Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The World Out There

Recently a friend of mine nearly made the rash decision to quit his job. But not only quit, just walk out. No notice, nothing. I won’t go into the details of the troubles that had plagued him at work that day, (and apparently every day), but things were bad enough that he was ready to throw up his hands and throw in the towel. Thankfully, since he has a wife and children to support, he did not let his emotions get the best of him and is still employed. In his honor, though, I’d like to post the journal entry I found outlining my experience with my very first job interview, encountered when I had first decided to search for other employment back in May of 2006. I would just like to remind him of what it’s like out there (at least, what it was like then, though I don’t think the job market in the area of law has changed much around here.) Enjoy! (And, for those I work with, please remember that this was written nearly two years ago!)

**When I graduated from law school I figured I had it made. A J.D. can always get you a job, whether it’s as an attorney or not. I was proud of my education, a huge accomplishment for someone who graduated from college without a clue as to what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I believed, as my parents had always taught me, that education was the most important thing for securing a future. Now I wonder how much of a waste of time – and money – my education really was.

Today I had an interview for the first time in nearly ten – count ‘em, 10 – years. Though I’m not sure I would call it an interview at all. Since there are no attorney positions available anywhere in the valley, it was for a paralegal position in a medical malpractice firm representing medical professionals, a type of law I have no experience in and know even less about. Forgetting for just a moment that I would be taking a step down professionally, the position offers a minimum of $15k a year more than what I’m making now, plus benefits – insurance, vacation, PTO, even retirement. Needless to say I was nervous. After all, I submitted my resume on Tuesday and received a phone call on Wednesday asking for an interview to take place on Thursday. The call itself was extremely encouraging, coming directly from the partner of the firm who needs the new paralegal. During the call he asked me little about myself, (I assumed because he would address that in the interview) and instead focused on giving me a history of the firm and a small amount of information on the position itself. He made the statement more than once that he felt my education made up for my lack of experience in the med-mal field. Many times it sounded as if he was making an attempt at recruiting me. Overall, the ending of the call gave me the feeling that I had landed a new job in just three days of searching.

This morning, though, the more I contemplated the day ahead, the more I began to worry. What if he offered me the job? I’ve put out ten other resumes, including one for a $103k per year Court Commissioner position. If I accept this position right away, will I be selling myself short for possibly better offers? If I don’t accept, will there be any other offers at all? Money is also a huge concern. With my husband going to Nursing School, will $15k be enough to cover his cut in, or loss of, pay? If not, how do I negotiate? What is too high? $60k? $75k? When will they say “sorry, you’re asking too much and we’re not even going to try to negotiate down”? On the other hand, what is too low? What if I ask for $50k and they’re willing to pay $60k? Then I’ve just lost my chance at a higher wage? By the time I arrived at my office, my mind was spinning and suddenly I didn’t really want to go to the interview at all. And I certainly was in no mood to deal with all the b.s. my clients were dishing out already in my over-night absence from work.

Ah how naïve I was. As it turns out, seems I had no reason to worry in the first place. Looking back on it now, I am trying to figure out exactly what I did with an hour of my day, sitting in a large glass-enclosed conference room at a large wooden conference table, politely sipping ice water and feeling my back start to ache as I try to hold my beauty-pageant-posture, as I listen to this partner tell me I am NOT their “ideal candidate”. By the time I left that room, I hated that phrase so much I fairly gag now, even just writing it down for you to read. What happened to “education replaces experience”? What happened to my “resume standing out”? Why did he even bother to have me show up? Suddenly I’m sitting in a room with this stranger telling me “you’re good but not good enough, and I don’t want to train you to make you better for someone else”. I think it’s the first time in my life I’ve been told I’m both over and under-qualified all in the same breath. I honestly did not know whether to be flattered or offended as it seemed both emotions applied.

Ok, so it’s been a long time since I interviewed. Ok, so even my last few interviews weren’t even real interviews, just friendly conversations ending in “when can you start?” Ok, so it’s no secret that I really don’t even know what an interview normally consists of. Even so, I doubt it’s supposed to be 50% the interviewer giving a job description and the firm’s history, 40% the interviewer saying why I’m not the “ideal candidate”, 5% the interviewer asking me about myself and 5% the interviewer telling me what not to do for “future interviews”. When, at the closing of the ‘interview’, Mr. Partner said he was still going to try to look for Ms. Perfect Paralegal for three more weeks, and if she didn’t respond to his mating call he would be calling me for a second interview, (i.e. don’t call us, we’ll call you), I nearly told him not to bother, as I’m sure my lack of experience would be a huge disappointment to him, and I’d hate for him to waste one single precious second in training me. But instead I bit my tongue, remembering one of my mother’s favorite phrases “don’t burn bridges”, and pretended like the whole fiasco had gone exactly as I had planned. On my way back to work I stopped and bought myself a 31-flavors Mocha Cappuccino Blast. Once back at my office, I changed into jeans and prepared three more resumes to send for jobs I am over….er, under…..qualified for.**

As a follow-up note, I searched for a new job for nearly another year before giving up, and then miraculously having my present job land in my lap. And that was pure luck. It’s not so great out there, so, when considering quitting, remember what you’re facing if you do! I do have two other journal entries written during that year concerning the job hunt. I regret that I cannot post them, as @#$%! would appear so often you would not be able to make much sense out of the rest of the text. Needless to say, it was a harrowing experience for me, and I am extremely glad that it appears to be over….until my boss gets unhappy with me…. ;-)

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