There is no perfect next step if you hate being a lawyer.

On episode 43 of the podcast, we kicked off a series where we talked about some of the myths that keep lawyers stuck in jobs they hate.

This week: the myth of the perfect next step.

Spoiler alert: there is no perfect next step!

Listen in to hear why that’s a good thing.

Mentioned in this episode:

Episode Transcript

TFLP 043: There Is No Perfect Next Step

Intro: 

Hi, and welcome to The Former Lawyer Podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Cottrell, and on this show I interview former lawyers to hear their inspiring stories about how they left the law behind to find careers and lives that they love. Let’s get right to the show. 

Sarah: 

Hello, everyone!

This is the first in a series of episodes where I’m going to be talking about some of the myths that keep lawyers stuck in their jobs even though they’re unhappy, and on some level, they know that they need a change. So let’s get into it!

The first myth that we’re going to be talking about this week is the myth that there is a perfect next step.

Okay, what does that mean? Honestly, you probably know, because, in my experience—between my own experience, the guests on the podcast, and all of the other people that I’ve talked to doing this work and just, you know, being a lawyer and having other friends that are lawyers—is that almost everyone falls into this trap and believes this myth to some extent. 

So here’s the scenario. You know, I know you’re not loving your job right now. You’re miserable. You spend your days vacillating between dread of the next assignment landing in your inbox and nervousness about whether you’re going to make your hours. And yet you’re still not actually sure that you want to leave because this is the conversation that you’re having with yourself: 

What if I leave and the next job is worse?

What if I make a mistake?

Which quickly ends with, “Okay, so all I need to do is figure out my perfect next step and then I’ll leave.”

But here’s the deal. There is no perfect next step. The myth of the perfect next step keeps you stuck because it prevents you from taking action and experimenting until you find what works for you, which is the only way to make forward progress. 

And I’m not trying to say that it’s not scary. Okay? It can be terrifying. You’re on this carefully delineated path, and you have been for a long time, and now you’re considering stepping into completely unknown territory. Where there are no rules. There are no steps. Where you have to rely on yourself and what you want as opposed to a sort of predetermined path that is clear to follow. 

But I’m hoping it’s also a little bit comforting to know that there is no perfect next step. Because if you think that you have to figure out the perfect next step, that’s paralyzing. Right? Like, the pressure to figure out what the perfect thing is that you should be doing? Of course that’s going to keep you stuck!

There’s never a situation in which you’re going to absolutely know that the next step is the perfect one. Even a step that seems perfect might not end up being so perfect. Even one that doesn’t seem that great might end up being the perfect step for you. And the only way that you know is to do it. 

So, I hope that’s helpful because you can take pressure off of yourself. You haven’t discovered the perfect next step, because it doesn’t exist. You don’t have to wait until you have time to figure out the perfect next step, because you don’t have to figure out the perfect next step. You just have to figure out a next step. 

And paradoxically, realizing that, you know, you don’t have to figure out the perfect thing to do, it can actually make it a lot easier for you to figure out your next step. Because you can be flexible. You can think about what you need, what you want, where you are in your life. All of the things that actually give you information to be able to make a decision about what to do next. 

So, I’d love to hear from you if you have had this experience of feeling like you need to figure out the perfect next thing to do. To be honest, I know a lot of people listening absolutely have had this experience, because like I said, I had it. Pretty much all of my guests on the podcast have had that experience. Pretty much everyone who I talked to in DMs or in comments online has had this experience. Most of the members of the Collaborative have had this experience. 

So, good news: it’s a myth. There is no perfect next step.

Next week we’re going to talk about another myth that might also be keeping you stuck. Until then, take care, and I’ll talk to you next week.

Outro: 

Thanks so much for listening today. I absolutely love getting to share these stories with you. If you haven’t yet, subscribe to the show, and come on over to formerlawyer.com to get even more support and resources in your journey out of the law. Until next time, have a great week!