So often we live out careers we chose when we were 18, simply young adults entering college having to choose a “major” or professional path when we’re just getting a taste for life outside of childhood.
That’s why I find Julie Schechter’s story so compelling. Julie is a graduate of Harvard Law School – but she realized on day one of her internship that the life of a lawyer wasn’t for her.
“This is not at all what I want to do,” Julie said she remembered thinking when she started that internship. But…she talked herself out of those feelings, like we all so often do. She committed to finishing law school and thought she would really love being a lawyer down the road.
She was wrong.
Several years into her life as an attorney, she still felt nothing by dread when it came to her career.
“If this is what I have to look forward to for the rest of my career, I don’t know how I’m going to get out of bed,” she said about that period.
Knowing when to walk away
There’s no beating around the bush here: Shifting away from a career path can seem really scary.
“You’re giving up a lot of status.,” Julie said about her feelings when it came to leaving law. “You’re giving up financial security. You’re giving up all this time you’ve invested in getting yourself to a certain position.”
Here’s something though that Julie had that I loved: She had created what she calls her own personal “Board of Directors,” a group of people whose opinions she trusts implicity. She knows she can come to this group and get fantastic guidance. “Outside of that closed circle, I don’t really ask for too much advice.”
Julie explained to them how miserable she was and that she wanted to figure out what to do next. She came up with some ideas and then the people she trusts pushed her – and she allowed herself to be pushed.
“Getting that board together is something I’ve cultivated over time. Even if you don’t have one right now, it’s a really good long-term investment.” She suggests finding people who really understand you and wants your happiness with – and this is big – no separate agenda.
“You always know in your gut what you’re supposed to turn toward or away…We kind of do always know.” That “Board of Directors” can be helpful in pushing you off the ledge, and help you not play smaller than you really are.
As a former dancer, Julie left law and launched fitBallet based off of her own exercise method she developed when she was cramming in workouts throughout her law career. The business was teaching her method all over New York City in a pop-up style. She rented spaces in dance studios, had a whole team of instructors and people came in for the classes. It ran for three years, when, after going through a divorce, she decided it was time for another shift.
“One thing [a divorce] does give you is an insane amount of clarity on what is incredibly important in your life,” Julie said.
Toward the end of fitBallet, it became apparent to her that she had built this brand on community, empowerment and female friendship – but she wasn’t that in love with the idea only being able to impact women who come to live fitness classes in New York City. It was such a small body of people – so she made the difficult decision to close it to focuses on another idea: Small Packages.
Small Packages is a curated care package company that creates fabulous care packages, available at a variety of price points to your loved ones throughout the country.
Julie came up with the idea while thinking about how she has friends all over the country and can never be there physically for everyone. “I’m always really far away from somebody and always missing something important.”
She funded the project through IFundWomen, a crowd-sourcing site designated toward supporting female founders. And she officially launched Small Packages just last December.
Customers can select from a variety of themed care packages, choose their price point and type the message they want included. Julie hand writes each message to include with the care packages and ships it to the customer’s loved one.
“I just want to feel like I’m making a contribution. I just want to feel like I’m adding something. When I’m writing these cards…that’s when I really feel like, oh man, this was such a good thing to dive in to.”
Advice for those looking to shift careers
Julie said it all so well in our conversation, so here are some of my favorite quotes from her about what she’d tell someone thinking of changing career paths:
- “I don’t think we should have to like, live with the choices we made at 17, at 23, even at 30. You’re just going to learn so much more as you go along. It would be such a shame if you didn’t let yourself have that part of your life open up just because you didn’t choose it first.”
- “Really what life is about is the contribution you’re making and how big you’re letting yourself be. Whatever permutation that’s going to be in whatever moment is fine. Some things are going to work for a season, some things are going to work for your whole life – so feeling like you have to stay in one lane because that’s the lane you chose in the beginning – what’s the fun in that?”
- “There’s nothing to be scared of. I think we place so much value on stability and moving forward and accumulating status…but there’s nothing to be scared of in exploring different parts of your personality and your potential. If you don’t like it, you can just always go back.”
- “Go back to first principles. I think when you go back and look at yourself as a kid or whatever stage in your life where you didn’t feel quite so much pressure, pressure to perform and pressure to be responsible, that’s where the clues lie on what’s really important to you. What you do with that information is totally up to you.”
- “Let yourself asks the questions. You really, really do know the answers.”
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