Okay, back to my regularly scheduled program.
If you conclude that you are ready to take the leap, here are a few practical tips on making the transition.
- Resist the seduction of a leave of absence offer – When you give notice, your firm may offer you a leave of absence. My recommendation is to resist the allure of the offer and reject it, politely, of course. I feel strongly that necessity is the mother of invention. The option of the leave of absence costs the firm nothing. Yet that safety net could very well make you less motivated to push beyond your comfort zone. I know it would for me. Why stretch yourself to discover a new path when a five-figure monthly paychecks awaits? You will be right back to where you are now.
- Remain focused on unfinished work – This sounds like a no brainer, but once you have given notice, the temptation to slack off is strong. Try to stay focused and apply the same effort to your remaining work. It is a satisfying feeling knowing that you have ended everything on a great note with professional integrity. Thanks to my dumpster dive, I think my departure ended on a great note and, more importantly, I felt at peace with my decision.
- Tell your colleagues about your departure in person – Some people like to leave stealthily, disappearing into thin air. I personally think a little legwork can pay dividends because you never know when and under what circumstances these professional relationships can help you. When I made my rounds saying goodbye, some people were curious about my decision to leave while others were eager to share their thoughts and ideas for what I could do. These conversations gave me much to think about and inspired me to start — and to continue writing — this blog.
- Make a list of things you want to do immediately after quitting – As a Type A over-achiever, I experienced a bout of malaise after quitting from not being productive. You may too. Before your last day, come up with a list of things you always wanted to do but never had the time nor the energy to do, things that intrigued you but you never explored, things that challenge you but you were too lazy or too scared to do… The act of checking off these things from your list one by one will give you a sense of accomplishment, and more importantly will kick start the brainstorming process for exploring your future.
- For example, get a library card, one of the things on my to-do list – If you are in New York City like me, you’ve got access to one of the best public library systems in the country, and it’s about time you recouped some of the local taxes you’ve paid over the years. Get lost in the stacks of books, read for fun, expose yourself to different ideas and ways of thinking, and let your mind be filled with possibilities and new promise.
- Reset your anchor – Start to mentally prepare yourself that it could take some time to achieve what you have left behind, not only financially, but also in terms of professional identity, community and productivity. Anchoring your expectations to the perks of a BigLaw career can be discouraging and can set you up for disappointment.
Finally, on your last day, as you step out of your office building for the last time as its denizen, take a deep breath. Capture the moment in your mind’s eye. Remind yourself how far you have come from that moment of first seriously thinking through how you might escape from the feeling of being trapped. Taste the exquisite mixture of exhilaration and anxiousness and fear and closure. And begin your journey towards your wild success.
The next and final installment of this series will come at the end of this month, the six-month mark of my journey. I will talk more about the options I have been exploring and my struggle with resetting the anchor. Searching for passion is hard work. I have struggled to embrace the unpleasant uneasiness of the uncertainty. The urge to quickly dismiss an idea simply because it doesn’t have the same earning potential still creeps up. But I truly believe that motivation springs from this discomfort.