Help Wanted

“At least stop crying, goddammit.” This, of course, only made me cry more. And the knowledge that I was wearing mascara and it would probably start running only made the feeling worse. There I was, sitting in my 14-year-old green Mercury Sable outside my favorite pizza place in the whole world, where they make GF pizza and have the best GF beer I’ve ever tasted, and all I knew was that I was ashamed of myself. I could conjure up no dignity at all.

I am a licensed attorney looking for a waitressing job.

Saying it aloud makes me start crying all over again. It’s a ridiculous thought, isn’t it? The idea that the person carrying pizza to your table could be in front of a judge in a courtroom is laughable. It’s a sketch on Saturday Night Live. At some point, my life became worthy of parody. And the worst part? I have no idea how to fix it.

The myth that’s passed from person to person is that when you get an advanced degree there’s a job waiting for you and that there’s really nothing to worry about. The best advice I ever got from my career center was how to choose pantyhose. It’s neither good nor helpful advice, but it’s better than the other advice I got: Twitter. Not how to use Twitter, not what Twitter is good for, just that I should be on Twitter. At least the pantyhose advice was practical.

This is why I found the second presidential debate so frustrating. The very first question was from a college student worried about the job market. Neither candidate answered the question very well at all, and one referred to all the manufacturing jobs he was going to bring back. As someone with experience in labor law, I can guarantee you that I’m more likely to get a job serving pizza than I am to get a job working in a factory. Moreover, a factory job doesn’t really do much for most college grads, unless their degrees are in business, human resources, or engineering. Manufacturing jobs are not the answer to our job deficit problem; we need jobs for skilled laborers. Trust me, I don’t want the pizza job, but I’ll take it from someone else to pay my car insurance.

In the legal world, firms are starting to hire again, but with all the people who were laid off three years ago, why would any firm take a brand new graduate when it can have an attorney with experience? Competition is fierce, and when you have no idea what you’re doing, it feels like you’re spinning your wheels. Trust me, I know. And please don’t tell me to “network.” Network is a fake word, like synergy. It doesn’t mean anything unless you’re a natural. If you’re shy like me, the idea of introducing yourself to a stranger and not knowing where to go from there? Terrifying and nigh on impossible.

While I have an incredibly difficult time asking for help, rather than curl up and cry in my closet, I thought I would throw my questions to the smartest, most diverse group of ladies I know. What should you send with an unsolicited resume? How do you make business connections? And what questions should I ask at the dreaded “networking” event? (I still don’t think that’s a real word, but everyone keeps saying it’s important.) I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the only person who needs to know this but is afraid to ask about it. So let’s hear it ladies (and certain gentlemen). What is your best job-hunting tip? Help me and the other P-Maggers out there who have no idea what they’re doing. Until then, I’ll be serving pizza and beer with a license to practice law in my back pocket.

 

 

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amandamarieg

Amandamarieg is a lawyer who does not work as a lawyer. She once wrote up a plan to take over the world and turned it in as a paper for a college course. She only received an A-, because she forgot that she would need tech geeks to pull off her scheme.

17 thoughts on “Help Wanted”

  1. Really sorry to hear that things are tough, though looks from your comments that they might be starting to look up too :)

    I hate “networking” too, but what I found really helpful was to go around talking to all my existing friends and acquaintances – I’d tell them that I was looking for jobs, and whether they had heard of anything or know anyone who is employing, and if they do, if they could pass it on to me. Sometimes people have unexpected connections that I’m not aware of to start off with. It’s been working really well for me so far, which of course is partly due to just luck, but it’s worth a shot just in case anyway!

  2. Have you been to any local bar association events? Several new attorneys who have come to my county bar’s events have made contacts that have helped them find jobs. Do you have a law school friend who can go with you? It’s easier to “network” when you have a buddy. If you’re in the Chicago area, PM me and I’ll be your buddy!

  3. I have an MA and I speak four languages….I’m lucky to be working as an English teacher in Asia right now, but it’s not what I was looking for….so now I’m also interning in something I would like to do a the same time, doing my best at my job, and hopefully through that and meeting people I’ll find something more suited to me later

  4. I hate ‘network’. I simply can’t sell myself and feel bragging when I need to share what I have done lately, career wise.
    But the thing I use Twitter for? Finding jobs. There are loads of accounts that specify in a certain branch. You can retweet stuff and over here there’s an account that retweets you when you tweet about looking a job. That’s all I got from it, until now.

  5. I tend to look at what other fields relate to what I am educated and trained in. I was out of the classroom for two years, and have just returned to teaching. So much happier. There were times after loosing my high level position that I had to seek counseling, for anger and self doubt. It did help a lot.

  6. Factory jobs may not be of interest to a majority of college graduates, but less than one third of people in the U.S. have a college degree, so I think manufacturing is very relevant in a presidential debate.

    I’m sorry it’s rough, and I wish I had advice about networking. I’ve only found jobs by being applying to tons and tons of things and being willing to move anywhere. I hope you catch a break soon!

    1. Er, yeah. I kind of feel that the lack of manufacturing in this country has left us without the base to build professional labor jobs on. Also, those who work in manufacturing are very often skilled labor. Factory line work isn’t normally on the skilled side of the equation, but manufacturing employs carpenters, electricians, pipe workers, etc. and those are all skilled labor jobs (being a lawyer is a professional labor job, not a skilled one, btw). As to how profitable those jobs are, I come from a working class neighborhood and we were never really poor. There may have been the odd tough month when dad was between jobs, but we did all right. We had nice things. The neighborhood was pleasant and peaceful. It was a good life. Perhaps I am biased coming from the heart of UAW land, but there is nothing wrong with factory work. We cannot all be thinkers, some have to do.

  7. Full disclosure: I know nothing about how the world of lawyers works, and I got the interview for my job through a friend and it’s the only full-time job interview I’ve ever been on. That being said, I working in a career center for a year, and went to as many job-related things as I could during the last 2 years of college. I’m really sorry to hear that you’re so miserable in your job search, so I hope this braindump helps:

    Write a cover letter to go with unsolicited resumes- start with a generic version, to which you can add details about each firm/company/position you are going after. If possible, get your general version and your resume reviewed.

    After you send a resume, follow up by calling them about a week later. Ignore any ideas that you are “nagging”- it might feel horribly awkward, but it’s a great way to differentiate yourself.

    I know that that was some pretty generic advice for getting interviews & such, but the biggest thing I’ve learned is how to capitalize on what you do get: ask for feedback. Even if you’re in an interview or just a conversation that feels like it’s going badly, ask the person how you could do better and what advice they have. There’s no way to hide that you’re a newbie, so own up to it and try to work it to your advantage.

    Also, I totally agree that “networking” is a myth.

  8. I hope that this comes across with the spirit in which it’s intended (which is, helpful). But: you’re sabotaging yourself. Stop that!

    First of all, there’s nothing wrong with being a waitress. If you’re waiting tables, be a good waitress, not a wanna-be-anything-else while you’re at work. That kind of ethic and dedication will always prove useful in anything you do in the future. Even if you think that a job is beneath you, don’t let it affect your performance or attitude. You can always come here and vent, but don’t make your customers suffer.

    Second, ‘networking’ is not some black or white, only-one-way thing. Chatting up customers is networking. Posting here is networking. Starting your own blog or writing about your experiences is networking. So, don’t automatically dismiss that people are going to tell you to network, because you do, and it doesn’t all (have to) suck. Opportunities are everywhere, not just in the most obvious places. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or that things will magically happen, but you do have to be ready for them at any time.

    As for the unsolicited resumé: don’t. No one wants to hire someone who’s okay with wasting their time spamming them with a resumé. Build up your online presence (since that’ll be easier to do w/the shyness), be an awesome co-worker/employee and mention your situation to those around you, and once those pieces are in place, then (and only then) consider the events and emails. At events, point out the blogs, articles, and other things that you’ve done. Ask people who are doing what you want to do how they got their foot in the door. Volunteer. Contribute to online communities in your field. Make sure your resumé doesn’t suck (a lot of them do, and it has nothing to do with amount of experience).

    At that point, research places that you’re interested in, and send them an email. Make sure that the email points out SPECIFIC things about their firm/company that explain why you want to work there, especially if you can tie those things directly to your achievements/interests/experience. Ask if you can send your resumé, and point to some of your online stuff. Does that take time to do? Yes.

    But the most important thing is, to not let the negativity win out. There are so many times I’ve given advice to people who’ve asked for it only to hear ‘but’ in return – ‘but I tried that; but I’m not good at that.’ I think it’s near impossible to get anywhere until the but-itis gets replaced with some positive internal self-talk. If you try something that doesn’t work, keep trying or change what you’re doing. If you’re not good at something, then accept that you’re just going to have to work at getting good at it. Don’t think of yourself as a failed lawyer; think of yourself as an awesome waitress who wants to do law. And then enjoy some of that awesome pizza and beer!

    1. I am slow clapping this answer. Brava, seriously. These are incredibly useful tips.

      I would like to second the “don’t send unsolicited resumes” advice. I know that sounds shitty, but as the office manager of a law firm, you are wasting your time. Sending one and then calling a week later will not get you anywhere.

      One thing to add to the second to last paragraph- research specific attorneys in your area, particularly the female ones. Find one who is doing the things you would like to be doing, and reach out to her. A simple email along the lines of “I have been reading about your career and practice and would love the opportunity to meet you for lunch or coffee at your convenience to discuss your experiences in your area of practice.” Cite specific cases she has worked on or practice areas so she knows your serious. All of the attorneys I know will make time to meet with law students or recent grads who have contacted them with something along these lines. Female attorneys are often very helpful to other young women in the field because it is still very much an Old Boys Club in many ways. I know this can seem daunting, particularly if you are more introverted, But this will probably garner much better results than sending out a bunch of resumes. This is also a good way to network without having to swim through a huge crowd of people at an event. Reach out to a number of people.

    2. I am slow clapping this answer. Brava, seriously. These are incredibly useful tips.

      I would like to second the “don’t send unsolicited resumes” advice. I know that sounds shitty, but as the office manager of a law firm, you are wasting your time. Sending one and then calling a week later will not get you anywhere.

      One thing to add to the second to last paragraph- research specific attorneys in your area, particularly the female ones. Find one who is doing the things you would like to be doing, and reach out to her. A simple email along the lines of “I have been reading about your career and practice and would love the opportunity to meet you for lunch or coffee at your convenience to discuss your experiences in your area of practice.” Cite specific cases she has worked on or practice areas so she knows your serious. All of the attorneys I know will make time to meet with law students or recent grads who have contacted them with something along these lines. Female attorneys are often very helpful to other young women in the field because it is still very much an Old Boys Club in many ways. I know this can seem daunting, particularly if you are more introverted, But this will probably garner much better results than sending out a bunch of resumes. This is also a good way to network without having to swim through a huge crowd of people at an event. Reach out to a number of people.

      I am sending all the best wishes your way, and rooting for you 100%.

    3. Re: Networking not needing to be a structured thing, YES! I have gotten my current two jobs and I just got asked for an interview for a new one from networking and none of it involved talking to strangers at conferences. Make sure everyone you know knows that you are looking for work, and that it does not have to be strictly in your degree field, and ask them to pass that info around. I just told a friend who works as a secretary that I didn’t really like my job and I was looking for something different and a week later she let me know about a position that opened up at her work in their purchasing department. I name dropped her in my cover letter and they let me know they wanted a phone interview. My weekend teaching job came from volunteering at the center where I teach, which I did because my boyfriend who lives close recommended it.. You have a network already, working to build it never hurts, but utilize the crap out of what you already have. It’s ok to ask people to keep an ear to the ground for job openings for you.

    4. This totally just gave me the courage to make a phone call I need to make. (Hate phones; am awkward on phones. I really need facial cues when I talk to people.) I really needed someone to tell me that the phone call was OKAY to make. I don’t want to be “that annoying girl.” I know it won’t do me any good.

      1. Wooo!!! Internet high-five!!!!

        I *HATE* phone (call)s too. Between having a mumbly voice that no one can hear until I’m shouting, and feeling like everyone around me is listening and judging me, to fearing a drop-off at an ill-fated time… HATE. And I won’t even start on how stupid I get with answering machines.

        But! I just made a call I’d been putting off for months (to change an insurance policy) and it dropped my payments over 800/year. And it reduced my never-seeming-to-change to-do list. Sometimes the little victories are what start the snowballs into the big ones! So hopefully you’re just starting the avalanche of awesomeness :)

        1. INTERVIEW!!! (Sort of!!!) Meeting with at least one partner (who is hugely influential) at a major firm to discuss options, career paths, cool things she’s done, and the job scene out there.

          And YEAH FOR SAVING MONEY!!!

          Answering machines are terrible. At least with a flesh and blood person, you can stumble your way through. With an answering machine I just freeze and worry that I’m talking too fast, and wondering if my name and phone number were understandable.

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