You know when you start a new TV series not realizing it is seven seasons long and will likely take up your entire life for the next two months? Yep? I just did that with Suits. Thanks to a new, nationally shared girl crush on Meghan Markle and a curiosity to understand just how a programme about lawyers could be so interesting, I embarked on my first episode. Three shows later, I was hooked. Not only did the storyline have me gripped but by episode five, I was convinced – I wanted to be a lawyer (or rather a solicitor, seeing as I’m not American).
As a journalist and history graduate, I had never considered the option of law before so for my parents and boyfriend, this declaration seemed very much out of the blue. But this wasn’t the first time I’d had an overwhelming urge to throw myself down a new career path. Every film, TV show and anecdote from my friends and acquaintances had the power to send my mind spiraling down a new avenue – should I go back to school and try and become a doctor? Should I go into marketing? Maybe I could be a stockbroker! This new obsession with the pursuit of law made me realise just how extreme my desire to find out what I was meant ‘to be’ and what I was supposed ‘to do with my life’ had become. Thanks to my Harvey and Mike induced epiphany, I call it ‘The Suits Effect’.
I’m approaching my mid-twenties, post-degree and contemplating a masters and at this point I’m starting to feel somewhat lost. And I know I’m not alone. While one or two of my friends are sat securely in jobs they love, most of us are still throwing spaghetti at the wall in the belief it’ll stick when it’s ready. Unlike the jobs-for-life of yesteryear, Forbes found that these days, most of us stay in a job for just four and a half years. And as we’re living longer, retiring later and waiting until we’re older to get married and have children there is more pressure than ever to find purpose in our lives through work.
As teenagers we’re sent off to chat with career advisors (who were probably suffering The Suits Effect themselves) to come up with a plan for ‘what we would be when we're older’. But as more products, businesses and markets open up there are more and more jobs to choose from and this is where the problem starts. The career market is oversaturated and the more we type up CVs and fill our job applications, the more LinkedIn starts to feel like a strobe-lit techno club night – an affront to the senses, screaming at you that you need to get your shit together.
The hunt for purpose can feel overwhelming at best and crushing at worst. I know I don’t really want to become a lawyer - I couldn’t absorb IKEA build-a-bed instructions never mind the complexities of tax law. But I’m a member of the convenience-generation. I get what I want, as soon as I want it. But when it comes to something as arduous as building a career, I need to learn too that it takes time and a lot of tripping and getting back up, to make it to our dream job. Searching for a successful career is like trying to find your soul mate. Is this career right for me? Does it give me everything I want in life? Am I just comfortable? Will I find another career I love this much or is there more out there?
But in an age where our jobs change as often as Katy Perry’s hair colour, the goal posts have moved. Maybe the way we win isn’t to find a singular job that will make us feel like we have our life sorted but to enjoy the journey and to make the most of every opportunity that arises on the way. The concept of work and its role in our lives has changed over time so rather than ‘be’ a lawyer or a teacher or a journalist, let’s instead describe them as the things we’ve done and are doing. Because the reality is, what we truly are is a heck of a lot more than where we clock in every day.