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Rock and a Hard Place

August 12, 2011 2 comments

This week I had two interviews – one with a lawyer I met on Twitter, and one for a doc review agency.

Both were in DC.

The first interview was for the lawyer I kind-of knew. I got in the car. I drove to the metro. I walked to her office. And without traffic? That took 2 hours. Coming home in DC traffic took almost three and a half.

I live too far away from where the jobs are.

This isn’t news. I’ve known it for a while. I just didn’t know HOW far. And as I sat in traffic on 270 at a standstill yesterday, it became painfully obvious how far out of my reach all of these jobs were. It became obvious why no one was interested in looking at my resume. It was so obvious.

And for the first time in months, I just cried. Big, fat tears in my car, stuck in traffic, like an idiot. I called a friend. I cried some more. And I lamented that I had done everything right, worked hard, and done well, and this is what my situation has come to.

It got so bad that I called my dad, still crying, and told him that I felt like a big fat failure. I felt like, in my zeal to make the most responsible decisions that I could, I’d screwed myself. That I had no idea what to do next. That I was so scared and angry and frustrated that all the things that I wanted were so far out of my grasp. And like the fantastic father that he is, he just sat and listed for about fifteen minutes. And when I was done, he told me that maybe it was time for The Fiance and I to think about moving. That yes, it was more money. But that he’s got our backs. And did I still want to go to New York for my birthday?

Today I’m still going to the doc review interview (in fact, about the time this is published I’ll be walking in to it – wish me luck). And I’m going to look into what it would take to break our lease out here, get a subletter, and move into Northern Virginia, where I might have a prayer of finding a job, no matter how small. Where I can be in DC in under 2 hours. Where I can get to the Metro without driving an hour and twenty minutes (without traffic). Where John could also find something to ┬ádo in the short-term until the government actually hires him. I’m going to keep looking for administrative/paralegal jobs until I get my results. I’m not going to give up.

I tried. I tried really hard to like it out here, and in some ways I do. I tried to get excited about small town life. But, when it comes down to it, it’s too much. It’s too far. And there’s nothing I can do to fix it but change my location.

And in case you were wondering? My father is the very best father in the entire world. I’m so lucky.

Categories: job hunt, The Apartment

Looking Back, Looking Up

August 10, 2011 2 comments

It’s been a rough couple of years.

I know I’m not alone in feeling that way. A lot of lawyers and workers in general are feeling down and out. A lot of people are out of work. Even more are underemployed. And really? I know my story isn’t anything as bad as a lot of people’s. It’s August after my May graduation. I’ve been officially “unemployed” for about a week. I’ve got some money saved. I’m soon to have health insurance again. And eventually, one of these days, The Fiance is going to have a job that will comfortably pay our bills.

I’m very lucky.

I’m also feeling very lucky to have my circle of real-life and internet friends. In the past few days, I’ve been given some interesting resume building opportunities and short-term or part-time opportunities to get my feet wet in the legal realm. And even though I wasn’t (and am still not) sure that I’ll end up being a practicing attorney, it’s no longer because I think I’m somehow not good enough to do it, or that I would be amazingly and horrendously bad at it if I were given the chance.

How did I get to the point of believing, despite the fact that I worked my butt off in law school and my internships and clerkships during school, that I would be terrible, and that I was somehow too stupid to do this? Looking back on it now, I realize that I was in a job that was a bad fit for me during law school. This isn’t to insult my former employer. I got good experience, and learned a lot of things from attorneys who are great at what they do. I liked them. But I also dreaded coming into work. I dreaded the “emergencies” that weren’t emergencies. I feared being yelled at for something I couldn’t control. I resented never being given feedback, even when I asked for it. I hated never having a clear picture of what was expected. I hated feeling ignored and like the work I was doing was never good enough. I was sure I didn’t fit in, and that it was a problem with me.

It wasn’t until spring of my third year, almost two years after starting my job, that I suspected it wasn’t my fault. I ran into a former professor in one of my clinical-type classes who was a partner at a local firm. He stopped me and told me that he was impressed with my work, and that if I ever needed a recommendation I could call him. When I said my firm wasn’t retaining me, he seemed shocked, and said that if I were to stay in the city (I didn’t), he’d be glad to help me find something that would be a good fit. I’d been turning in the same work to him that I’d been giving to my employer.

My lawyer friends tried to tell me that it was just a bad firm experience and not to give up. I didn’t want to hear it. I studied for the bar, freaked out, and convinced myself all over again that this wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know anything. Who would ever want to hire me? Why would I want to go back to feeling the way I did while I was working during law school?

I don’t feel that way anymore, in part because of an email I got from an attorney after day 1 of the bar exam. She’d listened to me lament, complain, and get angry about my career. She’d listened to my hissy fits, and hadn’t given up on me. Instead, at a time when I’m sure she knew that I felt the dumbest, she sent me an email telling me to keep my chin up, and that the profession could use more women like me. I sat in my hotel room and read it over and over again.

After that, I actually started listening to my attorney friends. I’m beginning to realize that my experience wasn’t normal. It wasn’t my fault. It was just a bad fit. I’m not dumb, I’m not incompetent. I’m still learning, but that’s normal. I’m not supposed to know how to do everything right now.

So for now, until results come out and probably after, I’ll piece together my new career with part-time gigs, contract work, and volunteering. I’m lucky that my network of legal and non-legal people is so supportive, open, and warm. I’m lucky that they kept telling me, even when I didn’t want to hear it, that there’s nothing wrong with me.

I think I’m starting to believe it. Things are looking up.

Categories: job hunt, the law