Well, kids, I am gainfully employed for next summer. Yep, you heard me. I accepted an offer and I am happy about it. Today I am also a little wistful for What Might Have Been–picking between Firm A and Firm B was tough. In the end, though, I made the only decision I could have made–of all the places I went to, my firm was the only one I immediately could see myself at. And that never changed, not once. So I’m pretty excited to know that I’ll be working in a place where I really feel like I fit.
Also? That’s the last thing you’ll read from me about my firm. Because, you know, I’m not stupid.
C also asked about how my job search is going. (C had LOTS of questions in this All Request Weekend thing, but that’s OK, because the four questions C asked are all good ones.)
Some of you may have guessed that the very reason I asked for requests was because I could not (or would not) blog about my job search. Those of you who guessed that way are very smart because, indeed, I have MANY things I could be writing about in relation to my job search, but I am unwilling to actually write–and post–them.
But I will say a few things, generic things, about OCI and job searching.
First, one of the most important things I did was spend some time on my resume and get some good feedback. I ended up getting great feedback first from Mr. Angst and later from a great Career Services advisor. If you don’t have a spouse or a great Career Services advisor, find someone else–a professor, maybe, or someone you trust who isn’t a law student. Law students don’t have enough distance to give each other good advice.
Second, another important thing I did was prepare for interviews. Which isn’t to say I necessarily did oodles of research before my interviews. Instead, I did whatever I needed to on a given day to be ready to, essentially, schmooze for 20 to 30 minutes. And I attribute whatever success I had from OCI to this, because my ability to talk comfortably to any number of people about any number of things apparently went over well. Interviewing well means people will want to think about working with you. And this is a good thing, if you’re talking to that person because you want a job with them.
Finally, neither of the above things means anything in the grand scheme of things. Because in large part, I believe law firms (who are the only employers I have experience with) are looking for certain metrics and if they don’t see them in your transcript, having a well-prepared resume and being a good interviewee really won’t matter. And that, frankly, sucks. Because law students, in general, have all worked hard to get where they are and being cut off from showing their worth on the basis of some numbers/letters is really stupid. I wish there were solutions to that, too, and there may be, but I am not smart enough to come up with them.
And that’s all I’m going to say about OCI. I did not have a bad OCI experience, and I feel very lucky to be in the position I am right now. I know a lot of my friends are still interviewing and I am not, and I feel lucky in that respect, too–interviewing takes a lot of time and energy. By the same token, I do wonder how much of my current situation is related to my unwillingness to have too many choices and therefore cutting many opportunities off early so I wouldn’t have to possibly have them as options.
Choices are good. Everyone says so.
I, however, am the kind of person who prefers NOT to have choices. I’ve mentioned this before, but I only applied to three colleges (four if you count the college that lost my application), and I only applied to five law schools (four if you consider that one was a school I was almost positive I wouldn’t end up at, for geographic reasons).
That’s how I roll, you know. Limited choices work well for me. I think this is because I don’t like having regrets. And I usually find that when you have lots of options, at least two or three of them will be really good options, and hard to distinguish from each other. In other words, lots of options = greater chance of regrets.
In other words, I have some choices now, and I would almost rather not. The options are terrific, and choosing between them will not be easy. And I don’t want to make a choice. For now, at least, I can put it off. Maybe some new information will come along and make the choice easier for me. Or maybe the options will get more difficult.
I am getting tired of wearing my suit.
Also, I just noticed today that my black heels, which are unusually comfy due to their rounded toe, make my legs look stumpy. I’ve been interviewing with stumpy legs. Boo.
Mr. Angst is out of town, so tonight I plan to draft some thank you notes, do some research for my externship, do some research for my comment, and watch some TV. Maybe not in that order. What I don’t get done tonight, I’ll do tomorrow or Sunday, since I’ll be home alone those days, too. (I do have a party to go to tomorrow night, so I’m not being completely anti-social.) Hopefully I’ll also have time to get my books cut, do my reading for Monday and Tuesday, and get some rest. This week has been exhausting.
Mr. Angst is working on his fantasy football draft right now, so I’m about to start reading some of my first week assignments. The chapter I’m about to read is about the federal courts–a subject I got to hear a very shallow lecture on today, in the class I’m TAing for. So I feel very into the federal courts vibe.
And while we’re on the subject of this semester’s classes, can I say that I got screwed by the Registrar’s office? My classes are in the WORST rooms. They are in rooms without air conditioning, they are in rooms without internet access. OK, the internet access thing isn’t the end of the world. (Or maybe I’m just saying that for the sake of the internets, though. Or am I? Who can tell?)
So anyway, that’s how my semester is shaping up: first day reading that I feel like I might already know and classrooms that REALLY REALLY suck. At least with the classrooms, I’ll probably miss a fair number of classes in the early autumn heat for callbacks. Right? Right?
I’m going on a callback today.
In preparation, I spent some time looking online for questions I should ask–just to supplement the ready stable of questions I’ve already prepared, of course. And what I found is sort of interesting.
For instance, I found a website for associates looking to lateral into a new firm that suggested asking the tough questions–what is the partnership track? how are associates evaluated outside of billable hours? what is the firm’s growth projection? These questions are good questions because they help the interviewee figure out if the firm’s management, growth, and business model will further the interviewee’s own ambitions. I like these questions. I think I might ask some of them.
But then I found a different website on a law school’s career services website that insisted you should NEVER ask the hard questions, because those kinds of questions give off a “what’s in it for me” flair. So, no asking about the pro bono program, no asking about how many billable hours are expected (to be fair, this is often on a firm’s NALP form, but sometimes it’s not), and, yes, no asking about the partership track.
I can understand that asking, “What hours will you expect me to be here?” might come off badly. But I would think a firm would be glad that potential future associates were asking about the partnership track–wouldn’t that indicate they are interested in sticking around to try to make partner? And firms nowadays also like to talk about their pro bono programs, because it’s a way they can set themselves apart from all the other firms. Sure, don’t ask if you can substitute all of your billables with pro bono, but asking if associates get the chance to do pro bono (as a way of getting excellent training in leading a case or matter, for instance) doesn’t seem like it would get you kicked out of the office right away.
I don’t know. Maybe my experience is skewed, because I am at a “top law school” (whatever that means) and the interviewing process is less frightening. My sense throughout has been less, “I’m competing against all these people for very few positions!” and more “Some of these firms really want to impress us because they want us to work there!” And that might make it easier for me to ask tougher or more pointed questions. (Always in a very polite and non-threatening way, of course.)
One thing I won’t ask about, though, unless I get a really strong vibe that it would be an OK question, is alternative scheduling. At the very least, I’ll be choosy about who I’d approach the topic with.
I think I’ve discovered what it is about OCI that makes law students crazy.
It’s the validation.
As law students, we get so little affirmation that we are doing good things, or that we are doing things well. We get almost no confirmation that we are worthy, that we are smart (or smarter), that this whole path is worth it. And OCI is a process that promises to tell us that we are OK, or reinforce our suspicions that we suck.
So for all of you out there going through this right now, or about to go through it, or thinking about going through it, remember: OCI is not a measure of your self-worth. It’s not a measure of how smart you are or even how impressive your resume is. OCI is just job interviewing on speed.
Remember (if this applies to you) when you applied for that job, and you had to meet with someone for a first interview? And then, if things went well, you got a second interview, and then maybe got asked back for more interviews, or even hired? Remember that? OCI is EXACTLY THE SAME. It’s just that you do twenty of those first interviews in a matter of a few days. And then you wait, just like you would with any other interview, to be asked back for a second interview.
So now that I’ve drawn the analogy between OCI and every other job interview you’ve ever gone on, think of this: when you would go on a job interview, would you think that every other person who might not be getting that job interview was stupider than you? If you got a second interview, would you think that all the people who didn’t get the second interview were less talented than you? If you’re like me, you didn’t. I remember being on a group interview, where everyone else in the room was clearly talented and smart and good at any number of things the job required. It’s just that I was good at something the rest of them weren’t–and I got the second interview (and eventually the job).
OCI is not about how smart you are or how talented you are. It’s about what a given interviewer values at a given time. Sometimes that’s grades. If your grades are lower than someone else’s, that doesn’t mean they are smarter than you–you already know that, right? That law school grades can be random? So when an OCI interviewer calls someone back for a second interview, and they have better grades than you, you really can’t assume it’s because that person is smarter than you. Sure, maybe the interviewer values a number or a letter on a piece of paper more than other things. Maybe. But maybe not–you really don’t know. Maybe the interviewer doesn’t like gray suits and you wore a gray suit and the other guy wore a blue suit. And that little prejudice left you out of the callback process.
Anyway. All of this to say that law students go absolutely freak-out nuts during OCI because it feels like it’s an assessment, like it’s grades. And we get so little of that sort of feedback that we just soak up that sort of attention like little sponges, and suddenly we are FULL of whatever it is that we soaked up. We can’t stop talking about it, we can’t stop thinking about it, we become completely irrational over it.
OCI is no worthwhile measure of worth, intelligence, talent. It is just job interviewing on speed. And it has all the same flaws that any job interviewing experience has. If you remember that, it becomes less a competition against your classmates and more a process of reaching a goal–a goal you’ve set on your own, based on your ambitions, desires, and dreams.
This whole OCI process is completely weird. No matter how much perspective you say you’ll retain, you still get completely caught up in it. You start to validate yourself based on what you talked about with the interviewer, how many questions he or she asked, whether or not you got a callback yet. It’s completely stupid.
But it is the way things work, and if I want to do the kind of work I want to do, this process is one of the only ways to get there. So I let myself get excited about this or that or the other, but all the while try to remind myself that nothing about ME has changed since Monday, or since I met that person, or got that phone call. I am still the same. I might feel good about myself NOW, but I could just as easily feel like crap tomorrow. The ups and downs prove that this process really just can’t affect who I am.
I have no idea how this happened, but somehow I now have an extra interview on Friday. I didn’t add it myself, I didn’t WANT it, and yet somehow it’s now on my schedule and I can’t cancel it. I mean, the firm is a great firm, but it was ranked well below my other firms, so I can’t imagine that I got the interview because of some wait list. I guess I’m most bothered because it literally just showed up, without any action on my part. Two days ago, I had x number of interviews; today, I have x+1. Technical glitch? Gremlins? Whatever the case, it means I have to be on campus three hours earlier than I had expected to be on Friday. Sigh.