Until recently, this empty room is where I spent the last half-decade of my life.
A corner office in a fancy high-rise building in downtown Tampa that overlooked Davis Islands, the Hillsborough River, and parts of Hillsborough Bay.
A well-respected and established law firm with over 150 attorneys statewide.
Amazing co-workers who were like family.
This was the place where my husband and I both had major life changes.
Moving into our first home.
Having both of our children.
He took the plunge and started his own small business, a boutique structural engineering firm.
I started The Champagne Supernova.
My boss was a true mentor. He was (is) an honest attorney (yes, they do exist!) who genuinely cared about developing his associates into thoughtful, strategic, analytical litigators. Part of this could have been down to the fact that he decided to use a time clock app that made sure we got the rest that we needed to be able to develop into successful litigators. He didn’t overwork us and I think this really made the difference when it came to our work. Amid trying several high-stakes cases and reporting to anxious clients, he took the time to call me when I was on maternity leave just to see how I was doing. (Again, in the legal field, these people do exist, despite the rumors suggesting otherwise.)
The work environment was pretty much ideal. As my first job out of law school was in an unprofessional, oftentimes abusive environment among those who were both personally and professionally bankrupt, I felt working at this new firm was God’s way of making the first bad job up to me.
Despite everything good that was going for me in my career, something was missing.
Time with my children.
I always knew that when my kids reached a certain age, I wanted to be able to pick them up from school and take them to their activities.
Once my oldest daughter was about to start Pre-Kindergarten, the clock started ticking.
In December of 2016 ,I tearfully put in my two-weeks notice and said goodbye to the people I spent forty hours of each week with.
I walked in and out of those doors for six years and walking out of them for the last time was difficult.
However, I accepted a position at another law firm where the owners agreed to provide me with the flexible schedule I needed to have more time with my family.
Now, my schedule is even crazier than it used to be.
Mondays are spent at a ballet-jazz combination dance class. On, Tuesdays, I hang out at the playground preventing my kiddos from breaking their necks on the monkey bars. On Wednesdays, I hike both girls to gymnastics. Thursdays are for after-school errands and, occasionally, ice cream.
Having the flexibility you want and the career you envision is, while not always easy to find, absolutely achievable.
Even in professions where the glass ceiling is high.
If you are considering taking the plunge and making a “LeaderShift” here’s what you can do:
Reach out to as Many Resources as Possible. The saying is true: it’s not what you know, but who you know. About a year ago, I reached out several trusted friends and colleagues who worked in the legal profession. I put the bug in their ears that I was looking for a position at a firm that could give me a flexible schedule and asked them to let me know if they knew of anyone with such a need and to pass my name along. I ultimately ended up getting my current position from a friend who subsequently resigned from the firm to go in a different direction professionally. In other words, I filled her position after she voluntarily left. If I never would have reached out to her, she wouldn’t have known to give my name and resume to her boss. Use your connections! Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Most people are ready and happy to assist others.
Be Patient. You will never get the job you want if you don’t bless the situation with your patience. Don’t accept less than what you ultimately want and be ready to wait for it. Over the last few years, I received offers from other firms that, for various reasons, were not right for me. Knowing it would be foolish to leave a good work environment unless the new opportunity was the perfect fit, I declined those offers and am glad that I did. Which leads to…
Know Exactly What You Want. You need to keep a mental blueprint of exactly what you want your position to look like. I knew that I wanted health insurance benefits (the mandates of Obamacare made it too expensive for me to add my family to my employer’s health insurance, which left us with no choice for my husband, a small business owner, to purchase an individual policy with a high deductible for himself and the girls. We shopped around for two months and purchased the plan that made the most financial sense. As luck would have it, we had two freak hospitalizations in 2016 which cost our family literally twenty thousand dollars) and I wanted to be able to leave work on time pick up my oldest daughter from school at the end of the day so she didn’t have to go to after-care. I needed to work in an environment that would permit me to meet my billable hour requirements however I could do it without being concerned with “face time,” something that plagues associates at many law firms. I waited until the right firm came along that would enable me check these things off the list.
Be Prepared to Go Small. If you need an “out of the box” position, know that you are most likely going to get it at a small firm or business environment. I’ll be the first to say that the nature of the litigation beast can make it difficult to guarantee someone that they can leave at a certain time each day. Court events, hearings, depositions, and mediations routinely run later than anticipated. For large firms, special arrangements for one employee can create major headaches for the employer who doesn’t want to set the precedent that everyone can leave early. I get it. Smaller businesses tend to have more flexibility to give you what you want.
Ask and Ye Shall Receive. You’ll never get what you want if you don’t get out there and make it happen for yourself. So many people sit around and complain about their careers without doing anything about it. They want things to be different and better, but never ask for what they want. I know this because I used to be one of those people. And trust me, I heard from the naysayers (including a legal recruiter) who said it would be impossible for me to find a position that would provide a flexible schedule. (Neener, neener!) Ignore the naysayers.
Be a Good Person. Be the kind of person who other people want to recommend to their employers. Be the kind of person who others are willing to help out. When possible, don’t burn bridges. A few years ago, one of my law school colleagues sent me his resume asking me to hook him up for an interview at my firm, which was running an ad for an attorney position in the classified section of the Florida Bar News. Knowing this guy had left five other lawyer positions in the preceding four years, I could not in good faith recommend him to my boss, knowing that he would potentially flake out. I also remembered all the times he was a schmuck to other people in our law school class and, while I wasn’t going to hold the past against him, I certainly wasn’t going to go out of my way to do him any favors. Just be nice!
Here’s to getting what you want and doing what you can do in order to make room for what you truly want from life.
Because it’s too short to be chained to a desk. And no amount of money will ever make you happy. Besides, how much money do you really need? Most of the best things in life are free anyway.