Should I stay, or should I go?
Should I stay, or should I go?
The first in a series of articles by CEO Miranda Hilton, analysing and exploring the difficulties and solutions that come with a career change.
As we enter a new year, many of us will reflect on the last twelve months. The holidays often allow a moment in time to reflect on our careers and lives outside of work. This is a very healthy and necessary part of our personal and professional growth and development.
For the senior lawyers and partners we work with, the decision to leave a firm is not made lightly, with most lawyers making very few moves in their career. It’s not just contemplating a career change but a life change. We have heard many say that the emotional journey in considering leaving is much like that of a relationship break-up - and in fact it is exactly that. As a Partner, you made a choice and a commitment not just to the firm but to your fellow team and Partners. You have obligations to consider. As an equity Partner, you are financially invested and there’s an implied expectation that you stick with the 'ups and the downs'.
There’s also fear and inevitable 'what if scenarios' as your mind jumps too many steps ahead. Fear of the unknown and unpredictable; of what others may think - team members, peers, mentors or colleagues you leave behind; fear of your reputation being tarnished if an exit isn’t managed in the right way; or what clients may think and whether they will follow you.
Add to this the ethical and moral code which most lawyers live and abide by and it’s no wonder when head-hunters call, the initial reaction is normally resistant. Even when you know instinctively that you don't see yourself in that firm long-term.
So we thought we would write some key words of advice and factors to consider. These are taken from our experience of having seen, facilitated, witnessed and supported hundreds of successful long-term career moves at this level:
Firstly, lose the cloud. You can never make a clear decision when fear clouds your judgement. All of those fears and 'what ifs' may be valid. But if you live your life driven by fear you can’t grow, nor move forward to experience the amazing life-changing opportunities which often lie just on the other side.
Fundamentally you have to make the right decision for you, your life and your career, because this is also the right decision for everyone else around you. As a specific example of this, if you’re not fully motivated and committed in your role, you won’t deliver to expectations nor fulfil your potential. Just ‘turning up’ to work or anything in life won’t create a rewarding experience for you or anyone around you - it only leads to disappointment. It can be an uncomfortable experience allowing yourself to consider another opportunity, and it’s always easier to ‘stick with what you know’. But from discomfort most often comes growth.
So.....you’re now open to considering your future free of fear. There will be so many questions you need to answer, but here’s some CORE questions to reflect on :
1.You: What is it that I want from my career going forward in the short and long-term? What is the next level of development or progression I need and want? What is my definition of success? Do I feel fulfilled and valued? If not, why not? What do I need to feel engaged and motivated to be here?
2.Your employer: Can my current environment deliver on all of the above? Identify the blockers if there are some. What is it that I want from my relationship with my employer and do we share the same values and approach? Do I buy into their vision for the future and feel part of that? Can I see myself in this long-term? If there are things which I would ideally change, can they be realised in my current environment?
3.Achieving success: Do I have all the tools I need to achieve what I envisage? For example, does the firm’s brand, reputation, profitability and structure provide the right platform for me to develop my career? Am I too comfortable with 'average'?
4.Culture: Can I be ‘myself’ in this environment? Law firms are generally embracing diversity and inclusion and encouraging people to be more authentic. If you have to change who you fundamentally are to fit into any relationship or environment, then it’s not the right fit for you. Forcing yourself to change will inhibit connection with those around you, and is unsustainable. Be yourself, but always your better self.
5.Time: If you find yourself ending a second year with the same concerns and doubts as last year, it's time to seriously assess if you're on the right path. What's going to change? It's a well known fact that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.
There will be tough choices ahead to navigate. The decision will never be an easy one. But if you listen and trust your instincts, you can forge your own path and not go far wrong.
So, should you stay or should you go? The next step in this journey is being open to considering what alternatives are out there.
We'll cover that next.....