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After the Bar

Career Resources

Using Coaching to Explore Your Career Options

Whittney Beard and Kristen Joy Mathews

Using Coaching to Explore Your Career Options
Tempura via iStock

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The past year has shifted many of the ways we view our lives. Collectively, we have undergone trauma. Individually, the pandemic has affected each of us in a million different ways. People naturally are reevaluating their priorities, looking more closely for the meaning and joy in life. This is where career coaching can help.

What Do You Want?

Coaches work with clients to formulate a compelling vision of the future so that when things inevitably get hard, you still feel pulled to keep working toward your goal. When circumstances become challenging, it is normal to look for better, easier, more enjoyable options. It is essential to distinguish whether the current challenge is simply something you must overcome on the path to your larger vision or a signal that you are headed in the wrong direction. Thus, identifying your dream is critical to know what to do next when frustrated, overwhelmed, uncertain, bored, or just desiring change.

Career coaches frequently ask the following questions to jumpstart a client’s self-evaluation. Try to sit with each question for a few minutes and write whatever comes to mind.

  • What made you choose to go to law school?
  • When you went to law school, what did you imagine it would mean for your life?
  • Who or what did you want to serve by becoming a lawyer?
  • Where did you expect to be in your career two years after law school? Five years? Ten?
  • If you were wildly successful, what would your life look like in 10 years?
  • How would it affect you, your family, your community, and the world if you achieved this level of success?

How Will You Get There?

With some clarity on your vision, you are ready to identify and start taking actions that will move you toward your goal. If you have determined that you want to explore alternatives or make a significant shift, you might ask yourself the following questions.

  • How much money do you need to earn? (This might require a spreadsheet. Really.)
  • What does compensation look like in your new field?
  • Will this path require specific experience or education?
  • Whom do you know in this new field, and how can they help you? When will you reach out to them?
  • How else might you network?
  • What unknowns do you want to address before taking the leap?

If reflecting on your dream has affirmed your commitment to your current role, you might consider:

  • What do you need to stay on this path?
  • What support do you need to be successful? Who can help?
  • How else can you align your values with your professional experience?

Can It Be Done?

Taking action to support a career change or reinvest in your current role may feel daunting. It might seem like there is an overwhelming number of actions to take and like each action is uncomfortable, possibly even insurmountable. This is where coaches can offer perspective and the importance of challenging your internal biases. Notice that your perspective around money, for example, might reflexively lead you to conclude that a lower salary is a nonstarter. Your discomfort with asking for help might hinder your willingness to network. The story you are telling yourself about what’s predictable if you stay in your current role might cloud your judgment regarding what is possible. Do your best to challenge any assumptions that you may be making as you contemplate the next steps. These questions may help:

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Once you have answered the questions above, consider getting some outside support. Speaking with a mentor or hiring a professional coach could help you further explore your vision and blind spots and help you stay accountable to yourself and your goals. You can achieve a more fulfilled, meaningful, even joyful career, and there’s no time like the present to make it happen.