Several months ago, as I was struggling to get a job as an attorney, I decided to write a letter that I would share when I finally got one…
Dear Future Person in my Current Position,
I’ve applied for over a hundred jobs. I’ve interviewed for about a handful of positions. Nothing’s worked out. I’ve been out of law school and unable to find permanent employment for about eight months.
It’s not that I don’t have a good resume. I had good grades. While in law school I worked with immigrants on their legal cases, interned at the United States Attorney’s Office and in the corporate legal department of a Fortune 50 company, got published in a book that won a national award, and helped rewrite the curriculum for one of my school’s required courses.
But no job.
Well, I have a job, sort of. I work with a legal temp agency, where law firms hire me to come in and sort documents for their lawsuits. I’m more or less an administrative assistant in law firms where my classmates work as associates. I remember one day walking into a law firm and instantly feeling embarrassed as I saw a former classmate. She’s doing her dream job. I sort documents for her coworkers.
It’s not that I haven’t worked hard. I took some of the most challenging courses offered at my law school. I went to law school to get a great education, not just to get good grades. There was a rumor that one of the top students at my school avoided some of the classes I took, knowing they could put a damper on his GPA. It’s just a rumor and may not be true. But in the end, when we interviewed for the same position, he got the job.
I really don’t know what else to do. I’m tired of applications. I want to know how many more resumes I’m going to produce for companies’ and judges’ and law firms’ garbage bins.
But here’s the thing, future person in my current position: I’m not giving up. Here’s the opportunity to take all the things that people call success and to decide for yourself what you want. The time is past for you to fill out that clean narrative of college —> law school —> big prestigious job. Now is the time for you to step back and think honestly if there’s some new way you want to define success for yourself.
Because others’ definitions of success just aren’t working out for you.
Now is also not the time to be resentful towards your friends for getting their dream jobs and doing the things you weren’t accepted for. Nope. That’s not what successful people do. Yes, a part of me wants to be resentful. But that’s no way to live. My classmates are awesome, and they deserve every good thing that happens to them (even the guy who got that job). You know what successful people do? They’re excited about others’ successes. Only lame people get disappointed when others succeed, and I have no interest in being lame.
Here’s your chance to branch out, to make success for yourself, to not give up, to make one of those “I look back on that and I’m proud” moments. And here’s your chance to have those young people come to you in the future, about ready to give up, and you can look them in the eyes as someone who understands. “Hey, you’re doing fine. Fifty rejection letters is nothing. Keep going! I think you can do it. You’re stressed out. Let me buy you dinner… and a drink.”
Dear future person in my current position: I want to give up, but I’m not going to. You shouldn’t either.
I have followed and enjoyed your blog for some time, but somehow I missed the fact that you were in law school and are a newly minted lawyer. Congratulations! Becoming an attorney requires perseverance and the ability to jump successfully through a number of hoops: getting into law school, staying in law school, preparing for the bar exam, passing the bar exam, and finally landing a job. You know this, of course. In a “former life” I went through this draconian process, but after practicing a few years decided something was missing. I went to seminary, made it through, and was ordained an RC priest. While I have a great respect for our American legal system, and have some close friends who are lawyers, the fulfillment I experience as a priest is light years ahead of anything I previously knew. Your letter to the Future Person is very good. I just want to add a word of encouragement to you, personally. Your present job may not be what you dreamed of in law school, but (again, as you know) God can use any set of circumstances to bring about any result… you may meet someone at one of the firms you help who provides a ticket for a permanent position. Who knows?
I will remember you in my prayers.
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