Career Inertia

Once again I feel as if I’ve lost my occupational confidence.  When it comes to a money-earning career that offers personal fulfillment, I know even less now than ever before what kind of work I would rather be doing than what I’m doing now.  The idea of reaching out to network with people who might be amenable to offering me a job or collaborating on a project of some sort is petrifying to me.  I feel completely incapable of such social and professional “negotiation”.  I’m not looking for back-pats or pumping up; in fact, I don’t even believe when people tell me how capable and/or helpful I’ve been.

The first step in such an exploration, whether it’s doing the self-assessments in What Color is Your Parachute? (Richard N. Bolles, Ten Speed Press, 2013) or The Encore Career Handbook (Marci Alboher, Workman Publishing, 2013) or just making a list on a piece of blank lined paper, is to consider those activities that give me a feeling of satisfaction.  Lately it always comes back to writing (which has been the one constant – I’ve ALWAYS written and consider myself to be, at heart, a WRITER), and what I seem to enjoy doing more than anything else is trolling the Internet to find stories and profiles and opinion pieces and all manner of shared words and music and videos that interest and inspire me to think and write about them.  I try to sneak this activity in every day in between (paid) work tasks, but I mostly do it guilt-free on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

This past Saturday, I read an article by former NHLer Dan Carcillo on The Players’ Tribune website about his efforts, now that he’s retired, to build a support network for his fellow retiring players, many of whom have a difficult time adjusting to life after hockey.  [“The Fourth Period”,  The Players’ Tribune, 6/8/16, http://www.theplayerstribune.com/daniel-carcillo-hockey-concussions-depression-steve-montador-2016-6-8/%5D.  Yes, it was a good article and Carcillo, a bit of a brute in his days on the ice (he was even a Ranger for a short time), is very thoughtful and earnest in his efforts, and I hope he succeeds.  But the inspiration I took from this article on this particular day – and it wasn’t the first time – was, what a great website!  (Good thinking, Derek Jeter and your wise advisors!)  It consists of articles written (ghost-written?) by past, present and future professional athletes, offering an insider’s perspective in his or her own words.  I would love to somehow work for this website – i.e. to transcribe the players’ interviews or dictations and edit their words and writings for public consumption.  Given my background as a transcriptionist and editor, it seems I would be very well suited, and I certainly know a lot about sports.  But then I start getting hung up:  How would I possibly get that gig?  Who would I call?  Would they need writing samples?  Would they need to interview me?  And what if I did somehow get the job?  What if I couldn’t actually DO it?  What if I was crap and caused more work for my higher-up editors instead of being relied upon to produce a quality product?  This is the trajectory of what happens in my head when I get an idea about a career move.  Add in the salary factor, and you can predict what will happen:  NOTHING.  Absolute paralysis.  I went through the same convoluted – and ultimately dead-ended – thinking when it came to my great idea to get a job on the ground floor with the NWHL last year, in its premiere season.  I have a huge file of articles about it – but no steps were ever taken.  What would I have to offer?  Yes, I’m a lawyer, but what do I know about player contracts or anything else in the sports law arena, for that matter?

With the possible exception of my blog, which I’ve managed to sustain for over a year by being very committed to posting consistently once a week every Tuesday, over the past 14 years (basically since I made the admittedly great decision to go to law school), none of the attempts at shifting my career path have panned out – or I haven’t allowed them to.  Mediation, for starters:  I committed a couple thousand dollars and over a year of my time to training to be a professional mediator and what came of it?  Nothing.  It was another failed experiment, like trying to be a teacher back in the 1980s.  Grant writing?  Took a course at Nassau Community College and did a few proposals for Global Kids, the non-profit youth organization where I worked many years ago, to get my feet wet, but the feedback and follow-up weren’t encouraging, so I’ve essentially abandoned it, even now that I volunteer for Post Pets Rescue, for whom I could be writing grant requests galore.  Throughout my grant-writing class, I remember thinking that I would probably prefer working on the grant-GIVING side of the nonprofit world.  Well, recently I have been given an opportunity to do pro bono work (and maybe more) for Amie’s Place Foundation, an organization that supports worthy programs that strive to keep pets and their people together in times of crisis.  And yet somehow I can’t manage to commit fully to that either, even though I know an expanded role for me would be welcomed by Amie’s Place.  Two fears consistently creep in:  (1) I’m afraid I’ll disappoint the wonderful, dedicated donor (a woman of whom I am very fond and, of all people, the one I would least want to disappoint) and (2) I’ll be crappy at it because I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to be doing.  Why do I so consistently get caught up in these destructive mind cycles?

Becoming an “animal lawyer” was another idea I had that would ostensibly enable me to have fulfillment as a human while making enough money to live on.  Given that there is no established “animal law” field, and people who practice law involving animals cover the gamut from dog-bite cases to providing for pets in a will, the opportunities are endless.  Apart from buying a few books and reaching out to James Gesualdi, an extremely helpful attorney who once taught a class in animal law at my old law school and has actually managed to create his own satisfying career in the field working primarily with zoological and marine parks with his “Excellence Beyond Compliance” program, I’ve done NOTHING to get me from point A to point B.  Again, one might have thought volunteering for Posh Pets would afford me an opportunity to learn a little something about being an animal lawyer, but so far, and quite typically, I’ve done NOTHING.

It’s all highly frustrating, and worst of all, I feel like I’m wasting my fast-dwindling remaining years in a sort of discontented limbo, waiting for something to happen to force my hand.

The only reason my blog has worked, I suspect, is because I gave myself permission to fail.  I wasn’t doing it for anyone else – I was just doing it for ME, and if other people found it and liked it, well, that was gravy.  My blog was essentially just like my journal, but in a slightly more public format.  No one – other than me – judges my journal; I’m free to share (or not) what I please but otherwise it’s for my own personal consumption and enjoyment.  Removing the risk of failure has meant I’m not afraid to do it, which flies in the face of the “no risk, no reward” cliché, when you think about it:  My reward is that I feel like I’ve actually accomplished something, even if no one other than me reads it, or likes it.  On a small scale, it makes me proud of myself.

* * * * *

A post-script to my entry of a few weeks ago [“I Don’t Know If I Can Take Five More Months of This”, 6/1/16]:  Well, it looks now that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.  Hillary has many faults, I’ll never dispute that.  Perhaps the largest criticism of her is that she’s old school, a bit hawkish, part of the old boy’s network providing more of the same in our broken system.  But there’s a key difference:  SHE’S NOT AN “OLD BOY”.  She brings a decidedly female perspective, much needed and long overdue in this country at this juncture in history.  And for that reason alone, she should be our next president during this vital transitional time, a link between past and future, the first of her gender (and first of many, now that the door is open).

I read what I thought was an accurate assessment of Hillary Clinton the other day in an article by Matthew Yglesias on VOX (my new favorite informational website) [vox.com] (“Many of the factors that helped Hillary beat Bernie will let her crush Trump”, VOX, June 8, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/6/8/11871254/hillary-bernie-trump):  “Clinton’s solid, detail-oriented nature projects a calming message to people who are not instinctively inclined to agree with her ideology:  She knows what she’s doing and she knows what she’s talking about. [emphasis mine]  Trump’s inability to get those who best understand the stakes to agree that he’s qualified to serve does exactly the opposite.  You may favor low taxes and be skeptical of business regulations and abortion rights, but you can be sure the United States will survive four years of Clinton — and there are no such guarantees about Trump.”

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