I’m very aware that I am not a doctor (despite the fact that people keep asking me if I am one, as I mentioned in a previous post). I needed to run my conclusions past a decent expert in the field as I was having trouble finding one in New Zealand. I was very grateful that she agreed to help me and she confirmed that I was on the right track. I’ve also discovered that even people that don’t like you can give you a lot of support when you really need it.
If you’re like me, you’ll want to try and work things out independently without troubling anyone, but as the friend who referred me onto her Oxbridge-educated consultant sister wisely said to me, we all need a little help at times. No one should be ashamed to ask for it. You can contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.