When I left my first career, just over 15 years ago, I didn’t walk away lightly.

In fact I’d fought really hard to get there and I was pretty devastated to learn that I actually didn’t enjoy it at all. Law is a notoriously competitive profession to get into and progress in.

I’d found it quite challenging to get a training contract in the first place like many who graduate from Law School. But I persevered and went on to secure what I thought was my dream job, believing that all the pain had been worth it.  Not only had I secured my ticket to qualification but it just happened to be in the most glamorous of surroundings, working for a boutique music law firm.

But, there’s a but. It wasn’t anything like I expected. Yes, it was exciting at first as I got to meet some famous stars (but not many) and I did all sorts of odd jobs as the office skivvy, but when I qualified I quickly realised that I actually really didn’t enjoy working with documents and pouring over detail all day. It really wasn’t me or my preferred way of working. I thought I’d be with clients all day, solving their problems there and then, in meetings, flying to LA. In reality, I was sat at my desk most of the time, knee deep in very long, detailed contracts that really didn’t make all that much sense to me.

I hated it.

But, there’s another but, I wasn’t ready to let it go that easily. I’d worked so hard to get there so I wasn’t going to walk away without knowing what alternatives might exist.

Maybe I was lacking purpose, after all Music, as glamorous as it seemed didn’t fulfil any great need in the world for me. So I tried volunteering at a local law centre so see if that what was missing. Unfortunately that left me even colder, and in reality involved lots of form filling and dealing with a whole range of issues that it was difficult to see where I could specialise. I’d already spent some time in a large corporate firm as a paralegal before securing my TC so I also knew that that wasn’t the answer for me either.

So I left. And I ran away to South America to do some teaching in a rural school for 6 months to see if I could figure it out. Staying in the role had started to make me feel miserable, more that boredom or fatigue, it was eating away at my motivation and ability to get excited about the future. It was time to go and get some space to think.

When I came back I still wasn’t clear though and I also had my mortgage to pay (I’d managed to rent the flat out while I was away) so I returned to law to  give it one last try. This time as a locum. I’d managed to do a fair chunk of property work for my music clients so it was easy enough to sign up with a recruitment agency and get work. Once again though I realised that I just didn’t enjoy it, no matter which way I did it. It was time to say goodbye and try something new.

Luckily I didn’t have to look too far away from law to get the job that then become my dream job. By working out my parameters (I couldn’t afford to retrain, I couldn’t afford too big a drop in salary) I was able to narrow down my search and focus in on what would be much more suited to me. I also looked at the elements of law that I did like (there were some!) and build up my ideal job scenario:

-Client facing

-Very little paper work

-More creativity

-Team based

-Something where I could help to develop people rather than just advise them

Once I had got clear on these important factors, within a few weeks a job description came my way for an employed career coach in a law college. Even better was that they would happily accept applications from lawyers and I would be able to retrain on the job. It was just what I was looking for.

What happened next is a whole other story but in short-form I did go on to have a very fulfilling and happy career for the next 10 years, before I started having children, when things changed again.

The message here though is to really think it through before giving up on a career that you’ve worked hard to get into. Even though it was clear to me that I wasn’t enjoying my role, I dug deep, tried various other options and gave myself some time away from the job to really think it all through and gave it some serious thought before I decided to walk away.

Before you make such a big step, take some time to try new things. Adapt your role, try some volunteer work, move into a role in another environment, explore your options. 

Change can be scary if its reactionary and not thought through as you really can be taking a step into the unknown. But if you spend time with yourself, testing the truths and exploring what might work for you, change doesn’t have to be huge. It can be something that feels more like a progression of where you’re at now if you build on what you’ve already achieved and develop yourslef in a way that feels right for you.

Jo Oogarah 

Career Empowerment Coach

Helping professional women own their career, find their power and make positive change so that they thrive in the workplace.


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