NAME: Rob Weiss.
FIRST CAREER: Lawyer for 7.5 years.
SECOND ACT: Start-up professional, for the last six months.
TRANSITION TIME: One year.
After working as a strategy consultant in Washington, DC, for three years, Rob Weiss figured that law school was the next logical step in his career. Among other things, he believed legal work would give him job security. He graduated in 2006 and started practicing structured finance law.
“It’s a lot of work, and you really need to love it,” he said. “It’s a career path that really rewards being passionate about the law.”
As an associate, Weiss worked 60 to 70 hours each week on cases alone. More hours were spent completing administrative work, attending internal meetings and keeping current with the industry. Despite these long hours, he didn’t feel vested in whether the client won or lost.
Weiss left the firm to work as an in-house attorney at a finance company, but this also left him unsatisfied.
In 2012, he quit to take a chance on a three-month consulting job as counsel at a start-up that was building an online platform to help private companies raise financing. He found he liked the work and the entrepreneurial environment. Yet making a switch to business was daunting. He decided he needed access to a network of business professionals, but didn’t want to pursue the massive costs of an MBA. While he plotted his next steps, he worked as a lawyer on a consultant basis, lived on a budget and picked up other work where he could.
From a Google alert, he learned about Startup Institute, a training programme for those interested in starting new companies or working with them. “I thought that was interesting, so I looked into Startup Institute and spoke with that lawyer, as well as other alumni, and it went from there,” he wrote in an email
Earlier in 2013, Weiss enrolled in the eight-week course.
He knew that some, or all, of his $3000 tuition would be reimbursed depending on the projects he worked on during the programme or company he worked for after. Most challenging for Weiss? Defining why he wanted to be there and his value to a start-up.
“That part was very intense, and not easy at all — it required me to rethink some of my basic assumptions about my prior experiences and my value proposition,” he wrote.
A few weeks after the programme, Weiss became the director of business development at RentHop, a website which helps renters find or list apartments. His law degree helped him find a new job as he had specialised skills that a start-up would otherwise have to hire outside the firm. Though Weiss could earn two to three times more for working the same hours as a lawyer, he loves the new challenges.
BBC CAPITAL: What advice would you give other people looking to change careers?
WEISS: Really listen to yourself. If your gut tells you that your job is not what you want, believe it and don’t be afraid to break from your old career. That’s scary for a lot of people, but you can come out the other side. I’m proof positive about that.
I know what I want for my career better than anyone else. I learned that by trying a bunch of things that didn’t fit. If a job makes me feel good, excited or happy, then I want that job. When you’re happy at work, you’ll be more successful — this may not be in monetary terms. (Photo credit: Brice Lin)