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Do you ever think about quitting the law to pursue your dream job? Here are 9 thoughts you should be thinking before you do

Bishen Jeswant shares 9 thoughts for budding non-lawyers
Bishen Jeswant shares 9 thoughts for budding non-lawyers
Bishen Jeswant, who left a well-paid corporate law job a year ago to start reporting about cricket, shares some of his experiences and thoughts in changing careers.

I’m no career guru, but I believe some readers may benefit from the experience I’ve had in switching careers to follow a passion.

Some of you may enjoy your current jobs, while some of you are just waiting for the day to end, but all of you, at some point, have probably had thoughts about pursuing careers outside law.

Switching careers is not only for those who are disillusioned by the law or their current occupation. I genuinely enjoyed my two years with employment and labour law, but would have always regretted not giving my passion a chance, and therefore decided to dive in headlong.

Here are some questions that could help you get thinking:

Am I too comfortable in my current job?

It will often be the case that you have to take a pay cut in order to follow your passion, simply because those jobs are likely to be more in demand. For example, I believe that Cricinfo had advertised my position on the Disney website a few months before I joined and had received lakhs of applications from people in all kinds of professions from across the world. With that kind of demand, there is just no need to pay the employee a truckload of money (An unrelated titbit of information that the cricket fans amongst you may not all know is that Walt Disney owns ESPN, which owns Cricinfo).

In the above context, switching jobs is much easier earlier in your career because there is a good chance that you will otherwise get too comfortable.

Legally India’s 2013 survey on law firm salaries tells us about the exponential bumps in salaries with experience.

If you are moving to a new career, you will be joining at zero experience and all your law firm experience will count for nearly nothing, translating to low salaries.

This only means that the longer you wait to make the jump, the harder it gets. Therefore, it is extremely important to introspect and determine whether the benefit, i.e. a satisfying job, is worth the cost, i.e. giving up your cushy remuneration.

Am I managing my finances efficiently?

Whatever the hypocrites of the world may say, money is important. In order to switch careers and take a pay cut, one must have enough money in the bank to feel relatively safe, even if, considering the young age, not entirely secure.

Firstly, it is important to make monthly savings while at your possibly high paying current job.

This seems fairly obvious but the percentage of young people who neglect to do this is significant.

Secondly, it is imperative to speak to the right people and invest these savings. A simply phone call to your bank will help make tax saving investments, file your returns efficiently and have a diversified financial portfolio. All of this will ensure that your lifestyle does not change significantly once you shift careers and take a pay cut.

Maintaining a relatively similar lifestyle is important because satisfaction is derived from a culmination of many factors, and merely a job that you love many to not bring you the satisfaction you seek if it also means moving to a smaller house, a rough neighbourhood and dining out less on weekends.

Am I looking forward to weekends too much?

I’ve always believed that the ideal job is one where you are not desperate for the weekend.

Rest and relaxation is certainly important and even if you love your job, you do need the time off.

However, if you are just living from weekend to weekend, essentially 8 to 10 days a month, and feel like someone should shoot you on Wednesdays, you need to take stock of the situation.

When you are doing something that you are passionate about, the weekdays become thoroughly enjoyable as well, ensuring that you are ‘living’ more than 8 to 10 days a month.

At Cricinfo, weekends are usually working because there will more often than not be cricket in some part of the world, but I’ve never felt the desperation for time off.

Am I currently doing anything to stay in touch with my passion?

It’s one thing to have a dream, but most people struggle to do something about it alongside their regular jobs.

You may have been passionate about music, sports or dance when in college, but once you land that job with a seven figure salary everything else often takes a back seat.

The 12 hour workdays don’t give you time during the week and leave you too exhausted to do anything on the weekend.

If you are looking to land your dream job, it usually helps if you are able to demonstrate to your potential employers that you are the real deal and genuinely interested.

In my case, while working with Trilegal, I undertook a coaching gig with an academy where I would spend two hours each on Saturday and Sunday coaching cricket.

I also wrote, and fortunately cleared, exams certifying me as a cricket umpire and coach. All of this helped exhibit my seriousness to Cricinfo, which I was later told made a difference.

Do I want to make a hobby into a career?

This is a question that I believe will have an equal number of people answering in the affirmative as the negative.

Most people crave an opportunity to have a job doing what they love.

However, people in that job can often get cynical, thereby sucking the fun out of it.

More than half-a-year into my job, I can say that I certainly don’t feel as bad anymore when India lose a match.

Earlier, I would sulk and mope around for a couple of hours when India lost a game. In my current situation, regardless of the result, there is work to be done at the conclusion of a match.

Further, timing is everything in the web news business, so you need to work fast and also objectively. By the time I’m done with all this, the moment has passed and the residual emotion is not enough for me to sulk or mope.

You decide if that’s a good thing.

Will I become too one dimensional?

This is a tricky one to address. Do you get a thrill out of being a fast-talking, suit-wearing lawyer during day, and also being able to discuss the intricacies of sport or music over a drink with friends later in the day?

Once you make that sport or music your career, what’s left to discuss over drinks with friends?

Surely not case laws and interpretation of statutes, because that’s not something you’d discuss for leisure.

Yes, you’re doing a job that you love, but some people may find that limiting. This is entirely personal and the related emotions vary from individual to individual, but it’s certainly a question worth addressing.

Will I regret not giving my dream a chance?

This is the bottom line.

You only get to live once and that one life should not be tinged with any regret.

Your decision must of course be tempered by a modicum of pragmatism, but generally, I believe that you should bite the bullet and take a chance if you feel that you are likely to beat yourself up in the future about not having shown the courage to experiment when you were younger.

When I decided to move to Cricinfo, I told myself that even if I choose to move back to law at a future date, I will at least have the satisfaction of being able to hold my head high for having given my passion a chance, something that many people often don’t manage after an entire lifetime.

What if I don’t enjoy my career shift?

While it may have appeared rosy from the outside, it is possible, for whatever reason, that you may not enjoy your career shift, and one needs to be mentally prepared for that eventuality. Even prior to taking the leap, you need to set time frames for yourself because you cannot let life drift, especially at young ages.

You could give yourself about one year in the new job to assess whether you would like to make a career out of it.

If you decide to answer in the negative, at the end of that year, you could move back to your previous occupation. There is no shame in moving back because you didn’t quit your old job out of disillusionment in the first place.

Best case, you have a job that you love for the rest of your life.

In fact, even if you decide that it’s not for you, the year in between will probably help concretize what you want from your life, at least professionally.

Am I thinking on these lines simply because I’m sick of my current job?

This is may be the most important question of all.

Let’s say you’ve have a passion for photography. Let’s also say that you hate your boss, your work hours and the nature of your job which involved mundane research and drafting.

On the face of it, these seems like good excuses to quit your job and finally follow a passion.

However, I believe strongly that doing the right thing for wrong reasons is as good as doing the wrong thing. If you take a pay-cut and switch careers under the above circumstances, you could find yourself in a situation where you are looking to move back once the frustration passes.

Therefore, if you are considering a career switch, only do it because your crave it and not because you are sick of your boss. The worst times to make a major decision is when you are desperate, frustrated, angry or upset.

Bishen Jeswant worked in the Employment and Labour Law team at Trilegal, Bangalore for two years before deciding to pursue his passion for cricket by moving to ESPNcricinfo as a statistics sub-editor (as reported by Legally India at the time)

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