After Failing The Bar, A Crisis Of Confidence But Also Redemption

Cecilia Retelle, co-founder & COO of Ranku

Cecilia Retelle, co-founder & COO of Ranku

After graduating from law school, feeling a bit lost, and then failing the bar I was pissed to say the least. To be more accurate, I was apathetic and completely lost. From my perspective, I was newly 25-years-old, had $200,000 of student loans, was working in a job that that I hated and didn’t require a JD, and didn’t know what to do to make things better. Failing and feeling lost simultaneously is a lot for anyone but doing it that young was extremely difficult.

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One night on my drive home, I called one of my close friends. This was the same friend who had encouraged me to stay in law school when I wanted to drop out half way through. She probably doesn’t even remember the conversation but I will never forget it. I hung up with one major takeaway. She said “figure out what you want to do and do that.” That seemed a lot easier said than done, so I reached out to one of my mentors who in my mind was older and “wiser.”

All in all, he reiterated her point while also giving me some more tips. In an effort to avoid an awkward phone call of telling my mentor that I was feeling completely lost, I asked him to meet me for lunch—that way we could do all the awkwardness face-to-face. The entire drive to a small restaurant in Cherry Creek, I was half panicking that I was going to let him down, half hoping that I was going to feel relieved when I got back in my car.

As we started talking he asked the last question I wanted to answer—how are you? He almost immediately realized that I had an agenda for our lunch and he was ready to help. Even though he is extremely successful, when I started to tell him about my current job and the struggles I was having with it, he immediately shifted the conversation to telling me about how his wife found her footing in the corporate world. As it turns out, that was exactly what I was trying to figure out.

As I had hoped, when I got back into my car I did feel relieved. More than that, I felt  ike I had received words of wisdom to live by and attempt to execute:

  • Find something you love and do that really well. His wife became a specialist in aerospace and it had made her trailblazing more focused. Luckily, I already knew what this was (education)—it was just a matter of figuring out how to do it.
  • Demand respect in all situations. Just because I’m a young female in a corporate environment surrounded by men, doesn’t give anyone authorization to treat me in a certain way.
  • Do things your way. My mentor and former boss knew my personality and work ethic. He reiterated, you might be friendly but that doesn’t mean you’re not fierce. Don’t be afraid to continue to be friendly while also kicking ass and taking names.

Finding my path

Then the last piece fell into place—my parents came to visit. I met them at a restaurant in Colorado Springs and I don’t think I even made it through my salad before I was in tears and spilling my guts. It wasn’t really my fault—they asked that horrifying question— “how are you?”

I then had to admit they were right. I should have never taken the job I did. I should have stayed in law because I really did want to figure out a way to do education policy. I then told them I had an idea that I thought would help get me back on track to what I wanted to do but of course it also included more student loans.

Taking into account all of the advice I had received, I had put together a one-page document about how I was going to execute my plan. I figured I had one year to make it happen. From them, I just needed their continued support, endorsement of my plan, and help moving across the country.  Here was my plan based on the advice given:

  • Figure out what you want to do and do that.  As beautiful as Colorado is, I was over it. I had lost my grandmother near that time and wanted to be closer to family. I wanted to move back to Minnesota.
  • Find something you love and do that really well. I have always believed that solving education in this country will help to solve a lot of our other issues. I knew education was what I wanted to do. My solution: getting my masters in education.
  • Demand respect in all situations. Quit my job as soon as possible. It wasn’t my scene to say the least. Once moving back to Minnesota, I planned to start tutoring which was flexible enough for me to do my degree in a year.
  • Do things your way. I wanted to finish my degree, take (and pass) the bar, and find a job within one year. I figured, I can’t reach a goal if I don’t set it.