4) Was there anything you learned on the job which surprised you?
One thing that surprised me is how little preparation new attorneys have for both their job search and getting their careers off to the right start. Many don’t have a clue about business etiquette, interviewing, networking, writing a resume or a formal business letter, etc.
I don’t mean to fault them here, because many law school students have never worked in a professional work environment before. They go—as I did—straight from college to law school, and then suddenly find themselves trying to understand, navigate, and advance in a system and environment that’s completely unfamiliar to them. They don’t realize the 35 or 45 or 65 year-old attorneys they’re interacting with have very different social norms. So they try to apply the social norms they use to interact with each other. It doesn’t work! But if new attorneys don’t understand what employers are looking for and they don’t understand the dynamics and protocols of professional workplace, then they’re at a huge competitive disadvantage. This disadvantage is real and immediate, and it puts their careers in jeopardy. It can be very difficult to recover from.
I was naïve too, as a law student and new attorney. The economy was booming then, and so we could afford a learning curve and adjustment time. People don’t have that luxury today. Competition is fierce, jobs are tight, and there are more new attorneys than ever. You need to get ahead and stay ahead—not just on grades and leadership while in school, but also on building network, meeting people, gaining experience and relationships that can get you a job in the short-term, but open doors in the long-term too.
5) What do you like best/worst about your job?
I like the immediate impact I can have on people’s confidence and careers. Many of my clients come to me feeling very run-down. They’ve looked at the job market and they’re feeling pretty dismissal about it. Many of them have sent out countless resumes and gotten no positive responses. They’re looking at their school debt and other financial responsibilities and feel like there’s no out. They expect my process to be even more demoralizing, with me just pointing out all their faults and missed opportunities and telling them that there are no jobs.
But my process is actually the opposite of that. It’s a huge confidence builder. We do talk about weak spots in the resume and credentials, of course, and any points of concern. But we do that so that we can develop a plan—how to strengthen those weak spots and how to address them in an interview setting. My clients grow more and more confident as we move through the process and they start to understand which employers to target and what their value-add is. They learn how to articulate that value-add. Their new confidence carries through everything they do—from networking to interviewing—and that confidence increases their chances of being successful. It’s a positive upward spiral.
I’m very action plan and accountability-oriented as well. So it’s a big goal of mine to help clients take control of their own destinies. To develop a game plan and to put into action.
The worst part of my job is that, because of the economy, clients have to work harder. Again, when I graduated from law school, there were lots of job opportunities. Even a half decent resume would get you a call from an employer. It’s not like that anymore. Even a great resume isn’t a silver bullet that’s instantly going to get you a job offer. Clients need to work harder to get that resume seen by decision-makers. They have to network, cold call (via mail or email), follow up on resumes that are sent in, become active in bar associations and pro bono activities, and just pound the pavement. Otherwise, they’re missing out on opportunities—and their competition is swooping into scoop those opportunities up.
These days, the resume can’t get you a job interview by itself. The best resume in the world can’t get you called in for an interview if it’s not sent out at all, or sent to the wrong employers for the wrong jobs. So much of what I do now is a combination of resume writing and one-on-one coaching that teaches clients how to get out there and help the resume do its job, and to turn contacts into job interviews, to turn job interviews into job offers, and to turn job offers into on-the-job success stories that can boost careers long-term.