Career Choice and Free Time

Dianne told me that she was burnt out.  A mid-level manager at a large company in Hartford, CT, she had come in for career counseling because she realized that she needed to change her career in order to improve her life.  “My work has taken over my life. I work all the time. I can’t even go on vacation because I’ll be overwhelmed on my return. But I can’t change my career. Can I?”

I knew she had come to me, in part, to give herself permission to do so.

I told her a story.

“I’ve never had a vacation that wasn’t cut short by work.” Jay, the head of litigation at the large Washington, DC national law firm I told me.  Unlike many of the partners, Jay appeared to be a pretty balanced guy.  “So, if you want this type of career, you should realize that having to come home in the middle of your vacation is par for the course.”  I had confided in Jay that the partner I was working for had called me in on a Sunday morning for something that definitely could have been handled the next day.  I wasn’t really complaining, just wondering if Jay thought it was necessary.  Jay wouldn’t criticize his fellow partner even if seemed to agree but he was kind enough to provide candor about the impact of my career as a big firm, big city attorney would have on my personal life.

Twenty years later, as I run my career counseling consultancy in small town Connecticut, I reflect on how my career choice helped shape my life.  I’ve never had a vacation that was cut short by work.  And, that might be benefit 100 on a long list of ways that my life has been elevated by taking control of my career.