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From law degree to lost

I got a law degree to please my parents, but now I can’t get motivated to find a job.

You don’t have to be a lawyer, says our elder. Your degree will be an asset in all sorts of fields.

Dear EWC

As a somewhat typical immigrant child, I grew up pursuing goals set by my parents, namely higher education in a respectful field. I managed the education part OK, having completed my law degree at a respected school and acquiring my license in my home state. But it was during that education that I first began to doubt if what I wanted is something I really wanted. No one in my family has any legal background and the only reason I had settled for law was because I absolutely refused to go into medicine.

And it was also during that education that I landed an opportunity to go back to the country of my birth for some work experience. I had gone back and loved the experience, which led me to going back for some more following my graduation. While working as a recent grad in what was essentially a foreign country for me, I encountered some challenges. Nothing that I felt was insurmountable but I sought advice from my parents. They didn’t give me much advice beyond “That’s why you shouldn’t have gone back,” and made me feel incredibly guilty for being back there when they had sacrificed their entire lives to bring me here. Every single video call ended with admonitions about when I was going to come back, and after a while, unable to deal with the constant pressure, I came back to appease them. But I didn’t want to come back and did not make the appropriate plans and since then I have been having a hard time with the job search.

After coming back, I didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore because I couldn’t stand the idea and lost confidence in my abilities. But I also don’t know what I want to do because all I ever did before was just study, because that was the only thing my parents allowed me to do. I’m now afraid of everything and I don’t know how to do my job search. I feel hopeless and frustrated. I’m just lost. How can I get a job? How do I find what I want to do? How do I stop being a failure?

Mama-Joan replies

Congratulations on getting your law degree and completing a very rigorous and challenging education path. A law degree is very useful beyond the restricted profession of “lawyer.” My husband has a law degree and a MFA (masters of fine arts) and went on to manage an arts institution. Although now retired he felt his legal background was very helpful to him. Likewise, my daughter-in-law is a recent law school graduate and she works in city government overseeing conservation policies for city buildings. I did not get a law degree, but spent my career in the non-profit sector and had many colleagues who did have juris doctorates and chose work within charitable organizations.

I suggest you look at organizations/corporations that support the work you are interested in and look at positions where your legal education (J.D.) will be an asset. I suspect organizations that are involved in international outreach and service desire employees who can think critically about issues and policies and who can provide thoughtful analysis. (Think Gates Foundation, Pew Charitable Trust, ACLU). I don’t know what country you were working in, but there are most likely outreach organizations/corporations/government agencies located in the US that provide service to your ancestral country.

You owe your parents your respect and appreciation, but you do not owe your parents your future and cannot set aside your personal aspirations, passions and goals for theirs. As parents, we want to keep our children close. But in this day and age, that is not always realistic. Our son received very specific technical education and there simply were not jobs in his field in our state so we travel 1000 miles to see his lovely family. That is the reality. We are happy for him because he loves his work. At the end of the day, when your parents see you doing work that is rewarding and allows you to be self supporting and able to create a future for yourself, they will be happy for you.

I hope my insights are helpful to you. You clearly have a lot to offer to the world. Go forth and fight the good fight! Please feel free to write again anytime.

Letter #: 448348
Category: Career

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