We all know the expression, “it’s easier to get a job when you have a job.” Less well known is the expression, “it’s hard to make good career decisions when your hatred for your job is making you clinically bonkers.” Careers in the law are stressful. Sometimes we grin and bear it and think, “Just one more year, then I’ll make a move,” or, “Once I get my law school loans paid off, I’ll quit this job and go somewhere less stressful.” We hold on. We hold out.
But during that holding-out period, the hatred for our job grows and the ability to tolerate yet another 14-hour day in the office becomes even harder. And that hatred grows slowly, each day. So slowly that we might not even realize how bad it’s really become. At this point, I was going to make a ‘boiled frog’ analogy, but I think that image is becoming a cliché so I won’t even bother. You all know it. If not, Google it. Incidentally, why is it always a frog that gets boiled alive? Has anyone tried boiling other animals alive but they won’t put up with it? Or are frogs just the target of an inordinate amount of torture?
It’s not easy being green, I guess.
What I’m trying to say by all this is, don’t let yourself get to the breaking point with your workplace unhappiness. If you get to the breaking point—or even if you start to get close to it—you will be under so much stress that you’ll be at risk for suffering a nervous breakdown. When you get to that point, you’ll be thinking, “I don’t care if I’m sweeping up elephant dung at the circus, I just want out.” Bad decisions happen here. Who knows, you may actually end up being the elephant poo collector at Ringling Bros. Or worse—Circus Vargus.
But here’s the hard part: if you’ve started to go down that gradual path of job-loathing, how would you know? How does the frog know he’s in a hot tub that’s pushing 200 degrees? Well, I’ve put together a list of warning signs to help you out. Consider this your frog thermometer:
1. On your way to the office, you kind of wish the train would derail so you would have a valid excuse to not go in.
Okay. Maybe you’re not so twisted that a public transportation disaster is appealing to you. Maybe it’s more subtle than that. When I was practicing law, I knew a guy who had shattered his leg and needed to have extensive emergency surgery. But, he told me, it was better than having to go to court and deal with opposing counsel. He wasn’t kidding.
If it would be preferable to get painful surgery rather than going to work, your frog water is getting too hot.
2. When the alarm goes off in the morning, you cry.
I think this is pretty self-explanatory.
3. When you watch a law-related show, you get loose stools.
In 2002, I watched a movie starring Ben Affleck called “Changing Lanes.” At some point, Ben’s character, a lawyer, shows up to court and realizes that he’s forgotten a really, REALLY important document. I actually became very anxious watching Ben fumbling through his leather brief case searching for this missing document. I should have been anxious that I’d paid money to watch a Ben Affleck movie.
4. All you can think about is pounding nails into the head of “that one partner.”
It’s the man or woman in your life that makes you walk down a different hall so you won’t get noticed. When this person is scheduled to be out of the office for vacation, there is much rejoicing in your soul.
You bought a hammer. And a lot of nails.
5. You buy enough lottery tickets to have a ticker tape parade with them.
That little piece of paper is going to make it all better. Come Wednesday night, the lady with the microphone and hideous finger nails is going to draw all your numbers on television!
No she’s not. The lottery is going to be won by an ex-convict from Michigan who is going to wear a snake skin suit to the press conference. He will have a pony tail.
If you’re experiencing any of these warning signs, your frog is getting warm. It’s best to act while the water is cool enough so you can conduct a rational and deliberative job search for the next logical career opportunity. That is, of course, unless you really like elephants.