Q: When I was young, I decided to become an attorney so that I could be a self-supporting woman. I graduated from law school with $120,000 in educational debt. In my first position, I earned $45,000 doing personal-injury work. I could hardly survive living in a major city while owing so much and earning so little. On the advice of a career counselor, I took a job with a nonprofit firm, which gave me more personal satisfaction. However, I earned slightly less than $45,000, with no benefits. During this time, I relied on my parents and husband for assistance. My next two positions both paid $45,000, with benefits. Thanks to my family's support, I've nearly halved my educational debts. But, at 35, I feel like a failure. Getting by would be a real struggle if I weren't married. Can you help me develop a better plan for the future?

A: You weren't happy with a low salary, so you listened to a counselor who suggested that making less was the solution? I'm all for personal satisfaction, but if your core issue was financial independence, how was a lower-paying job going to help matters?

Anyone with the talent and the drive to go to law school and pass the bar has the intellectual capacity to get a higher-paying job, if that's the goal. Your problem seems to be a lack of confidence. And relying on your family isn't helping; you need to be able to make it alone.

That starts by no longer putting yourself on sale. You've convinced yourself that your work isn't worth more than $45,000. If you don't value yourself more than that, how can you expect anyone else to? You're an attorney—make a case for yourself. Write down your professional and personal strengths, and then take your argument into the job market.
Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.


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