In this market, the value of luck cannot be overstated. Most people I graduated with who are working self describe their experiences as lucky and usually end the story of how they got their job with “it just fell into my lap.”
I personally did not experience any such thing until today. Someone actually contacted me for an unlisted position, interviewed me, and chose me. This is the most unlikely result of my job search.
I never got a single hit off of any posted job opportunity, not off of monster, indeed, or craigslist. Of all the positions I was qualified for and I applied to, I never got a response. Around four months into my job search I started posting my own want ads–essentially my cover letter and resumes, seeking work. By all accounts this should have yielded nothing and for three months gave me exactly that.
With no connection to the employer, no leads from career services, no nothing, I was found and chosen.In this market, that’s a miracle.
I struggled with this post, trying to suss out some lesson I could impart to the current law students who stumble across this blog. Be lucky isn’t a lesson. What I can impart is if you’re seeking a legal job and you don’t have one by the time you graduate, you have to try everything. Join Linked In, tell everyone you know that you’re looking, put your cover letter and resume (personal info redacted of course) out there. During this job search only one person a month ever found my resume on the big job search sites.
Though, to be fair, only the putting my resume/cover letter out there got me anywhere. Over the months I was searching, I began to focus more on marketing myself to potential employers. Although I’m sure other people had different experiences I found craigslist put me in a position where I could actually correspond with someone with the power to hire rather than dealing with a recruitment agency.
Ultimately what I was relying on was eventually coming across an employer looking for someone with my experience and my desired salary willing to give me a chance. I feel like luck factored in exclusively in terms of finding that employer. I mean I have good interview skills and I’m friendly but it was pure luck that another person didn’t have their resume where it could be as easily found as mine. It was pure luck that an employer was looking through resumes before posting an ad.
I am truly grateful for the opportunity I’ve gotten but I have to admit that my info was in the right place at the right time.
The journey to this point has been gut wrenchingly scary. Even now I know I need several paychecks before I can even catch up on my loan payments and it’ll be months before I can fix my credit. I’m feeling both relief and disbelief that my journal has actually ended in a legal job.
I would hate for someone to take away from this post the notion that everyone will inevitably find work. What I would like to communicate is, I looked for work full time between July of 2011 and February of 2012 and I was lucky enough to have someone stumble across my resume. Career services,networking,major job search sites, my state’s job search service, usa jobs–none of those things led me to employment. As of yesterday I was considering ways I could swing the cost of another graduate degree just to get some temporary relief from the relentless calls about my student loans. I was hopeless and desperate and I would not wish that frantic state of mind on anyone. I don’t want anyone to think that the answer to the employment problem is time. It’s luck. And not everyone has any. I know some people I graduated with who went back to their previous careers or who went back to school rather than contending with the poor legal jobs market.
Waiting for luck is a gamble. I didn’t have a choice. I have no other career to turn to so I had to make due with the dismal market. I wouldn’t say mine is a success story in that I couldn’t conjure a job out of sheer force of will or with the advice of career services.
What I would like law students and 0Ls to take away is that it’s hard and that some people are lucky whereas many others are not. It took me eight months to move over to the ranks of the lucky. How long can you support yourself while you wait for your lucky break?
* I’d also like to add that I feel extraordinarly lucky that I found something before February bar results came out since I’d be competing with law students who graduated early.Employers might not like to hire newbies but why would they choose a law grad who had been out of school almost a year with skills that are growing rusty over someone with fresher skills and connections? (As I’ve mentioned I haven’t found a volunteer position yet either).
I am cautiously optimistic about the opportunity and I can’t wait to see how it shakes out. For now, it’s nice to exhale the breath I’ve been holding since graduation.
Update: It’s only fair to update regardless of the outcome. The outcome was, I was brought into a dying business without the possibility of long term employment. A mentor I described the situation to described it as “they didn’t need a lawyer, then the realized they didn’t need a lawyer.” So at this point, I’m not even applying to positions but rather seeking out volunteer opportunities so I can get enough experience under my belt to try my hand at hanging my own shingle. It’s scary and frustrating and somewhat exciting all at the same time. I won’t lie though, I miss steady pay checks and at some points I would be willing to do any job that would ensure steady pay and benefits. But then I run into the too much experience for anything outside the law/not enough experience to get an attorney position dichotomy. I would gladly accept a legal assistant position but employers are afraid I’ll take off like an oiled gazelle the instant an attorney job opens. I don’t think they know that there aren’t any entry level attorney jobs opening, nor do they realize that if I take a job below the rank of attorney, I’ll likely never get an attorney job anyway.
Sometimes I feel like I made a ridiculous choice going to law school. Other times, I ask myself, what could I have done to assure myself of steady employment since I believed that was what I was doing by going to college, then law school. I thought I was ensuring a base salary and giving myself skills that would enable me to always work. However, I’m not so sure there is any sure fire way to get employed and stay that way by going to school. Maybe I’m in the wrong industry–I am terrible at math, perhaps that has something to do with it.