Lawyers who are considering making a career change face a recurring question: How can I tell whether the alternate in which I am interested is a career or just a hobby? As a career coach for lawyers, I meet lots of lawyers who have a wide variety of interests, ranging from the intellectual to the social to the physical. So how can you tell whether, for example, your interest in the restaurant industry or oceanography rises to the level of warranting a change of careers?
There isn’t one right way to answer this question, but some approaches are more likely to be successful than others. The most common mistake is to view this question as an intellectual exercise—a puzzle to figure out. It isn’t.
The best approach is often experiential. If the lure of a career in archaeology is strong, hang out with working professional archaeologists. In other words, the sooner you get out of your own head the better off you will be. Specifically, when you talk to and regularly interact with anyone who does something for a living, some elements of their job or career is sub-optimal. That’s one of the main differences between a hobby and a career. At the hobby phase, the interest can seem wholly good. But as with any relationship you know you are on the right track when you can maintain your passion even when you are aware of and have experienced some of the potential downsides or points of friction.
This is particularly important for lawyers who are thinking of leaving the practice of law. Experiencing some of the potentially difficult aspects of other fields of endeavor can help put your current situation in perspective. It can also help you identify more suitable careers within the law.
How about you? What can you do that will allow you to spend time with people who are devoting themselves full-time to the kind of work you are considering?