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Why You’re More Than Just a Job Title (And How to Embrace It)

Whether we like it or not, our job titles shape our identities. This is how we show up at a conference, bar association event, or in the overseas grocery queue behind us when he asks us what we’re up to. . In the legal profession, the identity of a lawyer, partner of XYZ law firm or general counsel of ABC company brings a level of prestige and self-esteem. We are conditioned to discuss what we do because it makes our parents and family members proud, it gives us and those around us bragging rights, and the outside world respects us more. .

For years, I loved telling everyone I was a lawyer, especially when I was at Biglaw and in-house. As the title stroked my ego out to the outside world, inside I struggled with the feeling of not wanting it to be my only job title for the immediate and future future. I straddled between being a writer and a lawyer, an intersection that seemed like a bifurcation in my career.

The first time I realized how much my identity as a lawyer meant to others was when I attended an entrepreneur networking event. It was the week of February 2015, just four days after I officially left the practice of law – the moment I gave up my job title. I was no longer Wendi Weiner, an in-house attorney at a Fortune 200 company. I was now on a new journey, transitioning into a full-time entrepreneur while pursuing my writing dreams and helping people find their happiness. professional along the way.

Showing up with a job title change wasn’t something I rehearsed. I didn’t hold back and just blurted out, “I’ve been a lawyer for over a decade, but left the firm last week to pursue my dreams of being a writer. In fact, I write resumes and LinkedIn profiles for lawyers and executives.

I said it gracefully and with a smile, expecting the person I was talking to to be intrigued and lead to further conversation. Instead, I was told, “Why would you stop being a lawyer and become a writer?” It’s just silly! You will never make as much money as a writer as you would make as a lawyer.

Even though more than seven years have passed since that conversation, I still vividly remember the feelings I had when I heard his response. At the time, I had no more than 75 media outlets behind my name to point it (or a viral CNBC article that shared my story). I didn’t have customer waiting lists longer than seven weeks, and I didn’t have a brand where people knew me before they spoke to me. I was simply a lawyer who finally achieved her lifelong goal of being a professional writer. I did not know at the time of the conversation what I had built and what it would become.

Six months later, I had the opportunity to introduce myself again to this interlocutor at a subsequent event. He immediately recognized me and asked how I was. When I told him about the projects I was working on and some of my recent publications in the HuffPost and Forbes that had expanded my list of speakers, he engaged in the follow-up conversation that I expected us to have six months ago. He asked how he could get better known digitally and what I suggested he do to improve his online presence. Beyond his interest in hiring me for branding services, he quickly realized that I was more than my job title.

To the outside world, being a lawyer is a measure of success. There is an element of prestige that others perceive that goes along with our profession – the outside world sees us as highly educated, competitive, analytical and business-oriented. The outside world also associates being a lawyer with earning a lot of money. Yet if we take an alternative path, our success or worth is immediately questioned as if we had failed. It seemed inconceivable that a lawyer could leave a lucrative career to do something like freelance writing and coaching, earn more money doing it, and find personal fulfillment along the way.

That day in February 2015 changed the spectrum for me and the way I presented myself to others. Although being a lawyer is still part of who I am and how I market myself in my work, I realized it was just one of many titles in my life – professional writer, executive image coach brand, wife, daughter, dog mom, friend, etc. – and I’m more than one of those titles.

If you’re pivoting your career away from law, you might struggle with the identity you’ve held onto for so long. Maybe you’re taking a break from your career or you’re between jobs. Maybe you’re leaving an Am Law 100 firm or a Fortune 10 company and wondering if it’s the right decision. You may feel overwhelmed just thinking about facing an opponent who questions your abilities or your new journey. You may feel anxious about introducing yourself to others with your new or unfamiliar job title.

While our job titles shape who we are, the reality is that we are all more than our job titles – we are more than the success that comes with being a Biglaw Partner, General Counsel or Associate. Your job title doesn’t define you, and it doesn’t predict where you might be in five, 10, or 15 years.

Success is rarely measured by what others think of us, but we let society dictate what success means. My definition of success may be different from yours, and that’s perfectly okay. Our definition of success changes over time and into a new decade. The success you once equated with becoming a managing partner can now be tied to arriving home at 5 p.m. every day for dinner with the family.

What really matters is how you perceive your career path; not what others perceive it should be.

Wendi Weiner is a lawyer, career expert and founder of The Writing Guru, an award-winning executive resume writing services company. Wendi creates powerful career and personal brands for lawyers, executives, and suite/board leaders for their job search and digital footprint. She also writes for major publications on alternative careers for lawyers, personal branding, LinkedIn storytelling, career strategy, and the job search process. You can reach her by email at wendi@writingguru.netconnect with her on LinkedInand follow her on Twitter @thewritingguru.

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