In this episode, I am excited to have Dr. Kimberly Jarvis on to talk about career transition: opening up that internal dialogue and finding those next steps.
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis is the CEO and Founder of All Career Matters, a consulting firm focused on leadership and team development. Kimberly has over 20 years’ experience in career and leadership development coaching with individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds and industries. Leveraging her leadership experience in several different industries, Kimberly creates and delivers customized organizational, leadership and talent development initiatives aimed at improving individual and team performance and engagement. She specializes in implementing large-scale programs and initiatives geared toward people development. Kimberly’s mission is to support leaders and teams with exceptional productivity and performance through practical strategies to enhance leadership and interpersonal skills.
- What someone who is unhappy at work should do to change the situation and start thinking and acting proactively.
- How someone should determine what aspects of their current work situation are not a fit and the difference between a change of career and a change of environment.
- How a career coach can help people that are going through these transitions.
- How people can assess future promotions/job changes with this knowledge as a foundation, and redefine their career by changing into a different niche rather than change their career altogether.
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Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:00:00] Thinking about what you do like about your current job and previous jobs and what you do not like is valuable, because sometimes people are in the wrong environment and they assume they have to change careers, when actually they just need to change environments.
Intro: [00:00:18] Welcome to The Resilient Lawyer podcast. In this podcast, we have meaningful, in-depth conversations with lawyers, entrepreneurs, and change agents. We offer tools and strategies for creating a more joyful and satisfying life. And now your host, Jeena Cho.
Jeena Cho: [00:00:43] Hello my friends, thanks for joining me for another episode of The Resilient Lawyer podcast. Before we get into today’s interview, I have a favor to ask. Making this podcast is all about relationships; cultivating relationships with the guests, and also relationships with you, the listeners. You probably know a lot about me, but I don’t really know anything about you. So here’s the favor: please head on over to JeenaCho.com. That’s “J-E-E-N-A-C-H-O” dot com, backslash podcast and tell me a bit about you. Also, I’d love to know what you like about the show and what could be improved. On today’s episode, I have Dr. Kimberly Jarvis. She is the CEO and founder of All Career Matters, a consulting firm focused on leadership and team development. Kimberly has over 20 years experience in career and leadership development, coaching with individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds and industries. Kimberly is a member of Forbes Coach’s Counsel, and her career advice has been featured in Forbes, Barron’s, CNBC, and Vogue.
[00:01:49] Before we get into the interview, if you haven’t listened to the last two bonus episodes go back and check it out. That is from May 16th and May 30th. I always tell lawyers to start with just six minutes of meditation a day. Why six minutes? Because of course, that’s how we keep track of our time. So I’m offering a program Mindful Pause, and its six minutes of daily mindfulness practice. Of all the hours you dedicate to your clients, work, and others, don’t you deserve to have at least .1 hour to yourself? Mindful Pause is designed for lawyers like you, to fit into a hectic schedule. Think of it as like taking your daily vitamin to boost your well-being. Head on over to JeenaCho.com or check out the show notes. And with that, here’s Kimberly. Welcome Kim to the show, I’m so happy to have you.
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:02:40] Thank you, I’m happy to be here.
Jeena Cho: [00:02:42] Let’s start by having you give us a 30-second overview of who you are and what you do.
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:02:48] Great. So I am CEO and founder of Career Matters, which is an organization, a consulting firm that helps primarily leaders and teams to grow and develop. I’m focused on executive coaching, but also work with leaders on career transition as they’re considering next steps in their career.
Jeena Cho: [00:03:09] Great. So it’s a career transition piece that I wanted to have you on the show for, because so often I talk to lawyers and they’ll tell me something like, “I’m just really, really unhappy at my job but I don’t know what else I should do.” They don’t know if it’s a matter of finding another job, or leaving law altogether. And I think so much of that is because they’re not really willing to even have that internal dialogue about the things that would make them happy. I know this is a big question to start with, but what should someone who is really unhappy at their job, what are the first two or three steps they should begin with?
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:03:51] Well, and I think one of the things that’s most important is recognizing that they’re unhappy, and then being willing to change. Because many people who are unhappy just suffer through it, sometimes for years. So I think recognizing your feelings and thinking about how you can change the situation are really critical. One of the things that I think is really important to do in this process is think about what’s making you unhappy specifically; is that your role, your day-to-day job responsibilities, or is your environment at work? The culture of the organization, your leader’s style, your boss’s style. I actually recommend that people write a list of the things that they’re unhappy about, and assess which of those things relate to their role, which relate to the environment. So that they’re taking the time to pinpoint what’s making them happy, instead of just a generalized feeling of discontent. And then I encourage people to think about what’s within their control, and what’s outside of their control. So when you take that list, thinking about what are the things that you can control and influence, and focusing all of your attention on that. An example of this is a company that’s going through rapid growth, sometimes that means rapid pace and rapid burnout, unless people are strategic about it. So rapid growth relates to your environment.
[00:05:22] You can’t control the growth of your company, unless you actively try to decrease that growth (which is not recommended at all) but you can control how you react to that pace. You can control what are you doing, what are the activities that are giving the best and biggest ROI, and what can you stop doing, to be more strategic and planful, and eliminate some things.
Jeena Cho: [00:05:50] Yeah. It also seems like when, especially for lawyers that have really high billable hours and all they do is work, even the idea of job searching can be really overwhelming. Like they don’t really have the time or the space to even look for another job. Advice for those lawyers?
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:06:11] Well I think if you’re unhappy, it has to be a priority. Just like taking care of yourself, I know you are focused a lot on wellness and mindfulness. People who are unhappy could do nothing and continue to live that way, or they could make it a priority and squeeze in the time that’s needed to think about these things. And honestly, I think if you have a little bit of guidance and support it’s not as overwhelming as it might seem without that. So a great mentor, a really good coach, somebody else who can be objective and help you think through these things, and maybe have you outline steps to take to move in a different direction would be recommended.
Jeena Cho: [00:07:00] Yeah, I love that advice. You know, I often find that for some lawyers they get to a point and they go, you know I just don’t think law is right for me. And of course that leads to tremendous feelings of guilt and uncertainty, because that’s what they went to law school for. It was just such a huge commitment to get to where they’re at, so the idea of doing something different is terrifying. And also because all they do is law, they don’t even know the possibilities of different career choices that are out there. How should lawyers go about exploring their interests outside of law, how do you figure out what you should do with your life, what you should do when you grow up?
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:07:46] Well I’ve worked with a lot of people who are lawyers, or even medical doctors, priests, honestly in my career who have spent a lot of time committing to a particular career path and tons of time in school, and it is difficult. But I think thinking about what you do like about your current job and previous jobs and what you do not like is valuable, because sometimes people are in the wrong environment and they assume they have to change careers, when actually they just need to change environments. So I think that’s why when you’re thinking through what are the things that are making you unhappy and do those relate to your role or to your environment, that’s really an important piece. I’ve worked with many people who have come to me and said, “I have to change careers, I’m absolutely miserable.” And when they tell me about what they’re miserable about and it relates completely to the culture of their organization, I’ll say, “What about what you do every day, your day-to-day job responsibilities,” and if those responsibilities are things that they enjoy, that’s a different situation than somebody who absolutely loves where they work, they love their boss but they’re bored to tears by their day-to-day responsibilities. They’re not challenged, they’re not stimulated, or maybe they’re over-challenged and stimulated by those activities.
Or sometimes it’s a matter of way too much quantity and not enough quality. So I think again, going back to what is it that is not working for you and being really specific about that. Because there might be a chance that you can still use your law degree and your background, but in a different way. Maybe in a different role or on different projects, or within a different organization that would value your experience but use your talent in a new way. So I think learning, everybody knows some jobs that really interest and excite them; everybody does, even people say, “I have no idea what I want to be.” People know. I have not worked with one person in the thousands of people I’ve worked with who didn’t know, after being pushed and probed, what they would actually like to do if they could do it and if there were no restrictions, based on finances or based on paradigms that they tell themselves or negative self-talk. Everybody has an idea of what they would be spending their time doing if they could and if there were no restrictions.
[00:10:43] So I would think about those ideas that you’ve had in the past, the things that have bubbled up. What would you like to be doing and what is it about those things that you think you’d enjoy? How can you learn more about them, how can you connect to people who are in similar roles or do similar work and do informational interviews? 10 to 15-minute meetings, often on the phone. They don’t have to be face-to-face, asking questions about what is a typical day like, how did you get to where you are, what would you recommend I do if I wanted to make a similar transition? How is my background preparing me or holding me back potentially from a role like this? So I think it involves taking a step back, and taking the time. And it doesn’t have to be a lot of time, to think about what’s not working specifically, and what would you like to have incorporated into your daily work or environment? What are the things that you think you’d enjoy doing, and how can you learn more about them?
Jeena Cho: [00:11:48] How does a career coach help people that are going through these job transitions? What do they do specifically?
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:11:56] So coaches are a great way to objectively help you assess your values, your goals, your skills, strengths, interests, knowledge, background. Skills that are transferable from job to job, help you to think about what do you need out of work, what has worked in the past and what hasn’t worked. Help you think about a plan for next steps, so it’s customized to your particular situation and to all of those things that we just talked about. Many coaches will include assessments to help people understand their personality type, their emotional intelligence, communication style preferences, so that they can better understand why things were not fit or why they’re feeling uncomfortable in a particular role, and identify cultural variables that would be really important to them. Leadership styles that they may thrive under, and different kinds of opportunities that may offer that to them. So I think it’s an objective source of feedback on some of the things that are difficult for you living in your life to take a step back and think about. And if you’re working with a coach, you’re also dedicating that time. And usually coaches structure work with clients, so that it’s pretty regular and ongoing. And you’re dedicating that time, you have homework after each of the sessions and things you’re going to do before the next meeting that help you be accountable to the process and move forward.
Jeena Cho: [00:13:41] Yeah, I’ve worked with various coaches over my career and I really found the homework, it’s really the in-between time that I often get the most out of. And also I really enjoy working with a coach because the coach, they don’t have an agenda. They come to you to serve you and figure out what would make you happy, give you that sense of contentment and belonging. Whereas talking to a friend or your spouse, they sort of have their own agenda, right?
[00:14:14] So I found just having someone hold up a mirror and perhaps shedding some light on the blind spots, or helping me think about things in a different way. Like I knew that I really wanted to teach mindfulness and meditation to lawyers, but I was like wait, there’s no job title for that. There’s no job description, there’s no degree that you can get where you become certified and they say, okay now are you’re certified to go and do this thing. So I kind of knew what I wanted to do, but I had to figure out what that looks like for me. And then I figured out that there was a whole world of consultants that work with lawyers, and of course coaches that work with various professionals. And I went, oh! So I think that’s the other thing that’s important to keep in mind, when you’re in this place of feeling stuck and you’re just so happy, is that’s how it is in this moment. But that doesn’t mean it’s permanent, it’s subject to change. And I think often that working with a coach is really helpful from that perspective, because they help you to see, okay this is just where you’re at. But you’re making progress and progressing through it.
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:15:31] Well and I think your point is great, because that discomfort is what encourages people to change. It’s not until there’s a certain level of discomfort that people will change. And so the misery involved in some of your situations, and we’ve all been miserable in jobs in the past. If you haven’t, you’re incredibly fortunate. But, that misery is what really is a catalyst to change. So it’s a blessing in disguise in some ways, because it gets you out of those negative and toxic situations that aren’t good. And I think your example about making this nitsch that didn’t really exist is brilliant, because you’ve done this so well and you have filled a need and a gap that wasn’t filled very well prior to you getting into that space. So I think it’s a great example of, I’m sure that you told yourself at some point, “I can’t do this, it doesn’t exist.” Like you said, there is no job description. So because nobody else has done it, I can’t do this. Those are the kind of paradigms that coaches can help you identify and reframe into, it’s because nobody has done this that I can be successful. Because there’s a need, there’s a gap there.
Jeena Cho: [00:16:54] Yeah, and I think lawyers are really nicely positioned to do this. Like you can do family law, but you can also find a niche within family law where you do things your own unique way, and your clients are going to find you because you offer that thing that no one else offers. And I think with all the technology that’s available, it’s really easy to set yourself up and start your own business, or really carve out a life for yourself that I don’t know would have been possible 20 or 30 years ago.
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:17:32] Right, we’re so fortunate in that respect.
Jeena Cho: [00:17:36] Sometimes I work with lawyers and they’re clearly going through some level of burnout and depression, but it’s almost hard to tease out how much of that is a mental health issue and therefore they should see a therapist versus it’s being in the wrong job and that’s contributing to the burnout and the depression, and it’s just a matter of finding a new job. Can you share your perspective on when it’s appropriate to see a therapist versus working with a coach?
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:18:11] What’s interesting is there are some coaches who are clinically trained. So I’m a clinical social worker and am able to diagnose and treat mental illness, in addition to doing the more pragmatic and kind of practical approach to career coaching. But I think if you have an ongoing challenge with depression or anxiety or some of the common symptoms around that, like difficulty sleeping, lack of interest in things that usually would interest you, lack of motivation, being tired all the time. And some of these symptoms are things that you can experience just from being in a miserable work environment. I’ve experienced some myself working in a miserable environment, so it’s hard sometimes to discern. But I think if you have a history of mental health issues, or if you have been medicated for mental health issues and you’ve had experience working with a therapist and that’s been helpful, I would start with your therapist, if you aren’t currently working with a therapist. If most of your challenges and concerns have stemmed from more, you’ve noticed align with a particular situation or work environment that you’re in, or maybe a personal situation that you’re struggling with in addition to challenges at work, a coach may be the best option for you.
[00:19:47] Coaches will know when they have reached their limit on this, good coaches, and will know when to refer people to a therapist. And your coach and/or therapist may be able to work and encourage a referral to the other profession, and (with your permission) update each other. With the correct, signed, appropriate paperwork, update each other, the coach and the therapist, on your progress. So that’s something that’s a possibility as well. So I think I’d think about is this acute or is it chronic, and when did you notice these symptoms occurring? And it’s not always super black and white like you said Jeena, and I think that strong coaches will understand when they need to refer.
Jeena Cho: [00:20:44] You know, I know that as lawyers we really frown upon being vulnerable, or being perceived as weak in any way. But lawyers are still human beings, and we’re subject to the human condition. Which includes things like burnout and depression, and being at jobs that aren’t quite the right fit. So I really want to encourage the listeners out there, if you feel like you’ve done what you can, there’s no shame in asking for help. If you’re an athlete and you’re training for the Olympics, of course you would have a coach. So it just seems very strange that there’s this expectation that we should know how to manage our careers on our own without help, and somehow getting outside help is a signal of weakness or that you’re flawed in some way.
[00:21:44] I mean, I certainly felt that way at times. But now that I’ve seen for myself just the incredible benefits of having someone outside that can guide you and help you and just offer more tools, I really feel like that’s one of the things that both coaches and therapists do, is to help you have more tools in your toolbox so the next time you come across a tricky situation or a similar situation, you go ah, I have a tool for that; let me pull it out and use it again.
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:22:16] Right, and the stigma isn’t just for lawyers. I think other people question whether or not you know.. and maybe it’s the word “help.” Help, I need help. And I would encourage you to reframe that from I need help to, I’d like another perspective; I’d like an objective opinion about my situation, I would like somebody to help hold me accountable, because I’ve had trouble focusing enough attention and energy to make a change. Which is common for people who are really busy and struggling just to get through the work week because of everything that they’re juggling, families and jobs. So I would reframe it; it’s not necessarily getting help, it’s getting an extra opinion. It’s getting like you said a new tool, to move you forward in the way that you’d like to move forward.
Jeena Cho: [00:23:17] Yeah, I really like that reframing. Okay, so once someone does their homework and figures out what is it specifically about this particular job that’s not working, what are the things that are working, what do you do with that knowledge? How do you then use that knowledge to find your next job that will be a better fit for you?
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:23:40] Well I think that is absolutely critical knowledge that everyone should go through before they look for a new job, even if they’re happy with their current job. And I think it’s often not happening, but I’ve seen the ramifications of people not taking a step back and thinking about these things. Taking a promotion and then realizing, I didn’t want to be here what am I doing?! I don’t want to do this kind of work. Or leaving an amazing company for another company that is not a fit. So I think really carefully thinking about what’s making you unhappy, do those things relate to your role or your environment, is an awesome foundation. Thinking about what you have liked and disliked in your current job, in previous jobs is a great foundation, so that you can then assess future opportunities. Whether it’s an internal promotion or an external opportunity, against what’s important to you and what you value. And then what I highly recommend doing is if you’re looking outside or inside an internal promotion with a department that you don’t have a lot of information on, do informational interviews with people within those organizations or departments, so you can get a better understanding of the culture of the team, the leader’s style, how things operate, their strategy. And you can ask probing questions in informational interviews, those conversations will help you in the interview process. Because you’ll have inside information that will help you when you’re sharing with the interviewer what you know about the organization or that department.
It will also help you assess whether or not that’s a fit, right? And when you’re in interviews, you can ask probing questions to assess aspects of the role and of the environment against what’s important to you and your values. For me, strong, fair, and credible leadership is one of the absolute most important aspects of a new job. So I spend a lot of time talking to anyone that I can who currently works at a company, and get as much information as I can. And when I’m interviewing, I ask a lot of questions about those things that are important to me. And I will ask questions related to the manager’s approach to leading the team, how they set strategy, how they support work-life fit, how they provide constructive and positive feedback. Because I’ve experienced leadership that does not do these things well, and I’ve learned from that and I’ve learned that I have to assess that in the future. I will ask, and I encourage people that I coach to ask, behavior-based interview questions. “Tell me about a time when you supported your team’s work-life fit. What Happened, what was the result? Tell me about a time when you had to offer constructive feedback to someone who reported to you. How did you do that, what was the impact? Tell me about a time when you involved your team in setting the strategy for the next few years. How did you gather their input, and what was the impact on result?”
[00:27:07] Because just like interviewers ask you behavior-based interview questions, because they’re much harder to kind of BS (sorry, can’t think of another way of putting it) your way through the answer. You can do the same with hiring managers, it’s much harder for them to BS their way through that answer and to make something up on the fly. It’s a lot easier to do that for questions like, so do you support work-life fit? Yeah, yeah I do. They have to tell a story, and that’s why interviewers ask candidates behavior-based interview questions. Because past performance is an indicator of future performance, and it’s one of the strongest indicators.
Jeena Cho: [00:27:55] Well Kim, it was so nice having you on this show and thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us. For the listeners out there that are interested in learning more about you and your work, what’s the best place to do that?
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:28:07] My website would be a good place to go, allcareermatters.com.
Jeena Cho: [00:28:13] Great.
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:28:14] And thanks for having me.
Jeena Cho: [00:28:15] Thank you. And you also work with lawyers on career transitions?
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:28:21] I do, I do not specialize in working with lawyers but I have worked with many lawyers who are focused on career transitions. I work with all industries and functions, primarily leadership level.
Jeena Cho: [00:28:34] Great. And my final question to you is this: the name of the podcast is called The Resilient Lawyer. What does it mean to be a resilient lawyer to you?
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:28:45] I think resiliency is struggling and learning from that struggle, and making changes so that that struggle is less intense, less difficult. Also seeing failure or mistakes or dark times as an opportunity to grow and develop, not just as dark and failed times but an opportunity for you to continue to develop as a human being, and incorporate new strategies into your daily work.
Jeena Cho: [00:29:23] Great. Kim, thank you again so much for joining me.
Dr. Kimberly Jarvis: [00:29:27] Thank you.
Closing: [00:29:32] Thanks for joining us on The Resilient Lawyer podcast. If you’ve enjoyed the show, please tell a friend. It’s really the best way to grow the show. To leave us a review on iTunes, search for The Resilient Lawyer and give us your honest feedback. It goes a long way to help with our visibility when you do that, so we really appreciate it. As always, we’d love to hear from you. E-mail us at email@example.com. Thanks, and look forward to seeing you next week.