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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

February 21, 2018
Question

Do Divorces and Job Searches Mix?

answer
Julie Q. Brush

The Question: I am going though a messy divorce and am miserable in my job. Should I look for a new job now to create something positive in my life?

Divorce can be, and usually is stressful event – even when it’s “amicable”. It can throw people into emotional volatility…and temporary insanity. Causing them to behave in unpredictable ways that may be out of character. So it is a difficult time for those who experience it.

In addition to your impending divorce, you are experiencing unhappiness in your job. A double whammy. For anyone, being unhappy in a job requires a proactive effort to improve one’s situation. And your current situation is no exception. But does it make sense to embark on a job search and change jobs now?

No.

You are experiencing one of the biggest changes in your life: the ending of a significant personal relationship. What you need to strive for right now is stability. To add a job search–and potential new job on your shoulders is too much. And too risky for your personal…and professional well being. A job search takes time, energy, stamina and a positive attitude. Things you might be a tad short of right now. In addition, while interviews are a showcase for your experience and talents, they also provide a window into your personality, demeanor and sense of being. If you are not feeling your best, it will come through in an interview and compromise your candidacy…and at times, your reputation.

Even if you are successful, starting a new job…while exciting…is still stressful. In the beginning, you’re an unproven commodity and need to be on your game 24/7 with regard to your job responsibilities and work relationships. Divorce causes preoccupation (physically and emotionally), which will steer you away from the focus and effort required to succeed in a new role. It’s a professional risk not worth taking if you can avoid it.

Instead, focus on improving your current work situation until the time is right to make a permanent change. How?

List the things about your job that make you unhappy. Is it the role? Your boss? Your compensation? Do you feel unappreciated? Perhaps you’re projecting your personal situation on work? Pinpointing the specific issues will enable you to create solutions to make life better at work.

List the things that make you happy. It’s easy to fixate on the negative–especially when going through a divorce. By appreciating the positives, you can try and incorporate more of them in your work experience. Focusing on positives also helps keep your attitude and mood lifted.

Create solutions. No one is going to solve your problems for you. It’s your responsibility. After you’ve assessed your situation, identify possible solutions to make it better. If you feel stuck, ask someone you trust or a professional coach to help facilitate your effort. Then implement.

Keep your finger on the pulse of the market. Just because you’re not pounding the pavement doesn’t mean you can’t stay up to speed on the employment market. So at your leisure, educate yourself. Read articles, speak with recruiters, and peruse the job boards. By staying current, feel like you are taking proactive steps, which may ease the stress of your current work situation. You’ll also feel more connected and at ease once you decide to jump in.

Take care of yourself. You’re going through a tough time…so give yourself a little TLC. Exercise, eat well, get sleep, watch funny movies and lean on your friends and others in your support group. Seek professional assistance if you feel it would be helpful. Now is the time to re-center and fill up the tank.

Life is a journey – never void of challenges. And you’re in a situation where it’s in your personal and professional best interest to keep change at a minimum until your divorce settles. So during this time, take care of yourself and focus on doing what you can control to make your current role a happier one. And by the time this storm passes, you’ll be in a better position to put your best foot forward when it’s time to move on.

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Comments

David Boundy, ,

Dear Questioner— I grieve for you. It's a really awful position to be in. My divorce was not that bad on the overall spectrum, but all divorces are "messy." Especially if there are kids. And at the same time, a souring job... I agree with Julie—unless your current job has turned out to be something entirely incompatible with your morals (think Bendini, Lambert and Locke of The Firm) you're better off toughing it out at your existing situation. Piling change on top of change will compromise both your ability to assist your attorney in your divorce, and your ability to do the things that need to be done in a job search and new job. At every job change, you're back to "square one"—all the cred you built up at your old job is gone. You must start a new job with the expectation that your first task is building networks of trust that every lawyer needs with clients and other lawyers. You can't do it if you're mid-divorce (at least you can't do it well). Also, if you've got kids, any change will complicate the child support issues in your divorce. Stability is crucial—every little change has the potential to blow up into tens of thousands of dollars of child support litigation, and months of delay in getting it done. If you are a business lawyer, or another lawyer that has long-term trusted advisor relationships to your clients, bring that mindset—it’s a business deal, both sides have to win. If you are a litigator, you have to set that mindset aside. Your approach and instructions to your lawyer have to be deescalate, deescalate, deescalate. Be creative in offers to your spouse—what does he/she want, and how can you give it at low cost? Be *trustworthy* with your spouse. Don’t try to game it, be fair. If there are kids, a divorce isn’t an end, it’s just shifting to a family that lives under two rooves. There’s almost nothing that’s worth more to you than the cost of fighting about it, both the financial cost to the lawyers and the emotional cost to your future two-roof family. Try to get your divorce into mediation. Divorce is inherently filled with principal-agent conflicts between the lawyers and parties. Lawyers are too used to trying to get a “good deal” for our clients, and sometimes that translates into $5 in legal fees to litigate a $1 asset (we spent $40K litigating a $7K asset—despite my repeated offers to just give it to my spouse, so long as she’d also assume the debt encumbering the asset—it wasn’t worth the fight to me, but my spouse’s lawyer wouldn’t hear of it). Mediation is a good way to get all the interests aligned, to keep the emotions contained. A good mediator will prevent runaway-train lawyering. I was there in 2010. I stuck with an unhappy job until the divorce was over—tough, but it was better than the alternative. I didn't do mediation, and wish I had. Eight years later, life is genuinely good (With too many lessons learned, I have the relationship skills to attract and bond with a wonderful woman—she asked me earlier this week "Is this relationship permanent?" And I've gotten out of the mucky spots to wonderful professional opportunities—I have a nice blurb about me at one of the most prominent legal web sites. Life resets, if you keep your focus on foundations, and give it time) Divorce takes time. Most of all, it takes friends. And more friends. And more friends. As a "bill by the hour" professional you've likely let too many friendships lapse. Old friends will love to hear from you. New friends are important too. Join something, anything—meetup.com is terrific. A “paid friend” (aka therapist) can be one of your best investments. Julie, if your Questioner asks, I'm willing to talk to him/her, and you can give my email address.

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