The Importance of Belief in Any Career Change


In this article, I share some of my favourite advice from the late Steve Jobs.

As well as being generally inspiring, it is relevant to lawyers contemplating any form of career change.

It’s about believing that things will work out for you in the future even if the future path is not yet clear to you.

Steve Jobs’ Stanford University Commencement Address

Steve Jobs shared the advice with Stanford University students in 2005 (one of my favourite career-related videos and highly recommended if you can spare 15 minutes):

Connecting the Dots

The first story he tells is about connecting the dots in your life and career.

He talks about a time at college when he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life.

Sound familiar?

I know it’s been true for me on more than one occasion in my adult life.

He decided to drop out and trust everything would work out ok.

As it turned out, he credited that as one of his best decisions – and critical to the radical changes he later inspired in the world of computers.

Here’s the core of his advice:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only conect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something. Your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connnect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference.”

Connecting My Own Dots

The critical part of the above quote for me is:

“…you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future”

I recognise this in my own career journey.

In the early 2000’s, I deliberated long and hard about leaving my in-house job at Sky Sports.

It was my dream role in many ways – working at a FTSE 100 company, with some of the best lawyers in the country and in a sector I loved.

Yet, I had an ongoing nagging feeling that being a lawyer for the rest of my career wasn’t going to sustain the levels of fulfilment I wanted.

I wrestled with the decision to leave for around 18-24 months but couldn’t find a definitive answer.

It was a chance conversation with someone I didn’t know that ultimately precipitated my resignation.

The simple yet pivotal thing they said that changed my mindset in an instant was:

You do know it will all work out ok don’t you?”

In that exchange, I found the belief (or rather the extra belief) I needed that things would work out ok for me.

Even though I had no clear idea what I would do down the line.

I trusted my dots would connect in the future.

Now, looking back over 15 years on, they clearly have – and not in a way I could ever have predicted back then.

That’s the thing about “dots”, they are virtually impossible to predict.

Believe Your Dots WILL Connect

You will never make a change if you don’t trust that it will all work out.

If you find yourself unsatisfied with your current career choice find something to trust in (your ability, your determination, the universe, fate, whatever) and believe that the dots will connect down the road.

You need this belief to push through any inertia.

Some uncertainty, doubt and fear are inevitable when it comes to exploring a potential career change and this leaves many lawyers paralysed.

I regularly hear lawyers say they feel “stuck” during our early conversations.

Choose Action Over Intertia

Once you have this belief, it allows you to focus on the antidote to inertia – action.

Whilst I sat and thought about things at Sky Sports I got nowhere and felt stuck.

My fear of leaving was intense and it paralysed me for a while.

After all, I had some compelling reasons not to leave (great salary, share options, it supposedly being one of my ‘dream jobs’).

However, when I started to take action I started to learn things, I met people and things started to happen for me.

Amongst other things, this action led me to the opportunity to live and work in Australia, and later to qualify as a coach and set up my own coaching business.

I am now much happier in my work and life than I would have been if I had stayed working as a lawyer.

Nothing against the profession, it just wasn’t the best fit for me when I was honest with myself.

In reality, working one to one with lawyers as a career coach and executive coach has proved to be a much better fit for me.

None of this means you have to resign or make a huge leap straight off the bat like I did (unless you really want to, of course).

However, it does mean you need to find some belief, take some action and see where that leads you.

If you want greater fulfilment from your work, your focus should be on developing your belief and then putting some of those dots in place.

If you would like some support with taking action as you explore your own career transition take a look at my career coaching page and get in touch to arrange an initial chat, free of charge.

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Career Coaching for Lawyers

  • Get unstuck and start taking action on your career change.
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  • Get support and guidance from an experienced career coach and former lawyer with 25+ years experience of the legal profession.

Matt Oliver

Matt is the founder of Law Career Plus and a former in-house lawyer (Sky Sports, London & Foxtel, Sydney). With over 12 years of experience as a career consultant & executive coach, he supports lawyers with their career development & career transitions. He does this through this website, a regular email newsletter and his one to one lawyer career coaching.

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