I do not often give life/career advice on this blog, but given the current turmoil at many firms I feel compelled to send a message. Heck, if the partners cannot boost staff morale then somebody's gotta step up and do it.
As a 3 years PQE lawyer, I'm in a pretty sweet spot to be on a career break, focus on secret business ventures, gallivant around the world and occasionally pop back into the office when I'm in town for coffee and gossip. But I have served my time in the prison cell otherwise known as my old window office and have learnt a few valuable lessons along the way. These are the top five lessons I want to share with other yuppies - the tips that parents, high school, university and those silly graduate training sessions didn't teach you.
There comes a time for most yuppies, usually when they hit the 1.5 year to 2 year mark after commencing full-time work, where they find themselves completely lost and miserable about their careers. You work late and on weekends for sh*t pay. You take on extra pro bono matters and do marketing work for no credit. You have no f*ing idea how to run your files. You think you might die in your office from exhaustion (I seriously used to have dreams about this). You think that you went down the wrong career path but that you are too inexperienced to quit now. Don't worry. In the words of Churchill, if you're going through hell - keep going. It gets better within a year. You will pick up the knowledge you need, be given the juicier jobs, get invited to all the client meetings and events, and learn how to manage it all. And you will start to see a clear path for you to climb up the ladder, if that is what you really want.
2. To the lawyers stuck in the middle ...
Don't get bogged down with your title or your stagnant salary. Hate to break it to you, but these things probably won't change in your favour any time soon. Just focus on the quality of your output and your own professional development. Make sure you are proactive about improving your skill set. Be reliable to those above you and kind to those who assist you. Keep bringing your A-game to the workplace because if sh*t hits the fan, you will have gained at least four things from the soul sucking firm: knowledge, goodwill for yourself, connections, and the pile of precedents you manage to steal from the system before leaving.
Have some hobbies and interests. Seriously, this is not just for the last line in your CV. Interests outside of work are important, and will prevent you from becoming another statistic in Beyond Blue's depressed lawyer count. It may even be your ticket out of Eagle Street to bigger and better things. I got stuck a few years ago when I realised the only interests I had was eating well and boozing a lot. But then I started blogging about it and that became my hobby - one that has surprisingly paid off in many ways. Learn a language, join a social sport, start a book club, enrol in a masters or think of the next coolest app or a great business idea (and then drop me a line).
4. To those who are changing directions ...
I have turned my life upside down in the past year and at times I wonder what the hell I am doing. Then I remind myself that it's all okay because this is what change feels like. When we make big changes in our lives, we can fall into a trap of interpreting the feeling of being unsettled as being unhappy, and then assume that we are unhappy from making the wrong decision. No, this is just what change feels like. Life is a roller coaster, so enjoy the ride and follow my daily routine:
Surround yourself with positive and intelligent people who you respect you and who have your interests at heart. If you feel like you don't fit in then do everything you can to change teams or change firm. It will make all the difference. We are all pawns in this chessboard - even the partners. All we can do is have a good attitude and enjoy working in the company of each other. Ultimately that is what makes us able to turn up to work on those days that we hate it - knowing that we are all just young (and some old) urban professionals trying to make our way in the world.
Now that is enough mushy talk for the year. Let's get back to being superficial, like where to eat and drink and shop and play this weekend. Have you checked out the new Blackbird Bar & Grill yet? My fabulous friends and I will be there tonight.