Monday, February 14, 2011

Update: Mission Accomplished

"Yes," I somewhat exasperatedly replied when a gentleman called about my resume and asked if I recalled applying for a position with his company. I then dutifully gave him a series of stock answers I had memorized to the all too familiar standard questions interviewers are apparently required by law to ask.

I didn't mean to come across as uninterested or even ungrateful for this opportunity, but I was tired. This had been just one of a number of telephone interviews I had entertained over the last few weeks. Meanwhile, I was on the third interview for a promising (and even lucrative) position in what probably could be described as consulting. Furthermore, I was trying to juggle these interviews without jeopardizing my current position.

So, for all you whiners who complain about law school, you should realize that you just need to think positive thoughts and everything will work out...Just kidding. Actually, I loathe the law school cartel as much as ever, but the rest of what I have written is true.

Some of you may wonder why I decided to start this post with such a sanguine introduction. Well, if you've read this blog before, I'm sure you know that a year ago things weren't looking so good. I repeatedly woke up with thoughts of offing myself. I couldn't buy an interview, and I was constantly being pressured to just "network" in order to find myself a great legal position...all while I watched people who barely graduated from colleges that aren't even accredited make great salaries, buy homes, and raise families.

In fact, here's a quote from a January 27, 2010 post:

"Right now, I'm even being strung along by temp agencies with the possibility of getting hired for JUNIOR document review positions."

Yikes. What a difference a year makes.

But what's the point of this post? Well, I never was really satisfied with how I ended the blog. No, I'm not staging a comeback. The current crop of scam bloggers are far more worthy of their blogger sites than I ever was, and I couldn't be more proud of the way they've permeated the media - everything from Slate to the New York Times.

Instead, I just want to provide one final update regarding what happened to me after I left the scam blog movement in order to preserve what was left of my mental health and try to rebuild my life.

In a nutshell, I can finally do what I had endeavored to do from inception of this blog: Declare "Mission Accomplished". Yes, slightly over a year and a half after graduating from law school, I now have a real, salaried, non-legal job in an industry in which I'm interested.

Here is my story:

For those of you who haven't had time to read through all of my prior posts, getting to this point was an arduous and depressing struggle. I left law school unsure of what to do. With few exceptions, the law didn't really interest me. The economy was in shambles and the legal sector, which had never been that healthy (in terms of providing jobs for the non-elite) was experiencing a complete meltdown. I was already toying with the idea of just going into "business".

Like many unemployed recent graduates, I reluctantly (after five years of living on my own post-college) headed back to live with my parents, hoping that I could quickly find a new job. In the hopes of maximizing my employment options (namely through document review), I decided to spend the time and money preparing for the bar exam.

For a few of months afterward, I once again drank the law cartel's kool-aid as I dutifully played the networking game - going to CLE's, having people put me in touch with their lawyer friends, and even taking an unpaid internship with a personal injury firm.

One day while sitting in a converted filing room, struggling to use a typewriter to fill out some superfluous form that wasn't available on-line, I had an epiphany: The law had been nothing but a curse to me. I had continuously sunk time and money into into this pipe dream, and it was time to get out.

By November of 2009, I began my quest to escape this horrid "career path" - not that there were actually any legal jobs to set me off on a legal career anyway. I knew it would be difficult with my three year gap in work experience, the scarlet letter of a J.D. on my resume, and a lousy economy.

I was right. It took me months to even get one interview. I sent out hundreds of resumes and attended career fairs that offered a choice between selling insurance on a commission basis or joining the military. When I did get a rare interview, it was usually because the company was too disorganized to screen candidates properly and almost always ended in disaster. Networking, recruiters, and temp agencies proved to be equally unfruitful.

Finally, in June, I was able to impress two guys with a new start-up enough that they were willing to take me on as a contractor on a trial basis, which is where I left off my blog.

At first things went pretty well. The work was pretty interesting and I was learning new things. The pay wasn't great, but I could work as many hours as I wanted, and I was getting in on the ground floor of something that could really take off.

Unfortunately, it eventually became apparent that I didn't know enough about the industry to take a leadership position in the company, which is what they were really looking for. I did complete some projects that impressed them, and they encouraged me to really take things to the next level. I briefly committed myself to doing this, but I was already working fifty hour weeks, enduring a long commute, and making little money; I just couldn't bring myself to invest anymore into the company.

With a heavy heart, I ended up coming in one day and politely informed one of the partners that I didn't think I could fulfill the role they needed. He was sympathetic and thanked me for my hard work, and so I was back to square one.

I was exhausted, so I took a little time off, but I got a certification that was relevant to my industry and started reading industry publications and even considered starting a blog to demonstrate my knowledge.

Once I started looking for work again, however, it wasn't too long until something landed. I applied for a temp to perm position with a company that was in the e-commerce industry that did similar work to my previous employer.

The most amazing thing was that my resume was actually read and considered by an HR rep from the company. (Usually, the JD was poison to any trained HR professional.) She scheduled a phone interview with me that actually was surprisingly intense.

I then got a call back. I was shocked to learn that there were some hiring managers who wanted to talk to me. I came in and things went so well that there was even the suggestion that they would hire me for a full time position outright.

That didn't happen, but I was offered a temp position working for one of the company's larger clients. I accepted it, hoping that this was the path to finally gaining full time employment in the industry I was trying so hard to enter.

At first things seemed pretty good, but I suffered plenty of indignities. I was constantly reminded of my temp status whether by being excluded from meetings or not having the same access to technology. I even bristled every time I was introduced to someone by my "rank".

It didn't help matters that I was often being bossed around by people who had just graduated college within the past few years...That is people who were still in high school back when I graduated college. I also earned an hourly wage that barely would be acceptable to the average Wal-Mart employee.

Nevertheless, you know what I did? I just shut up and grinned and endured yet this additional affront made possible by my JD.

I did make a few other efforts to find full time employment. I shockingly received a call from another HR representative from a HUGE company who thought my resume was a good fit for the financial analyst position for which I applied a month earlier.

The screening interview went great. The woman was really on my side and said that even if this job didn't work out, she'd definitely be able to find something else for me given my background.

The panel interview didn't go quite as well. The first guy with whom I spoke seemed pretty confused as to why I was even looking at this position. I was questioned about the JD, the gap in my resume, and to paraphrase him slightly "Why in Sam Hill did you spend all that money on your degree?"

That's probably the best question I've actually heard from an interviewer. (Closely followed by, "So you have a law degree...what is that some sort of hobby of yours?")

At one point, he actually tried to help me brainstorm ideas as to how to find gainful employment (elsewhere, of course)!

The last woman with whom I spoke seemed to accept my explanations about law school, but she also questioned me about the cost of attendance. Note: Financial executives don't really want to hire idiots who go into six figures of debt and forgo three years of wages for a worthless degree. Go figure.

Not surprisingly, I never heard back. (Despite promises that I would hear back from HR.) Oh, and that promise of there definitely being something for me, guess what happened...That's about lie 346 during this process.

I also got to a second round interview for another company that was located nearby to where I live and seemed like a great place to work. I didn't seem to have the stats background they wanted, though. Oh, they did promise to be in touch...Yeah, need I say more?

After taking time off for these interviews, I decided to put my energy into getting promoted from my temp role. The company was pretty laid back, the starting salary for full time analysts was pretty good, and I got to work in a skyscraper...and I'm referring to an actual office, not some subterranean dungeon in contrast to temp jobs in some other industries.

After a few months, I finally had my quarterly review with my manager and his manager. I got a strong score on my performance review, and my manager said he was pushing for me to move into a permanent role.

Finally, I got called into the "big boss' " office for my review. I was complimented on my performance and was asked general questions about how I liked the job. I was also asked if I planned to try to get into law...*sigh*....even three months of employment wasn't enough to convince an employer that I didn't want to be a stupid lawyer.

And then...the review ended. I was asked if I had any questions. I actually grew a bit of a spine and asked if there were any plans to make me full time. To which the reply was, "Are you interested in working here full time?"

"No, I'm actually so pleased to live at home as I enter my thirties that I want to make sure I never make enough to jeopardize this dream come true!"

What a question. Pro tip: Always take the initiative to push your boss if you (reasonably) are looking for a raise or promotion.

I was informed that there had to be a specific opening, but that it was definitely a possibility.

A possibility? Great. Three months of work for that. Did I mention that when I joined, HR said I would be on the fast track to permanent employment.

I then decided to take more initiative; I applied for a bunch of new jobs and posted my resume on Monster.

This is when everything changed. Not only did I get slightly less than a 50% response rate to my resume - compared to a .05% response rate in the past, but I had recruiters (both internal and third party) unilaterally contacting me about my resume. Where were you guys for the last year?

I have no idea if this means the economy is coming back, or if I have a great resume, or if actually having a job makes me more attractive to employers. Whatever the reason, it was definitely nice to be courted by employers for once. It was like those old milk commercials in which the skinny loser adds some more dairy to his diet and voila!, he's big man on campus.

I actually got within a hair of landing a job with a big company with a well defined career path and great starting salary, but I was missing one necessary skill set (that I could have obtained through a process a lot easier than getting a law degree).

As things turned out, I actually finally got promoted to a full time analyst position with a salary in the mid-40's and full benefits (health, dental, vision, 401k, vacation, etc.). Good enough for an exhausted man whose other options looked like they were going to pay about the same.

There's still some other options open, but for the time being, this looks like the job I'll have for a while. This would have been a great position if I had taken it back in 2006 instead of going to law school. It's not quite as impressive after taking four years (including the year of unemployment) off from the workforce and incurring more debt than I want to think about. (Thank you IBR!)

Also, I work with coworkers and for bosses who are actual humans, who even care about me from time to time. I have benefits. I'm on a career track. I don't have to go to housing court in the bad side of town or write horrible memos that nobody will read. When I look out, I can see the downtown of a major city instead of the industrial boiler in the bowels of some subterranean sweatshop.

All of this said, I'm obviously upset about law school, and I know it doesn't sound like it, but I'm quite grateful that's it's all over. I'm out. I don't have to work in law, and I can start rebuilding my life and repaying my debt (for the rest of my natural life).

So let's take a look at the final break down:

Number of resumes sent: Hundreds? Thousands?

Negative responses: Plenty, but not anywhere close to the number of resumes I sent out.

First round interviews ending without an offer: 4

Second/Third round interviews ending without an offer: 3

Withdrew application after being asked to interview or further interview: 4

Received and accepted offer: 2*

* - I resigned from the first position

Let's also see how I stack up against the goals I set forth when I first started this blog.

Feel free to check out the post:

Compensation: I said I wanted $40,000; I make a few thousand more. Looks good.

Professional: I wanted a job that required a college degree. This definitely does. It even requires some previous work experience.

Non-Legal: My current manager, who even interviewed me, didn't even realize I had a law degree. I'd say I'm safe on this point.

Minor Points: I didn't need to move. I got a very cheap certification, but I didn't head back to school. There was no bailout via an inheritance or a wealthy spouse, and I'm actually in the industry that I wanted to enter.

I guess that's mission accomplished as I try to fly away from the flaming wreckage that is my legal education and "career".

I kind of feel like a veteran of a war - and yes, I'm well aware that that soldiers have experienced worse things than any law grad - who somehow survived the carnage of the battlefield. He can never forget what he saw. He has wounds that last a lifetime. He may not even feel particularly proud of what he has done, but it's over. He can return back to society. It isn't so much joy that he's feeling. It's relief.

I hope that everyone else out there can also feel the same relief one day.
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