8.5.16

Thoughts on the Law School Job Search


When I finished teaching, I had all sorts of profound thoughts about how teaching had shaped me for the better.

I don't have quite the same feelings about law school. While teaching made me a better and stronger person, law school has helped me to know myself better, and to think critically about what really matters. (Mostly by rejecting what law school has told me I should value.)

In short, I've faced a lot of rejection and self-doubt over the past three years.  I think where I've grown the most has been through the agonizing job search process. I hesitate to share any advice, because I know everyone's experience is different.  But many of my brilliant classmates are still in the midst of their search, and for those who will be job-searching in the future, I thought I'd share what I've learned. 

1. Relax. 
Finding a job is important, but it doesn't have to be EVERYTHING. When I was feeling stressed about not having a job yet, I would think about all the other wonderful things in my life that I was thankful for and that, in the big scheme of things, are way more important than securing employment.  This calmed me down. 

Also, don't let other people's success make you feel frantic. I was one of the last of my friends to get an internship for 1L summer, 2L summer, and in securing a job for after graduation. During each of those periods, I was happy for my friends who got great offers for internships/jobs, but I also felt increasingly discouraged as more friends got jobs while I remained jobless.  I think this feeling is natural, but it's also not productive. 

2. Network.
Ugh, do you hate the idea of networking? I do too. I remember at one of our first career sessions, a career counselor emphasized how important networking would be, and I rolled my eyes thinking, "Nope, I won't need to do that."  Wrong. 

A small percentage of people find their jobs through on campus interviews and a few more find them through postings on the law school employment page, but I think most people end up finding jobs through networking--myself included.  It's hard, and it can be awkward at first to reach out to people that you don't know, but it's worth it.

My main take-away from this experience was that genuine connections with people make a difference. This could be a connection with someone that you've worked with in the past or a connection that you form with a new person over coffee.  Also, never underestimate the power of a kind email. 

3. Don't let rejections affect your self worth.
We have a very dangerous tendency in our culture to equate our jobs with our worth as individuals. I say dangerous, because once the number of rejection letters you've received nears 20, you start to go down a bad path. (me)

I believe that as human beings, we each have unsurpassable worth.  Because we exist in the world, we are worthy of love and belonging. This is not affected by anything we do or accomplish.  It's helpful to remind ourselves of that when we're in the midst of a difficult season.

4. Pursue what you are passionate about.
I was nervous at various points throughout law school because I realized that all of the practical experiences I had were in one particular area of law that I happened to be really interested in.  I feared that this would limit my marketability to employers, and it probably did.  But it also made me more qualified for the jobs I really wanted, and for me, that trade-off was worth it in the end.

5. Don't be afraid to turn down an offer that isn't right for you. 
Law school career counselors would be horrified that I'm saying this, but I think it's true.  In November I received an offer for a prestigious position in another city.  It was an amazing opportunity that I was very fortunate to receive, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to move to that city.

I agonized over the decision for weeks. On the day I was going to send an email declining the offer, I called my mom sobbing. "What if I regret this decision later?  What if this is my lean in moment and I'm missing it?  What if this is the only job offer I'll ever receive?"  My mom told me that she didn't believe in regrets, and that all I could do was make the decision that felt right for me in that moment.

During that time, I also thought a lot about an advice column I'd read by Sheryl Strayed entitled The Ghost Ship That Didn't Carry Us.  In the column, Sheryl gives advice to a 40 year old man deciding whether or not he and his partner will have children.  Sheryl says that when we're faced with such an irrevocable life choice, there's no way to know exactly how our lives will pan out.  She quotes Tomas Transtromer, who wrote that that every life "has a sister ship" that follows "quite another route" than the one that we choose to take. This was helpful imagery for me as I imagined the life I would live if I accepted the offer and life I would live if I rejected it, which was still very uncertain at that time.  Ultimately, Sheryl's concluding words gave me much comfort:

"I'll never know and neither will you of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore."



For those of you still searching for a job, or for your life path, I wish you clarity, courage, and perseverance.

Also, happy Mother's Day to all the mamas out there!  I'm especially thankful to mine for her wisdom and unending encouragement.

2 comments:

  1. These are all great tips Trisha! Whether for law school job searching or just otherwise! :) I love the part about self-worth - I think that's something we constantly need to remind ourselves of during any sort of trying time!

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  2. Job searching is really difficult. My husband and I are both in the environmental field and it's so competitive and we've both struggled a lot. These are definitely great tips!

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