Strategies for Surviving a Bad Employment Situation

Vol. 16 No. 2


David M. Wilkins is an attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. He can be contacted at

A few years ago I found myself at a crossroads in my legal career. My firm had a negative workplace culture, which was starting to impact my life outside the office negatively. I decided that there needed to be a change and was able to find a better job. What I learned in the process may be able to help others in a similar situation.

Take stock of your professional goals

            What kind of attorney do you want to be in five years? What about in ten years? Where do you want to be working? It is important to formulate your professional goals, whether in a written list or as mental notes, so you have something against which to measure your professional progress. Keeping your résumé up to date is another easy way to monitor whether you are advancing toward your goals. If your current job is holding you back from reaching your short- and long-term goals, either try to use your job to come closer to meeting your goals by proactively seeking more responsibility or a broader variety of work or find a new job.

Build a support network

            Even the best jobs can get difficult at times. That’s why every lawyer needs a support network of friends, colleagues, and family. Besides my wife, I had some friends from law school to lean on during rough times. I also was fortunate to have an older and more experienced attorney mentor who was able to provide me with contacts at other firms and tips on how to handle my difficult work situation. My support network proved invaluable. If you don’t have a mentor to rely on, take advantage of the many mentoring programs offered by state and local bar associations.

Never carry “baggage” from the old job to the new one

            A new job is a fresh start, so treat it as such. You will be wiser thanks to your previous experiences; but, you must be willing to put the past behind you to achieve success at the new job. Also, no matter how bitter your past experience, do not speak poorly of former employers because the legal community is well connected, and your reputation is priceless.

Make your present job the best job possible

            In this job market, it can be hard to find that new job. Until you can move on, you must take steps to improve your situation at work. This is not as easy as it sounds. One way to try to make your bad job situation better is to use the job as a way to enhance your legal skills and knowledge. If you work in a larger firm setting, it may be time to find work with other senior associates and partners. It may also be as simple as choosing not to participate in negative gossip within the firm. Focusing on your job and the skills you can learn and enhance will go a long way to make a bad job situation better and will prove useful when more positive opportunities arise in the future.

            If you find yourself in a job that you do not like or in a negative work environment, remember, it is a situation you have the power to change. Follow my tips, brush up the résumé, and hopefully you will find yourself like me, in a more rewarding job.




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