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SofaKingWright's avatar

How do you choose the right path after University?

Asked by SofaKingWright (530 points ) August 9th, 2012

I am a final year law student as of September. I am within the top 5 ranked students in the class, and in my opinion I am competent at what I have learned. With this in mind, the entire time during my studies, I was prepared to follow the train and go head first into whatever large corporate machine might have me. Equipped with motivation to earn lots of money, I forced myself to attempt to become interested in things like the economy and becoming commercially aware. I found all of this to be mind numbingly boring, hard to understand, and demotivating.

Is it really such a sin to not be interested passionately in these topics? Whilst I coped, and did excellently in my commercial subjects, I can’t say that I performed well due to a persuasive, underlying interest in the content.

However, after participating on two internships I began to connect the dots that I was miserable during both of them (in the commercial/corporate sector) and found myself wondering how I could encourage myself to wake up every morning to something that mundane.

Regardless of these feelings, I stayed on the train and I applied to quite a few jobs as a trainee, and not too shockingly I suppose I was rejected from them all. Not even an interview, with previous internships and top grades. Quite disheartening to say the least.

These past few weeks I have been doing a vast amount of soul searching. I have realized that my motivation for a large pay-check simply is not stimulating me, or making me happy. In fact, it is doing the opposite.

With this in mind, I have decided to abandon commercial law and for my final year I have dropped the advanced commercial subject and will be undertaking environmental law and human rights. I feel as though these are areas of law which I could become passionate about, and immerse myself in, rather than slogging through it for the sake of the end result.

What really motivates me actually isn’t money at all. I want to travel and see the world. I don’t feel ready to enter a career where I have to settle and put down roots in order to build success. I have discovered in my moments of soul searching that I really would rather continue my studying, giving me life flexibility and more time to think, as well as becoming an expert in an area of law – which perhaps would in turn be a route to a career I would enjoy.

With these revelations however I am facing more difficulties. Where I am currently, if I continued studying, I could continue my education but I wouldn’t be seeing much of the world in addition. I have a fantastic ‘significant other’, and I really do not see them being able to follow me around whilst I satisfied my wanderlust. I realise that studying environmental law to an advanced level may take me to some rather obscure places. This excites me, and really, this is the first time I have felt motivated about something to do with law.

My worries are that I will regret leaving what I have built here, and that I am having a terrible case of the ‘grass is greener’. I can’t really explain why I feel the need to explore so much – it really is rather inconvenient, but it is consuming my thoughts.

I could continue writing, and I apologise for the rather long essay. Any thoughts, advice, or perhaps experiences similar to this dilemma which people would be willing to share would be greatly appreciated.

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8 Answers

righty's avatar

It’s best to travel the world while you’re still young and without responsibilities. Doing this will give you a good break and will give you plenty of time to reflect on what you want to do. You’ll also be in a better state of mind to make the right choices in your career path after you get back.

Bellatrix's avatar

I just wrote a huge response and it vanished? Weird.

I said I think you have to listen to your heart and instincts. You said you found commercial law “mind numbingly boring, hard to understand, and demotivating.” So even if logically you ‘should’ work in that field, and by the sound of your results ‘could’ work in that field, if it isn’t what makes you feel passionate and makes you want to get out of bed and go to work, you probably shouldn’t work in that field.

In order to be sure about your decision about Human Rights or Environmental law can you do some voluntary work for organisations such as Amnesty International or other refugee or environmental organisations? It would allow you to test the water and see if that’s where your heart really does lie and you would be doing some good and can put the experience on your resume. You could also check into opportunities to do some further study in these fields overseas that would allow you to do some travel and again, do some voluntary work in other places. All going to work for you in terms of finding employment.

As to your SO, the only way to know how they will respond is to talk to them. If they love you will they really want you to go down a path that makes you miserable? I doubt it. They may be totally supportive and even prepared to investigate travel overseas. What about checking out some opportunities and talking to them about things that appeal. I don’t know what field they work in but see if there are opportunities for them to work in the country you think is a likely candidate. They may be able to get a leave of absence or something. No harm in asking. There is harm in trying to follow a path that you know you will hate.

Good luck with whatever decision you make. I am sure it will work out for you. You may have to compromise on the travel for a while if you want to stay with your SO, but check out your options before making decisions.

elbanditoroso's avatar

You don’t know – at least not for 20 years or so, if even then.

All you can do at this time is examine your feelings and make the best assessment of all the factors pro and con, of the major options open to you. And then give all of the lists, a good, fair, objective assessment. Not so much on ;where do i earn more money?’ but also, where do I see myself as happiest? Where is my heart? What thrills me? Basically, try to assess both the tangible factors and the intangibles.

When you have thought about all of these, either one will have emerged as a clear choice, or not. If there is one obvious path after all that thought, take it, knowing that you have made the best judgment you could at the time. If all of the options are even, then you have nothing to lose by flipping a coin.

One final advice – do NOT let anyone make the decision for you. It is your life.

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zenvelo's avatar

Maturity is the ability to balance both the responsibilities of life and your own heart’s needs. Make the decisions that will lead to a long and happy life. And weigh the questions you raised against each other as to what is most important to you.

None of us can answer the question of staying with your SO versus traveling the world, or if you can do both. Who know, until you talk with them, they might be ecstatic at traveling with you. Or may be their bliss is something else, and you have to make a decision.

Good luck finding your path.

wundayatta's avatar

Our notions of what is “right” and what “responsibility” is generally come from what we’ve been told by parents and teachers and religions. The reason “right” and “responsibility” have come into existence is that they help keep the community and society cohesive. They help us cooperate and assure mutual survival and benefit.

It is important to note that unless you believe in a God or in the primacy of society (which is probably what God is a metaphor for), there is no objective reality to “right” and “responsibility.” In other words, they are subjective and socially determined.

If you are prepared to choose what is right for you based on personal criteria rather than accepting the right thrust upon you by society, then you can free yourself of social guilt and responsibility, and do what you choose.

Clearly, one of your values is to do interesting work. You contrast that to doing lucrative work. In this case, you have chosen interesting work that is arguably also socially responsible. So it is possible that you also value social responsibility, as opposed to selfishness (making a lot of money).

It is possible to both make money and be socially responsible, although that is difficult to do. Similarly, it is possible to be interested in the work and make money, but that, too, can be difficult.

So, if you choose environmental work, you are choosing to be interested in your work and you may be giving up making a lot of money. For most people, that is a pretty good trade. Is there any reason why it wouldn’t be a good trade for you?

Another value here is that of having a strong relationship. Having interesting work may make it difficult to have a strong relationship. Having a strong relationship may make it difficult to do interesting work. Ideally you’d want to negotiate with your partner some way of having interesting work while maintaining the strong relationship.

Your ability to do this will depend on how much your partner values you and how flexible he/she is. Perhaps they want to travel, too. Perhaps they can’t stand it. Perhaps they wouldn’t mind being apart from you for months at a time. Perhaps they can’t stand it. You need to find out, and then make your choices according to how much you value them vs interesting work vs lucrative work.

In my life, I have chosen interesting, socially responsible work over lucrative work. However, I have also chosen setting down roots in a community to have a family over traveling to do the socially responsible work. I have found ways to do both. I have, it turns out, done well enough, although part of that was because my spouse was a lawyer who made money doing work that was sometimes boring and sometimes interesting. In the end, she couldn’t stand the corporate life, and I told her to retire. Now she is trying to figure out what she really wants to do. So that’s another option. Work and make money for twenty years and then do what you want to do.

There is no one right way through life. There are only the choices you make for you. In making those choices, you have to weigh many different values. One of the more heavy values is how important it is for you to please others that you are related to by blood or marriage. If you free yourself from needing to please relatives, you can choose who you want to please—like environmentalists or scientists or artists or whoever your community of choice is.

It is possible to believe that you choose your own way. If you can clearly outline your values to yourself, it makes it easier to make choices where those values conflict to some degree.

If you can not believe you choose your own way, then you are subject to the whims of others in making your choices. Your parents, spouse and community (or church) will tell you what to do, and your own personal values won’t matter. That, too, is your own choice. You can choose to put others’ values in front of your own, or you can choose to rebalance that equation. Up to you. But there is no one right way to do it. It is a choice you make on your own. And even refusing to make a choice is a choice. You can not duck responsibility for the choices that guide your own life.

lynfromnm's avatar

I work at a non-profit legal agency. We employ 5 attorneys who are passionate about human rights and live and die with the battles their clients fight. They travel throughout the state to hearings, mediations, negotiations. They aren’t paid what attorneys in corporate law or in the private sector are paid. Yet, one of our attorneys just got back from 2 weeks in Costa Rica. Another went to Israel last month, and financed her daughter’s wedding a few months ago. One just adopted 2 boys who were crack babies. They have full lives and get to do everything they want, including travel, buying a new car when needed and so on. They all own their own homes. They work about 50 hours a week and earn comp time when they go over 40 hours. It’s a nice life, they all love it and find it fulfilling.

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