Career Change Isn’t About Bigger Paychecks

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I had lunch the other day with Marci Alboher, the author of One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success. Her book sprung from her own experiences as a former lawyer-turned-writer/speaker/teacher. Note the slashes; they’re key to her message.

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Marci Alboher slashed her way to a new career(s).

“I was in a part of law that I hated,” she says. Her expertise in vetting advertising and promotions for publishers earned her a boffo salary, but Alboher, now 41, grew increasingly discontent. While pulling a stint in Hong Kong, she began writing an e-mail newsletter to friends and family. One, a journalist, praised her way with words. “It was the push I needed,” she says.

Though by now eager to try her hand as a writer, it took a few more pushes–namely, one last hideous but hideously high-paying lawyer job–before Alboher took the plunge. That’s key to her message, too: it’s really hard to leave a job you’re trained for, rewarded for and perform well. A friend told her, “I can’t believe you’re so good at a job you hate so much.” That was another push.

Finally, Alboher signed up for some writing classes at The New School in New York City. Then she landed her first writing assignment, a freelance piece for the Circuits section of The New York Times. The assignments began coming in, first for trade journals for lawyers, then eventually for other publications, mainly on the subject of career change.

When she had built up a respectable freelance writing clientele, she took out an ad in the bar association newsletter offering to teach other lawyers how to publish articles. She’s been teaching ever since.

The switch hasn’t been easy. Alboher’s income ranges between one-third to half of her previous haul as a corporate lawyer. She lives frugally, eating in when she used to dine out. But she has plenty of company, as she learned when she began researching her book. At first, her publisher pushed for a how-to-get-rich guide to switching careers. That’s the wrong message, she says.

“Career change isn’t about getting rich,” she says. “It’s about getting happy.”

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