Wednesday, November 18, 2009

First Steps

Now that I've narrowed down my focus to working in the corporate/business world with a heavy preference for getting some IT, database, etc. experience, I'm in the process of locating the right job for me. When I found my first job out of college, I used a combination of OCI, job fairs (on campus), and on-line job listings - specifically targeting recent college grads.

I had decent luck, but this was back in 2004 (the beginning of the last "boom" period), and I had much better credentials as a graduating senior than I do as a law graduate. In fact, the career services office at my business school was so worthless, I was never even informed that fall OCI was when many of the big companies made their hiring decisions (somewhat like law school).

Regardless, I had interviews at four companies and received call backs from two of them. I even got a physical rejection letter from for one competitive position to which I applied - a minor courtesy I haven't yet received (even by e-mail) this go around. Some of my resumes did indeed go into the "void" never to be heard from again, but these were mostly for positions for which I was unqualified.

In the end, I think there was only one application I sent out that I was disappointed I didn't get a response, and I only flubbed one interview for a job I actually wanted.* Now this wasn't exactly the equivalent of the hundreds of job offers Barack Obama received out of law school, but bear in mind that I only spent a month or two applying for jobs, found the job I accepted after only a few interviews, and never once wrote a cover letter.

This time around things are much different. I'm not a recent college graduate. The economy is in the toilet, and my law school credentials are less than stellar - and even if they were more impressive, they could still be a detriment in the non-legal job search. I don't have access to OCI and there aren't any campus career fairs. This leaves three options: on-line (or print) job postings, non campus job fairs, and *ugh* networking.

The first option hasn't worked out so well. I've actually found Craigslist to be the best source for job listing (or least the most easily navigable). Monster makes it a little more difficult just to browse through relevant jobs - there seem to be a dearth of entry level or limited experience corporate jobs. Career Builder is a little better, but so many of the listing seem to either be questionable sales positions or outright "work at home" scams. Does anyone have suggestions for other resources or making better use of the ones I already mentioned?

I actually found some decent job listing (before I became dedicated to escaping the legal industry). I really put a lot of effort into writing three cover letters, and I took on the law school issue early on - explaining that I went to law school to enhance my academic credentials and to seek greater personal maturity. If that doesn't sounds convincing to you, apparently the recruiters didn't think so either. I really think those positions were close enough of a fit to my resume that I at least deserved an interview (or a freaking rejection letter!).

We'll address dropping the J.D. from the resume in future posts.

How about job fairs? actually is going to host one in a nearby city quite soon. I'm not planning to go because I don't feel prepared. Even in college I really struck out at those. As I mentioned in a previous post, I don't frequent bars, so I don't know what it's like to try to woo members of the opposite sex at such establishments. If it's anything like working a job fair, I'm really glad I've never tried. Pretty much you go up to different booths, try to impress some bored recruiter or HR staffer, hand over a resume, thank them and then go on your way. This wasn't very effective when recruiters were anticipating talking to awkward, college graduates. I'm not really sure how to approach them as an "overqualified" J.D.

Has anyone had any luck with events?

Finally, I'm also turning to networking. Not the N-word, right! Well, I'll discuss law school networking for those of you who are as cynical as I am in the future. Outside of the legal sphere, it's less futile. Remember, while there are more law graduates than jobs, if one is willing to be more flexible, there are far more options. Right now I'm talking with a friend who is plugged into the local business community who has a lot of good contacts. I'm also going to contact some friends in IT to see what they suggest about building my skills to potentially transition to their field.

In summary, the plan is to make contacts with people in the business community (obviously a much larger, less insular group than the legal industry). I'm also going to keep my eyes peeled for any good opportunities on the job boards. I may try out some career fairs, but I think the first two options work better.

* For those of you who love to hate career services, there's actually a funny story about their contribution to the aforementioned "flub". You see, the night before the interviews there was an information session, which gave applicants the opportunity to ask questions and meet some of the financial analysts. Sadly, career services never bothered to inform me about this information session (this was an OCI interview). Now, maybe I'm dodging some personal responsibility, but I'm pretty sure I actually put some effort into the interview, and I would not have ignored an e-mail or information in the job listing about this event.

Of course, the first question I received was "Why weren't you at this event?" I was entirely caught off guard, and I think my claim that I didn't know about it was met with considerable skepticism. I think the exact (snidely delivered) retort was "Somehow everyone else seemed to know." You can guess how the rest of the interview went.

What really annoys me is that I think working as a financial analyst for this company would have been a great opportunity and led to a rewarding career. In fact, had I been selected, I may not have even been tempted to go to law school. Hmm, actually, on second thought, this story isn't so funny.


  1. I've had similar experiences with Monster and Careerbuilder. Indeed can be pretty helpful, if only b/c of the sheer amount of stuff on there. My most recent tactic is to look up "Chicago companies" or "Chicago consulting firms" or something similar on Google maps and just look at every individual website for job postings.

    I've never had any luck networking. Maybe I just suck at it, but it has never done anything for me. Though I did just start taking a random class at night to expand my "network."

  2. Good luck. Networking is for people who don't have an inside track or any connections. This filthy word also keeps CDO offices in business.

  3. If you lose your job or just graduate and say,"it's time to start networking;" then you are gtd to fail. Networking is a very social sales type activity. Salesmen prospect contacts for years waiting for the big pay off.

  4. Yeah, I agree re: networking comments. I'm going to do a later post on networking. What I meant to say is that I'm talking to people I already know and who have established connections. I certainly don't mean "working the room" to try to make new contacts and hope for an immediate payoff. I've actually found positions through the former process in the past and got nothing through the latter process. More on this later.


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