Among people who opted out of a success track to pursue other interests, a nagging fear may persist. I sometimes ask myself, "What if I made the wrong choice? Maybe I shouldn't have dropped out of graduate school to follow the Grateful Dead!" If you haven't found that elusive career bliss, you may wonder if a high-paying, prestigious position like being a lawyer -- as unexciting as that might have seemed when you were 22 -- wouldn't have given you a better life than the lower-paying, less challenging, still unglamourous job you have now.
A counterargument came recently from a surprising source, The Wall Street Journal".
Young law graduates are joining the Greek chorus already packed with the likes of graduates of for-profit cosmetology schools and culinary academies. They complain that they were misled as to the value of their "investment" in school. Some people are struggling to pay upwards of $100,000 in student loan debt while working contract jobs performing tedious document review for $25-50 dollars per hour with no benefits. (Meanwhile, grads of top tier schools get $150,000 jobs that require them to work 80 hours per week or more. Demographic factors mean that many of the Gen-Xers will never make partner.)
The minimum that we all want in work is the means to make a decent living, the means to make some sort of contribution to society, and the means to enjoy and develop our talents. If you were labeled as "smart," someone somewhere at some time probably told you that the professions were the way to go.
The bloom is off that rose.
Some attorneys quoted in the article remark that their friends who became plumbers are doing better than they are financially, and that they are considering making that sort of change themselves. As survival becomes an issue, I believe fewer and fewer people will talk themselves into careers they don't want for nothing more than the prestige.