Career Counselors: When One Shrink Isn’t Enough


[Image via Esquire]

A number of the comments to my last post were dangerously inspiring.  I wanted to live up to your expectations, take drastic action to be true to my own words, provide you with the most exciting follow-up post that I could conjure.  In short, I wanted to quit my job.  Straight up, balls to the wall, quit my job.   And frankly, I can’t think of anything that would make for a better Monday.

As I have said time and again, however, I am way too smart cowardly for that.  A change is in order, but I am not one to take action without an action plan.  That would be so … un-lawyerlike.  Not to mention, I have bills to pay.  Lots and lots of bills.  But then I wonder — how many of those bills go towards sustaining my soul-sucking career?  Let’s take a look:

Monthly commuting costs, including cabs on those mornings when my presence in the office is very suddenly and urgently demanded:  ~$200

Dog walker, for our high maintenance dog who can only tolerate solo walks: $340/mo.

Dry cleaning: ~$120/mo.

Shrink: $325/mo.

and (drumroll please …)

Shrink #2, a career counselor whose fees my insurance company is highly unlikely to cover:  $725/mo.

I was shocked by some of the comments on my last post, which blasted me for seeing a shrink.  Don’t people know that big decisions are best made in close consultation with a shrink, an accountant and a good psychic?  I’m just kidding.  Sort of.  Anyway, I hope that I haven’t slipped back into obscurity entirely, because I CAN’T WAIT to read the comments on this one.  “How bourgeois!” “How trite!” “A SECOND shink?? How frivilous and weak!” “This is exactly what’s wrong with this country!”  You got me, you snarky motherfuckers.  All of those criticisms (and others, I’m sure) have merit.  But can we focus on the fact that it *might* be unwise to bet my $185k salary on a whim and a prayer?

Since I sprinted through my life towards a finish line marked “corporate lawyer”, I have no idea what I like to do or what I am good at (more on that later).  And even if I could recognize the “right” job, I would have no idea how to get there.  Add to that the fact that my current employment affords me very little time to have dinner with my husband, never mind experiment with potential career paths.  See, the real problem is this:  the benefit of my job, aside from the salary, is that it may be the only thing standing between me and my fear of being adrift; sans income, sans goals.  For that reason and despite the fact that my job costs me at least $1710/mo., quitting would still be more costly to me than staying put for a little while longer.

Even more noteworthy is the fact that I am lucky enough to have a job — a legal job, which is farily hard to come by in Manhattan these days — and I am not about to throw it out for nothing.  I’m no sucker.  The fact that my employment status throws off the cost-benefit analysis of pursuing my dreams full-time, all but shackling me to a life of complacence and maybe even rendering me nothing more than, well, a sucker– that’s a post for another day.

Some of you will think that I should face my fears head-on and just quit.  Let me tell you, if I were that kind of girl, I would not have become a corporate lawyer in the first place.  Nope, what I will do instead is reduce my fear without taking any risk.  And my lack of time means that my money is (literally) on the career counselor to help me out with that.  And why not add one more to the small army of service professionals elisted to help ward off my misery?  Enter Judith Gerberg, career transition guru.   With Judith’s help, my goals are this: identify appropriate career path by November 1st, complete research on said career path by March 1st, begin networking or otherwise applying for jobs or (hopefully not) school by April 1st, begin new life on or about (but in any event, no later than) January 1, 2012.

This should be interesting …


20 Responses to “Career Counselors: When One Shrink Isn’t Enough”

  1. QS – You are NOT alone! That is first and foremost to really know! Many of us on the same journey of “who the am I and what do I want to be when I grow up”. We all take similar paths on this journey. Today, I started blogging, I am going to blog that book into existence that has been on my plate for atleast 15 years and titled for 2. I worked so hard and paid so much to get to a career of dissatisfaction. My current endeavor is my next step in learning to JUST LOVE MY LIFE, all of my life. I am thinking that my career has just received more energy then it truly deserves, time for me too. The career choice, the income, is a means to an end. It is not the end. Cheers to you and your journey!! – IA

    • 2 Samantha Alexander

      Good for you!! You inspire me. Please let me know where I can find your book, when it’s ready.

  2. 3 MK

    Great post. Honest and smart. Go girl.

  3. I agree with MK, smart and brave. Now you need to think about what to cut so you can save $$$ to have fall back once you decide on a dream career that allows you to have a life. And forget those asssss, um, people who think they are giving you constructive criticism. You know you want change, you are working towards change. And if you do it in a lawyerly fashion, at least you are doing it! How many of us can say we are doing the same?

  4. 6 Alexa-Lunchtime Explorer

    You sound logical, brave and I envy you. I feel like I’m in a similar place, except I don’t have the (lucky) luxury of such a nice income.

    I’ll be watching to see what happens. Good luck.

    • 7 Samantha Alexander

      Good luck to you, too! I don’t know what your situation is, but I like to believe that there is always a way out of a bad place. Maybe that’s very naive of me …

  5. Oh for fug’s sake Woman! Are you a freaking virgo by any chance? Do you plan out how you will have a shit each day? (I will go at exactly 7.05am and use 6 squares of toilet roll…)
    Sure, you have an excellent salary, which would make it scary to leap from but now that you’ve put it out there in the universe, the universe will just make everything shift for you, whether you’re ready or not.

    I was in the same predicament when I was in PR – wanted to quit but was too scared. So in the end, the universe took control and I got fired which was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

    Now, surely since you’re on such a hefty income that you would have saved some of that by now? Can’t you just take a 12 month sabbatical and see how you feel? I mean, you can always go back to Lawyering if that’s where your heart truly does lie.

    If I was you, I’d just spend those shrink fees on seeing many psychics. That’s what I do.

    • 9 Samantha Alexander

      Ruby, you kill me!

      The only thing planned about my morning shit is which client I’m going to bill for it. Let’s get that straight right off the bat.

      Unfortunately, there’s no sabbatical option in this hyper-at-will enviornment. But thank you for being the devil on my shoulder. I need that.

  6. 10 Amber

    Hell yeah see a shrink!! If my college job paid more I would see one! And you are definitely SMART to not quit your job. In these times and with that salary, it wouldn’t be intelligent. Keep trucking and ignore the rest.

  7. As someone who is looking into becoming a lawyer (I know, I’m not sure what the fuck I’m thinking either.) I can totally see how it would be scary to just throw away what you have accomplished and reached on a whim. I know there are some people that may think it should be easy to just quit and change your career, especially if you aren’t exactly homeless yet but to have gone through all the training, the bar, all that shit to just stop must be really daunting. You’re in career, like you said, where you have to think and think and then overthink some more about everything; old habits die hard and so your career transition won’t happen in a day.
    I don’t think you have to stick with being a lawyer forever or even for a long while but I think it’s great you’re seeking advice and counsel while still going over it with yourself.
    That’s my opinion, though what do I know, I’m studying for my LSAT so I’m pretty much the last person who can give sound judgment on anything. I wish you good luck though!

  8. maybe we need to set up some sort of job exchange program where you can jobswap for awhile – can’t be too messy surely?

  9. 13 Cara

    Good for you! Shrinks get paid the big bucks because they give valuable guidance. I think it’s too bad most people are too proud/poor/stubborn/clueless/stuck to see one, frankly.

    Have you read _The 4-Hour Workweek_? It’s kind of extreme and over-hyped, but I found it inspirational nonetheless. He has some exercises in there for figuring out what you really want to do with your life–it’s worth reading just for those. Although I haven’t quit my job, the things I learned from that book helped me streamline and restructure my work schedule and my life to the point that I have time to breathe, and I like what I’m doing most of the time. That has worked out really well for me, and I got to keep my steady income! 🙂

    • 14 Samantha Alexander

      I will pick it up — thanks for the suggestion!

  10. Perhaps it would go down better if you refer to your shrink as a coach. It sounds more professional and directed. 😀

    Anyway, if I could make a suggestion, take a look at Gallup’s Strengths Finder, which is useful on both a personal and a professional level. It will help you direct your thoughts towards your passion and energy rather than getting stuck on a specific type of job description. All you need is to do the test and get your top five strengths.

    Yes, I know I am advertising, but I found it so useful for myself that I am going to do the training to become a coach. I did a variety of personality tests in my lifetime, so I think I know what I am talking about.

    Let me know if you are interested.


    • 16 Samantha Alexander

      I have actually done this already. Not Strenghs Finder 2.0, mind you, but the original. I did it over a year ago, but I remember it being a little abstract … will have to take another look at my results. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. Great post.

  12. 18 Liz

    If you had quit your job, I would have called you crazy, but I tend to think like you do. I’m no lawyer (heaven help us all if I was 🙂 ), but with the job market the way it is it would be borderline insanity to quit now. So good for you for realizing that, and I wish you the best of luck in all that you do.

  13. I couldn’t suggest just dropping your job, unless you feel that getting a job as a deck hand and sailing to far away lands, letting life lead you where it will, and closing the book on the old life in every way conceivable sounds appealing. It’s all about baby steps, and the babiest step there is, is thinking about taking a baby step. Ok, actually that would be just a hair too little. The babiest step for you there is is thinking about what direction you would take that step in, and then visualizing the physical baby step. And what I mean by that is if you’re goal in life is to climb mount Everest before you drop dead, the proper “baby step” in your case would be to go pet a yak at your local zoo’s petting zoo. Or get a snow cone at the zoo. Or step up two steps instead of just one at the entrance to that zoo. It should be apparent by now that what I am suggesting is going to the zoo! And while you’re gazing at the majesty of some poor encaged being of beauty that would much prefer the open existence of its natural habitat, no parallel to your case whatsoever, think just exactly this, “Before I drop dead is there anything I want to do with this otherwise completely meaningless existence?” And then, if an answer should come to you, take a real baby step, much as described above.

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