Prianka: The Law of Happiness

Recently I saw a striking statistic from a study by the Families & Work Institute. More than half of Americans feel overworked and overwhelmed by their work, and 70% say they often dream of having a different job. That means there are a lot of unhappy people at work. Given work is the single place that you spend the most time, that statistic feels very disturbing. 

 
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I started law school five years ago – and surprisingly, I really liked it. It was hard work, but the classes were interesting, and my externships gave me valuable professional experience. I thought about all of the different practice areas I wanted to work in, how great it would be to win a trial on my own one day, and how proud my parents would be when I graduated. As immigrants who came to this country from India over 30 years ago, their biggest dream was to give their children the best education possible. It was the only dream they tirelessly worked towards to make a reality. 

After graduating from law school, I started working in the legal and compliance industry. Two years in, I started questioning if I made the right choice. Was going to law school a mistake? Was working in the legal industry really what I wanted? Did I just waste five years of my life doing something that I’m not passionate about? At first, I thought all these thoughts were just a phase. A pre-mid-life-crisis of sorts. I tried to ignore them. My fear of disappointing my husband, parents, friends and family was an anchor preventing me from making a career change. 

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After months of feeling upset, confused and frustrated, I finally decided to take control and figure out what I wanted to do. I began reflecting on experiences that really stayed with me, and remembered a time in college when I was tutoring young children who came from low-income families. It was then that I realized teaching is what I’m truly passionate about. For anyone going through a career crisis – relax! It happens. And more importantly, it is not the end of the world. You can be successful and happy. And if it takes you a few tries before you find your passion, such is life. 

When I was going through a phase of confusion and frustration, a lot of people kept telling me not to worry – to “stay positive” and “power through.” While that idea may seem fine, it’s not going to do much when you have major decisions to make, and when your life’s purpose seems somewhat lost. So, here’s some advice that did help me:

 

Hitting a major crisis is unfortunate but standing still, doing nothing and hoping for the best will get you nowhere.

Trust me, I’ve tried this one. If you’ve already realized you’re unhappy with your career, it’s up to you to make a change! You are in control of your happiness. Focus your energy on finding your passion instead of waiting for things to get better.

 

Quit pointing the finger.

 Blaming your company, management, or anyone else won’t help you achieve anything. You’re in this career crisis mostly because of your own actions – and that’s okay! In my case, I knew it was time to move on, but I ignored all of the warning signs. I could either blame my company or make a change. Even though it took me awhile, I finally chose the latter.

 

Juggling careers is a reality you may have to deal with.  

This one was really important for me. Law school was expensive. Rent is the demon that you have to face at the end of every month. And the occasional shopping binge isn’t going to help your savings account.

I knew I wanted a change, but I needed to be practical. I wanted to pursue teaching but going through school again would be pricey. I was able to find an online program that would allow me to receive a Master’s in Education, so I could simultaneously work and attend school.

 

Don’t expect immediate results.

From the second you decide to change your career, it’s probably going to take several months at a minimum. Patience is a virtue! Nothing in your career that’s worth it will magically happen overnight. I’m happy I figured out what I truly want to do, but it’ll be a few years before I’m a certified teacher running my own classroom.

Don’t give up!

Working in the legal industry during the day and taking classes in the evening was difficult. It took several months of researching and applying to jobs, but I was finally able to find a position that would allow me to gain valuable teaching experience by working with preschool students.

In the short time that I’ve worked in this role, I’ve learned how to run a classroom effectively, create engaging lesson plans and most importantly, how to make students feel supported. I still have a lot left to learn, but I can already tell that this role is more suitable for me than being a lawyer ever was.

Happiness is not overrated.

Throughout my career-crisis-journey, I questioned myself countless times. I know plenty of people who are unhappy with their careers, but they stick it out anyway. I wondered if I should do the same thing.

In these moments, I tried to remind myself that happiness fuels success – not the other way around. I knew that the only way for me to be happy was by doing something that truly mattered to me. By aligning my work and my passion, I could be both successful and happy. Although I haven’t been working with students for very long, I can confidently say that I’m much happier now than I was a few months ago and that’s good enough for me.

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Thanks for sharing your story with us, Prianka!