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Professional Development

Need a Change?

By Marcia Pennington Shannon

Do you have that nagging feeling you’re just not enjoying your work as much as you used to? Are Sunday evenings beginning to weigh on you because you know you’re going back to work Monday morning? You might be ready for a change. Change can come in all shapes and sizes—from expanding your practice interests to changing where you work to completely changing careers.  Take time out to consider what will be the best change for you.

Where to Begin? Key Questions to Ask

A good starting point is career assessment—that is, taking a close look at factors that influence your career satisfaction. It is a manageable place to begin. And since for most of us, next to family and relationships, work has the greatest impact on our overall contentment with life, starting at this point is important.

Begin by asking yourself some key questions:

  • Am I really happy with my life—professionally and personally?
  • Do I use my time in a way that reflects my values and what is really important to me?
  • Am I enjoying the work that I do?
  • Am I still motivated by my work and feel that it allows me to use my talents, interests and skills?
  • Is the environment in which I’m working energizing me?
  • Do I enjoy the individuals I work with—do we share similar values and goals?
  • Do I feel that my work is well-integrated with the rest of my life, leaving time to enjoy pursuits outside of work, relationships and other activities?

As you write your answers to these questions, you may see themes emerging.  For example, one individual discovered that the dissatisfaction with work that she was feeling did not come from her substantive practice, but instead was a result of the particular environment in which she was practicing. She was able to create an action plan, using the information she learned about herself as factors in evaluating potential employers. She is now employed in a new firm with like-minded individuals, and is much more satisfied with her work.

Next Steps

After putting thought into the questions above and delving deeper into other areas, such as identifying your values, skills, interests and personality preferences, you may have a sense of what your next steps will be in terms of bringing greater meaning and satisfaction to your career life. However, it may be helpful to dig even deeper, either through some specific resources (Two suggestions: What Can You Do with a Law Degree by Deborah Arron and What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles), or by working with a career coach in a career assessment process. (The International Coach Federation is a good resource for identifying coaches in your area.)

Feel that need for a change? Career assessment helps you take control of your life and the choices you make.

Marcia Pennington Shannon is a founding principal of Shannon and Manch, LLP, and has nearly 30 years of experience in lawyer career and professional development. In addition to her expertise in career transitions for lawyers at all levels, she has extensive experience in career advising and performance and executive coaching, especially focused on those in leadership and management roles. Marcia’s latest book is The Lawyer’s Career Management Handbook: Your Bridge to a Satisfying Career.

 Illustration © ImageZoo.

Categories: Daily Dispatch, Legal Career Development, Managing a Law Firm, Work-Life Balance
Originally published November 14, 2011
Last updated September 14, 2019
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Marcia Pennington Shannon

Marcia Pennington Shannon is Assistant Dean at the Office of Career Strategy for the largest law school in the country, Georgetown Law. With over 30 years of experience in lawyer career and professional development, she is viewed as one of the leading experts in this area. In addition to her current role, she co-founded Shannon & Manch, LLP, a nationally-recognized consulting firm. Marcia has numerous publications, including “Recruiting Lawyers,” co-authored with Susan Manch, and “The Lawyer’s Career Management Handbook: Your Bridge to a Satisfying Career.”

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