Assessing your career satisfaction: the four career phases

November 23, 2017

As Managing Partner of a specialist legal recruitment firm, I’ve worked with lawyers in every stage of their careers. No matter your level of experience or seniority, identifying which of the four career phases you are in can help you decide whether to stay in your current role or transition to another law firm, company, or organization.

Do you remember your first day in your current role? Were you trying to figure out what technical skills were required, the corporate culture, the politics, and, on top of that, trying to find the coffee machine and remember the receptionist’s name? You probably found it daunting; it’s like a first day of school, but at the same time you probably felt challenged and excited. If that sounds familiar, then you were in what is frequently referred to as the Education Phase of your career, the first of four career phases:

Phase one: Education

In this phase, you are challenged and excited. There is a steep learning curve and you may feel overwhelmed. If you are feeling that now, don’t worry, be patient, the good news is that you will soon enter the second phase.

Phase two: Engagement

You’ve learned the ropes, you are confident, motivated, accomplishing goals and achieving targets, you’re no longer overwhelmed, and you feel you are making a valuable contribution to your firm or company. This is a great phase, but it doesn’t last forever.

Phase three: Cruising

In the third phase – you’re plateauing. You feel that you’ve done most of these things before and you’re getting bored. You’re not unhappy but you’re not motivated. You’re just cruising! You start thinking the grass may be greener on the other side. If you are there now, be warned, you are on your way to phase four.

Phase four: Disengagement

In the disengagement phase, you are feeling frustrated, unhappy, and you may start seeing a lot of negatives in your current position. These are likely things that did not bother you before. You’re going downhill and that grass on the other side is definitely a brighter shade of green. Beware, you could be heading for burnout.

Some studies have shown that there is a correlation between the four career phases and personal relationships. Phase one, you don’t have time for a relationship or you are neglecting your current one because you are so preoccupied with learning the job. Phase two, this is the phase that most people start relationships, get engaged, married or remarried – you’re happy and content. Phase three, you’re bored, maybe have an affair, and phase four is the break up stage and divorce – you’re frustrated at work and you take your frustrations home.

The key to career advancement is to ensure that you do not reach phase four and before you get to three, Cruising, you know where you want to go. You must take charge of your career by figuring out where you want to go and how to get there.

A career path is a direction you follow for personal fulfillment, there is nothing that you should be doing, it’s what you want –   there is no perfect plan, it’s about your talents, values, and aspirations. To plan well, you must know yourself, your skills, strengths, and preferred work environments.

If you are interested in discussing your career plan and goals, contact a member of our legal recruitment consultant team today for a confidential discussion. The Counsel Network specializes in providing legal recruiting services for lawyers at all stages of their careers, including associates, partners and in-house counsel.



Dal Bhathal, Managing Partner