One of the most frequent questions I am asked by people I’m friends with on social media but am not close with is: Do you work? Ha. Well, yes, in fact, I do work. Actually, I work at large corporate law firm. And to put it lightly, biglaw isn’t really known for its flexibility. Despite the fact that I’m not gone as often as I seem to be and I work pretty crazy hours when I am home, I do think I manage to pull off having a bit more flexibility than the average biglaw associate.
Once people realize that I have a demanding job, they typically ask how I balance my job with travel. First let me put out a disclaimer: I know I saw this all the time, but really – I post a lot of old pictures. I usually take short trips (I just take a ton of pictures and continue to post them for long after I have gotten home). And when I’m home, I often work weekends and late nights. Having gotten that out of the way, although there is no one correct strategy to living life while maintaining a demanding job, here are a few pointers I have:
- If you want your job to be flexible with you, be flexible with your job. The partners I work for give me a larger degree of flexibility because they know how hard I work. I am usually the first person in the office and the last person to leave the office. When we have had deadlines approaching, I have spent entire weeks working past midnight, sometimes until as late as 4am…and then showing up by 10am for the next workday. Because of this, when I ask for some time off, my partners are more flexible with me.
- Get comfortable with last minute planning…and last minute canceling. Most demanding jobs are unpredictable, which makes planning a vacation 5 months in advance a little bit difficult. For long vacations like South America and Asia, I generally do plan months in advance and communicate my plans as soon as I make them so my bosses have plenty of time to prepare for me to be out. However, by far the vast majority of my travel is made up of shorter (generally weekend or weekend plus a day) trips. Because I work in biglaw, I need to be available on weekends when client work demands it, so I can’t just plan to be away every weekend either. Usually, I plan my vacations at the last minute. If it’s Friday, and I know I won’t need to work over the weekend, I will usually take a road trip somewhere. If I know I’ll have the weekend off a little earlier in the week, I may book a flight somewhere. Usually this works out for me, but not always. I have gotten on a flight on a Friday, landed for a layover, read an email that I needed to be at work Saturday morning, and gotten on the next flight back home, without ever having made it to my destination. And guess what – I didn’t say a single word about it to my bosses. No matter how safe I try to be in my planning, inevitably things will come up and I will need to cancel trips. It’s unfortunate and I lose money every time, but I’ve decided that it’s worth it.
- Shorter trips are the way to go. Do I enjoy spending 10 hours on a plane to spend 2 days on the west coast? Not really. I would much rather spend 4 or 5 days in a place that I’m flying across the country to be in. But I can’t have it all my way. I try to pack as many things as possible into very short trips. Usually I do pretty well 🙂 While they certainly aren’t ideal, I’ve learned to accomplish a lot and really enjoy short trips.
Having said all of that, why do I have a demanding job? Read more about that decision in my next post.