you don't have to be stuck in a job that makes you unhappy
(even when it's a really great job)
What do you do with a First in English Literature? That’s what everyone asks you, and it’s what I was asking myself as I neared graduation 11 years ago. It seemed like everyone around me was considering law, and it seemed fun to be a lawyer (I’d always loved acting - switching from audience to courtroom or the negotiating table seemed a good use of that skill set). Glamorous even.
You know where I’m going with this, right?
Of course you do.
Fast forward through law school and picture me in one of the top 5 law firms in the UK, stressed out of my mind, trying to quash my naturally friendly, empathetic nature. Like a dolphin in the shark tank.
Maybe if I faked shark really well?
I tried. I put on a facade of ‘corporate person’ and willed myself to grow a thicker skin, to hide that tender heart.
Don’t get me wrong, sharks are impressive - lords of the ocean. I just wasn’t one of them. And when you’re not a shark, the shark tank is a very uncomfortable place to work.
But I loved law. I loved the financial security of it, the cache it held (who doesn’t get a secret thrill handing out their business card?), the problem-solving aspect of it, the ability to help people in difficult situations, the challenge.
So I left to join a smaller firm that seemed friendlier, and I loved it… at first. But when the rose-tinted glasses fell away, I realised it was just a smaller shark tank.
I started to question whether I was cut out for law. I thought the problem might be the law firm environment; my personality just wasn’t a good fit (I’d go through vicious cycles of anxiety and withdrawing). I looked at websites about “Leaving the Law” with alternative careers (the options were overwhelming - maybe I should go back to acting?), and then I went to a career coaching day — and I saw coaches helping people like me find actionable solutions for what to do next. The relief on those people’s faces!
Confession time: I fell in love with coaching and I went into it as a way to build my own confidence, to become more comfortable talking to people, to get out of my withdrawal cycles. While training, I learned how to identify my core values:
Freedom, Autonomy, Appreciation
And I realised that I’d found NONE of these working in law firms.
It was time to find a new balance.
I didn’t leave the law to become an actor, or even to become a coach. But I did switch to working in consultancy law where I have more control over my day (Autonomy), more control over where I work and for how long (Freedom), and even more Appreciation. I get the sense of challenge that I love and have the financial security that I value, without having to play Dodge the Sharks.
Coaching was the piece I didn’t know I was missing from my life, the place where empathy isn’t a liability, it’s a job requirement. Today, I help other high-achievers who don’t feel like they quite fit — in law, finance, medicine, and other high pressure jobs — to find what they really need to be happy.
Can you change how you’re perceiving the situation? Or change your approach?
Is the environment not right for you?
Is the job not right for you?
Do you need to leave, or can you stay with some adjustments?
Is it time to start your own business or switch careers?
You don’t have to quit your job to become a penniless painter in an attic (unless you want to). We can form a plan to ensure your financial needs are met AND you’re pursuing what you’re passionate about.
I used to joke that I sold my soul to the law firm, like I was their property. My life was that job, and unlike my colleagues, I wasn’t happy about it. Once I identified my values, I realised that the problem wasn’t me, and it wasn’t them — it was a fundamental misalignment.
Here’s how values misalignment may present:
Dreading the work week (even Saturdays are poisoned).
Monday through Friday feels like wading through treacle.
You start withdrawing, avoiding interacting with people in the office.
Losing motivation, taking longer to finish your work, feeling resentful and guilty at the same time.
Feeling like you don’t fit in (and you don’t really want to).
Now, my values are my compass. If I start to notice that I just can’t be bothered on Sunday, or I’m struggling to concentrate, or I dread going into work — I check with my values, and start to unpick what’s me, what’s the job, what’s the environment, and which value has been compromised.
I’m happier now than I’ve ever been, balancing my legal career on one side, and my coaching business on the other.
Your balance may look different, but the important thing is: It’s yours.
What we can explore together:
Your unique values (and evaluating your job situation based on them)
What isn’t working for you in your work environment
Why you’re struggling to communicate with your colleagues (and how to improve)
Where fears, insecurities, and behaviour patterns come into play (and how to overcome them)
How to stop overthinking and second-guessing yourself (and feel the confidence you’ve worked hard to earn)
Ways to adapt to your working environment by recognising unhelpful thoughts and patterns that may be holding you back
How to navigate a career change, if it’s necessary
A little about me, personally
I have a lurcher/sight-hound rescue, and you’ve never seen such a big fluffy dog. I call him a hundred mile an hour couch potato.
I’m a big tea drinker. Every time I have a cup of tea, I have to have a biscuit. Sometimes I wonder if I’m more addicted to biscuits than tea.
Apparently this isn’t just me —- talking with other people in high pressure jobs, when we need to switch off, we watch the most inane programs. Now that I largely work from home, I have comedies from the 1970s-2000s playing in the background at all times to get into my flow state: Fawlty Towers, Only Fools and Horses, The Office, Alan Partridge, Black Books, Vicar of Dibley….