In the past, I have been critical of some self-help books. There are plenty that offer a refreshing insight on the modern world. The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F**K for one was a good read. So was No More Mr Nice Guy.
Others though are full of snappy soundbites and littles else, the book equivalent of junk food. A McPatronising Advice with a side Unrealistic.
Keep your chin up, smile, and never give up. That is what these entire books boil down to.
It’s too simplistic to be of any real use.
These books can also build business, political and cultural leaders into superhuman heroes. How many times have you read something like this-
“PERSON X never gave up! They had all these problems but they never gave up, never doubted what they were doing. You need to be like that with your own dreams!”
Doubt is normal.
A person with no doubt would be arrogant at best, genuinely unhinged at worst.
It is normal to wonder if you should continue down the path you are on or change it. It’s not weakness, it’s not wasting time, it is genuinely reflecting if this is what you want to do.
Case in point, I studied law at university, the LLB in Scots law is what you need to practice the law here. It is a four-year course and after it, you do a 9 month diploma of law, followed by a two year legal apprenticeship. Then boom, solicitor. Advocate (or a barrister as they call it down south) is a slightly different journey. Most people in the LLB course will become solicitors.
I knew so many people who after only a few months realised they hated the law. They had never really been interested in it in the first place, they just liked saying they were studying law and had good grades.
They should have asked themselves, do I want to continue with this or not?
Without exaggeration, there are people who have been through the whole 4 year LLB, diploma, completed their legal apprentice and hate it. Despise the whole profession. Year on year, solicitors top the charts in surveys for people who would not recommend being in their profession.
These poor souls felt they had to continue no matter what. They had to march onwards, it was too late, they had to go down this career path.
Don’t get me wrong, some had dreamed of being solicitors since they were kids and love their careers but others sleepwalked into the degree, then into a job, then into their life.
I completed my LLB but in my final year focused on banking law, realised this was the career I wanted, a banker not a solicitor- and that’s where I work now, banking. I really enjoy the role, I find it fulfilling and I am glad that is what I went for because I knew being a solicitor wasn’t for me. I had to find the courage to admit it to myself but I eventually did.
Without all the glib “you can do anything” “never give up” nonsense that is dime a dozen, I wanted to walk you through my decision not to be a solicitor after my LLB was done.
Casting my mind back, I am in my final year and deciding if I want to register for the diploma or not when I was starting to have my doubts.
I researched and even spoke to a few solicitors and found many of them bored, indifferent towards the profession. That is a big red flag right away that so many people kept saying the same thing, it wasn’t how they thought it would be. Refusing to fall into that, I done even more research. What was the legal apprenticeship like, what about actually practicing as a solicitor. Although criminal solicitors have some crazy stories and love the drama, the vast majority of solicitors were really just bureaucrats, shuffling paper from A to B.
- What was I interested in?
I done well in my course, I even won the W.Green prize for coming in first in Delicit (or Tort in England). However, banking law, I found that fascinating, and the entire banking system in general. How does it work, how does money work, that had me endlessly interested. Not only did I read all the study materials back to front, I sought out other books on the topic. By comparison, I found my attention waning in other subjects, going to lectures was almost painful.
- What were my options?
I studied law, I had to be a solicitor. Right? Well no. As I found out, there was plenty of use in having a law degree that didn’t involve becoming a practicing solicitor. In the age of regulation post 2008, banks were especially keen to get people with a legal background.
My reasons for pressing on with being a solicitor seemed increasingly flimsy, little more than I should continue because I have come this far.
Knowing when not to continue is as important as having the strength to go on.
I realised that path wasn’t for me, I stopped and went into a career that I really enjoy. Young Banker of the Year Finalist in 2015, one of the four in the UK, passing my chartered banker exams, helping customers and clients with their day to day needs, the challenges posed by Brexit and the Scottish referendum to the financial system. Exciting, vibrant times in the banking world, far more than if I was a solicitor. To stress that is in my opinion, others would find banking tedious but I love it and I am so glad of the choice I made.
I’m glad I had the strength to say I didn’t want to continue.