On many levels I can relate to the following story written by a lady with the initials BB. It is a story I know will resonate with so many of you who struggle with recovering from life after graduation.
It was 1994. I was in French class with my friend Rachel and we started discussing what I should be when I grew up. I was torn between a doctor and a teacher. She suggested being a lawyer. After all, Ally McBeal was on TV and she was cute, rich and successful. If that was what being a lawyer was all about, sign me up. So I decided to be a lawyer. Here I am, 20 years later and I’m a lawyer without a job. This is my story.
In high school I had to interview a couple of lawyers for a school project. One had her own practice and had inherited clients from her dad. She seemed happy enough. The other thought I was in junior high (the curse of looking young still plagues me) and explained billables and the law firm life. That didn’t seem that great to me. I remember finishing my project thinking I still wanted to be lawyer. There didn’t seem to be any other options.
In college I studied history. I love history. It was a great major and included lots of reading and writing. I love to read and writing is something I like, but not my favorite thing to do. History majors are often groomed to go into law. Because just like history, law requires a lot of reading and writing. I mean, a lot. As a history major, I tossed around the idea of being a lawyer or teacher. My friends were studying to be teachers and it seemed like fun, but was too creative for me. I didn’t care about wall pictures and coming up with lesson plans. It sounded boring and nothing something I really cared about. So I stuck with law. It seemed to impress people and everyone assured me that I would make a zillion dollars and be rich and cute…just like Ally McBeal.
So I transferred colleges and studied abroad and studied history and still told everyone I was going to law school. During my senior year before I studied abroad, I took the LSATs. I didn’t do that well. I bought a book and studied for them the best I knew how to do, but it just didn’t click. The logic games I assumed were too math like and who cared anyways. So I took them, got my score, and applied to law schools around the country. Then I left for England and my mom handled my rejection letters. I was wait listed but didn’t really know what that meant, so I applied to some more from abroad. When I got home and had graduated college, I decided a year break was in order.
During that year break amid law school rejection letters, I worked and tried to defer my undergraduate student loans. I took an archeology course online to offset student loan companies but found that even though I was interested, it just wasn’t for me. So law school was still the plan. I found a guy who was tutoring LSAT students, but the cost to do that was prohibitive. So in exchange for a few private lessons, I timed high school students taking the SATs. I sat for the LSAT again and did marginally better. The guy who tutored me mentioned a school in Michigan who took students who had great undergrad grades but low LSAT scores, just like me. I didn’t know anything about Michigan, but figured I would apply. I got in immediately and decided I was going. I did some preliminary research and figured costs and delayed my entry until the next fall.
In the fall, I started law school. It was an interesting experience. I don’t want to go too much into that, as there are many books and blogs and articles and speakers about law school. Suffice to say, there are too many lawyers and law school is extremely difficult and unlike anything college could have prepared me for. I did well my first semester, but my second was harder and partly due to a large class load and a promiscuous roommate. I did better after a summer away and moving into my own apartment. I even studied in England again and clerked for a judge. I graduated at the beginning of 2007 and little did I know it, but the economy was about to crash, taking my plans along with it.
After I graduated, I figured it would be easy to get a job. Most of my classmates and friends were working and some of them hadn’t even passed the bar. I took the bar and passed on the first try. Something that people boast about, but something I have found not be that big of a deal when it comes to landing a job. I contacted a city that I volunteered for after my first year of law school to see if they were hiring. They were indeed hiring for a temporary job. I took it and assumed by the end of the term I was to work, I would have another job lined up. I even interviewed while working never thinking that 7 years later I would be unemployed. No job interview worked out and I continued doing my job, which I now fondly remember as my favorite job in my career.
The job ended and in the meantime I had decided to move to Los Angeles. I had visited some family and declared that LA was where I belonged. The sun beckoned me, as did the large city life. I took the California bar and passed on the first try. So, I decided to move down to LA and try my luck at finding a job.
By this time it was summer 2008 and as everyone can remember, the country’s economy was failing. I started to get nervous, but kept applying for jobs on every website I could find and trying to get temporary legal jobs. I had a couple of those, but they soon ended. And while they were nice for the paycheck, they didn’t beef up my resume or put anything really useful on it. 5 years later, I am trying to get one of those temporary jobs and I still don’t want to do it. The work is mind numbing and awful. They think the pay placates you, but it doesn’t. But I digress.
By fall 2008, I was volunteering and doing all I could do to find a job. Nothing was working. 2009 came along and I was in the same situation. I networked. I applied online. I went to events and connected with people who I thought could help. Nothing worked. So I decided to move home to my parent’s house and look for work in Seattle. I figured 6 months would be enough time for me to work and move out. Little did I know it would be 2 and a half years before I did.
The time at my parents was a period of despair. My dad was critically sick and I had no support outside my parents. I was in a rainy city and student loans were bearing down on me. I even went into default on one of my private loans. It was a very bleak time. I couldn’t land any interviews and felt like I would never work again. Funny enough, as I write this, I’m unemployed and the prospect of work seems far, far away.
Anyways, I started working with my mom in a non-legal and poor paying job just to do something. I was volunteering in a legal capacity but it wasn’t leading to anything. So after 2 years, I decided to try my hand at California again. I packed up my things and worked remotely from my friend’s house near San Francisco. I was applying for jobs in LA and San Francisco and had made some contacts. I loved living in the Bay Area and had one low-paying job lined up as well as an opportunity to learn from a law school alum. Then I was offered a job in LA.
The job in LA was wrong from the interview until the end 16 months later. I knew taking the job that my boss was slimy and the work wasn’t what I wanted to do. But my mom and friend told me to get over it and take it. They said I wouldn’t be there a long time and it was money and benefits. That was a lesson I learned the hard way. Never let anyone convince you to take a job. Ever. I should have listened to my gut and maybe if I had had, I would still be in San Francisco using the contacts I had and be employed.
I took the job and moved back to LA. I didn’t want to be in LA or doing the job. I remember calling my friend in tears and telling her I wanted to move back to San Francisco to live with her. She encouraged me that the job would be okay and to keep looking.
I worked in hell for 16 months. I made a few friends, but slowly lost my mind. I had terrible headaches and was depressed. I finally quit/was laid off my job almost 7 months ago. In that time, I felt guilty for giving up a paying job with benefits and that empty space on my resume. But I healed and became myself again. So that alone has been worth it.
So here I sit, 7 years ago graduated from law school. No job. No prospect of a job and a mind and email folder full of contacts and ideas.
I have literally tried everything one who is job seeking can do. I have networked. I have cold-called and emailed and sent old-fashioned snail mail. I have attended countless events. I have paid to attend legal education courses and events in the hopes I would connect with someone. I have scoured the Internet. I have asked everyone, and I mean everyone, including my hairdresser to help. I have done career counseling, not once, not twice but four times. I have gone to both of my undergraduate institutions and my law school for help and advice. I have prayed and prayed and begged on my knees. I have explored alternative careers. I have thought about moving to foreign countries and researched the steps I would take to do so. I have thought about moving to other states and taking more bar exams. I have applied for jobs that I’m over and under qualified for. I seriously have done everything I can think of. There are dozens of books written about how to get a job. I’ve read them. I have hounded people on LinkedIn. If there’s something not on this list, I bet I still have done it. After 7 years, it’s hard to remember every step you’ve taken to achieve something that is still out of reach.
The point of this is not to discourage anyone but to make myself feel better and also explain to those who say, “But surely there’s a job for you—you’re a lawyer in 2 states!” that sometimes there just isn’t a job. I don’t know what else to do at this point, but to continue to hope and have faith that God will show me the way.