Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year: Where We Stand

Happy New Year, everyone. Well, it's time to look forward to a new decade...that last one didn't work out so well (for those of you who have not been following the blog for long).

My new year's resolution is to focus on the job search aspect of this blog...for one post. Sorry for the sporadic updates recently, but I have a bunch of fun things in the works - including yet another animated video.

In this post, however, I'm going to make good on my resolution and update you on where we (and by that, I mean "I") stand in terms of my job search.

Recruiters: I've actually had some success going down this road. I was referred to two NON-legal recruiters. One responded back to me. The other has not. The fellow who responded to me was away from the office, but he got back to me quickly and said he was happy to work with me in regard to my job search, so there must be at least some hope for me. In addition to my resume, I gave him the rundown of my background - including the JD - and he's still interested!

I'm as giddy as a fat girl finally being asked to the dance...or, uh, something like that.

In any event, the other guy is pretty much a top tier recruiter, so I'm not sure if I stand much of a chance of working with him. He may only work with top candidates. Apparently, having limited formal training in the field in which I'm interested, a three year gap in one's resume, and an irrelevant (at best) graduate degree may cause me to fall just short of being a top tier candidate.

I'll report back with any advice I may glean from the first gentleman. I'll also keep you apprised of any progress I make via this avenue.

JD Underground? I'm referring to the content of my resume rather than the popular bastion of misery where graduate's whose law school dice roll "snake eyes" end up.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was leaning towards only mentioning my JD if it seemed like the position was one where a law degree could at least be spun as an asset for the position to which I was applying.

I've decided that when I talk to people about jobs in their field (rather than applying through a job board/website), I'm going to be upfront and mention my law degree. I assume that for all but the most cursory interviews, my law degree (and what I've been doing for the last three years) is going to come up.

I'm not interested in lying - and I really wouldn't have any plausible excuse for what I was doing anyway. I'd only leave my law degree off my resume (in the relevant education section) to help me get an interview in the first place and afford me the opportunity to explain away the degree.

When it comes to potential employers or other contacts I speak to directly, I already have their ears, and I don't want to them to think I'm intentionally misleading them by failing to disclose my JD. I, therefore, have decided to be a little bit more willing to share my graduate education experience.

Policy Positions - I've maintained that "networking" does work (at least to some degree) outside of the legal arena. I think I have some recent proof that buttresses my opinion.

A friend of mine recently let me know that a friend of his knew about some policy research positions that were becoming available. As someone who (sort of) worked in this area and as a field where a JD can actually be useful, these positions are always worth a look.

The primary position in which I was interested was related to economic research. Unfortunately, it looks like there may have been some miscommunication, and I'm not sure if this position is still available. I'm waiting for a followup. The other position was interesting, but I don't think it's something for which I'd want to move.

Anyway, I guess this is how networking is supposed to work. A friend of mine thought about me when he heard about these opportunities. He put me in touch with his friend. I spoke with his friend, and he gave me the contact information for his friend/contact who would be making the hiring decision. In cases where the position actually still exists, this seems like it would work out even better.

Computer Skills - For those of you out there who are under the impression that I spend most of my time behind the computer screen being unproductive, well, you may be right that I spend most of my time using the computer, but occasionally I am productive.

For example, I recently purchased some books about web design, PHP programming, and MySQL. I've spent a good amount of time recently learning about/reviewing these topics. I don't know if I could get to the point by learning on my own to become a full time developer, but if I can find a company that's will to train me, I think I could make a quick transition into such a position.

In addition, I think it'll make me more marketable for a business position with a e-commerce/IT company.

I'm holding off on pursuing any specific certifications until I talk to some more people in the field to see what if anything is particularly desirable at this point.

Job Postings - I don't know if it's the recession or my current resume that's holding me back, but virtually all my applications have fallen into the abyss. I haven't even received rejection letters.

I've changed tactics a little bit by applying for positions without my JD on my resume and by shortening my cover letters. I've already discussed my JD, but I think my cover letters were also causing me some trouble.

I think I wrote some pretty good cover letters for the jobs to which I applied. I had a bunch of people read them and they agreed. I even followed the format my law school suggested for writing them. As proud as I may have been of them, they probably were too long for most people to bother reading.

I actually saw this idea on another blog (which I can't remember), but I shortened my cover letter to about a paragraph getting right to the point and outlining my skills but not adding too much other information.

I'm not sure how these new tactics will work, but for the couple jobs to which I've applied using them, I haven't had any real luck.

Government Jobs - At first I was opposed to seeking a position with the government. I'm pretty interested in getting into the corporate world. Under the IBR, however, the government will pay off your loans in 10 years. Plus, if I have a position where I can actually glean some skills - learning about government contracts, financial analysis, db management - I may actually be quite marketable to private sector companies in 10 years once I'm out of debt.

Resume/Network - I'm working with a b-school grad to better structure my resume. I'm not sure I agree with all of the recommendations I'm receiving, but it can't hurt to have another perspective.

This person has also opened up her local network to me and has agreed to put me in touch with people who she knows who work for companies in which I may be interested.

Another friend has also promised to get in contact with some people he knows who work in e-commerce (one who lives in my town) to see if they'd be willing to have an informational interview with me.

As you can see, I have a lot of avenues to explore. There's nothing too concrete right now, but I think with the new year upon us, it's time for me to more aggressively move down these roads and see if there's any fruit to pluck.

Readers - comments, questions, advice, vitriolic name calling - as always, the comments section is open.


  1. Sounds good.

    If you're interested in learning a bit more about the SQL and other db stuff, you might want to search on some of the torrent sites. There are a ton of books, seminars, videos, etc. for all things db and computer language/programming.

    I'll assume you know how to do that, but if not, drop me an email and I'll direct you to the right sites.


  2. I agree with you on the shorter is better approach to cover letters.

  3. Have you thought about volunteering with a political campaign? It might be a good foot in the door for a local government or federal job. If your candidate won they might be able to give you a job in their constituent office.

    I agree that you might be able to spin your skills into policy analysis. I work at a think tank and we would definitely (and have in the past) hired lawyers to do policy analysis.

  4. I love how everyone thinks working for the government is a "silver bullet" back-up plan, just like law school, right kid.

    Getting a full time career position in the government is virtually impossible. State and local governments aren't hiring anyone, and even when they are, 90% of jobs go to political cronies. Maria offers sound advice about working for a campaign, if the canadate is your wife's father.

    What about the Feds? Unless you are a genuine superstar, a Veteran (of which there are MILLIONS in 2010 thanks to the unpleasantness), or a double minority, you have a 0% chance of getting hired by the United States.

    If you are considering the government you have two realistic options. Join the military, or be willing to move anywhere to work as a cop.

    Oh, wait. I forgot about NASA. There's always NASA.

  5. Actually, that's a good point. My understanding has been that government attorney positions were all but impossible to secure, but that other positions weren't so difficult.

    One commenter (very early on) noted that he escaped the law industry by getting a government job, but after re-reading his comment, it turns out that it's a contractor position. I have another friend who is also in a contractor position, so I don't think these jobs are quite as difficult to land as full time government positions - they may only be available in DC, however.

    I'm also not sure if they are eligible for loan forgiveness under the IBR. It's probably something that deserves some investigation, but it was never really a key component of my job search.

    Btw, there should be some kind of reward for any commenter who is even more cyncical than a "law school scam" blogger...but there isn't.

  6. The commentor after me does make a good point, many local governments are not hiring at all or cutting positions. However, you should check to see what your local, state and federal government offices are doing. I'm not sure what the situation is like in your region. Make sure to branch out beyond the city and county governments and the constituent offices of the elected officials. Check local transit agencies and regulating bodies, school districts, park districts, etc. All of these governments have administration jobs. With your econ background you might be able to swing a budget, revenue or management analyst position. It's not easy or a sure thing, but it's worth a shot.

    FWIW a friend of mine with a J.D. from a T2 was hired for a non attorney fed. job ITE, so don't give up.

  7. Thanks, Marie. I have seen some regulatory entities with positions that are open. I do have some modest local political connections, so maybe some non-federal positions are possible to secure. Government probably shouldn't be seen as a back up position, though - at least ITE.


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