When The Job Hunt Drags On…

Queue for job, originally uploaded to Flickr by le HaricotReader S, a recent graduate, has a question that, unfortunately, I think a lot of people will be interested in: what should you do when the job hunt drags on (and on)?

May I suggest a post on attorneys who, despite trying everything feasible, cannot find sustainable employment? I understand the whole “work for free” thing, but those positions aren’t available either because they’re going to law firm deferees. This $130,000 monkey on my back is getting unbearably heavy. I’m nearing my wit’s end, and maybe you and your readers will have some good advice.

I’m sorry you’re going through this right now — a job hunt is hard enough, and the school debt is only making it harder.  (Pictured: Queue for job, originally uploaded to Flickr by le Haricot.)

First, I’ll say the obvious things:

Let everyone you know know that you are looking for a job. I would say that “once every three months” is an acceptable time to revisit the subject — so if you haven’t mentioned it to people in a while, start bringing it up again. Be upbeat about it, if possible — let them know how you’ve been spending your time, what experience you’ve gotten since you last spoke about it — and be clear about what they can do for you. A great way to be clear is to let people know who you’re looking to meet — for example: “If you know any hiring partners, job recruiters, or even industry leaders (who may hear of job openings), please consider introducing me — I’d love to get their perspective on what I can be doing better in my job hunt.”  Another question you might consider asking them: what skills should I be trying to add to my resume?

Stay connected with your school’s career office — they may have a mailing list of jobs, networking events, and more. Furthermore, they may be able to connect you with alumni who meet the description of the people you’re trying to meet.

Attend as many networking events as you can. I’ve recently attended a number of events where people have mentioned their job hunt — in their big introduction to the “group.”  I’ve seen this at Meet Up events, City Bar committee meetings, and even special “women in __” luncheons — it’s a great way to get the word far and wide and make the most of your networking event. If money is an issue (either because the event is expensive or, because, well, the events add up), contact the organizer of the event. Let him or her know your situation, and see if they’ll either let you pay half price or do some work in exchange for attendance (such as manning the registration tables — a great way to put faces to names, by the way). You may also want to inquire about the event’s cancellation policy — they may have a policy (or be inspired to adopt one) whereby attendees who are canceling can “donate” their already-paid spot to you.

Follow up with people you meet at events — create relationships. (The real secret to job hunting is that jobs inevitably come from relationships, not job lists or things like that). Try to make friends with the organizers of the event if you can; not only will they hear of job openings but they may also be able to introduce you to people who are hiring.

I know, this is all easier said than done, but there it is.  As things continue to drag on, though, here are a few other tips…

Keep an open mind about your career. What did you want to be when you were a kid?  What might you want to be if the law career doesn’t work out?  Would you ever consider owning your own business?  One of my favorite monthly reads is Inc. magazine — it’s always inspirational to hear stories about how someone started a multi-million dollar empire with just a few hundred dollars (such as Eileen Fisher).  And for $4.97 for annual subscription, it’s one of the cheapest things you can do today to help your career. You might also discover an entirely new career that you hadn’t even thought of.  If you’re already going to networking events and brushing up your skill set, it won’t hurt to keep YOUR big picture in mind.

Pursue new skills as cheaply as you can. For example, see if you can sit in (without enrolling in) a class on accounting, or marketing, or programming. Get books out of the library to learn the skills yourself, or use online resources such as Google Code University.  Learn a language such as French by getting books or tapes out of the library; perfect your skills by joining a wine club or other Francophile-related event where folks strive to speak French.  (More networking!)

If your unemployment has run out, you may want to consider places like oDesk, Elance, and more — many people are seeking virtual assistants and freelance, project-based work, and it may help you contribute to your bottom line while still being flexible enough to go on job interviews and to networking events. (However, if you’re depending on your unemployment check: Be sure you know what the rules are — sometimes consulting/freelance work is fine; other times it’s viewed as self-employment.)

– You may want to read the book Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century— in addition to advice about how to cut expenses, it does a wonderful job of reframing that whole career/job/money conundrum.

Finally:  Stay as positive as you can.  Exercise.  Eat right.  Get (and give) hugs.  Seek laughter.

Readers, what are your best tips to folks who have been hunting a job for 6+ months?

(Check out more of our interview advice here, including our guide to interview suits and our advice on “what to wear when you’re laid off and looking.“)


  1. Reader S might also look for contract work such as document review while she searches for her real gig. Not the most exciting work, but it pays the bill and is a line on the resume to account for her time.

    • Be weary of putting that on your resume – some legal employers consider doc review a scarlet letter.

      • CA Biglaw :

        Agreed. It’s a scarlet letter at my firm for sure, which is really unfair. Lots of good, smart, hard working people got laid off in the past few years through no fault of their own, but taking contract work is the kiss of death if they ever want back into biglaw.

        • Do you think it will continue to be seen this way? It seems that so many people are doing doc review now because there just aren’t jobs available for new graduates.

          • CA Biglaw :

            Unfortunately yes. I completely agree that it’s a ridiculous position for the firms to take. But even though so many people are doing doc review now, the Biglaw Powers That Be have not changed. None of them got laid off (of course), and they still have the stupid mentality that if a person got laid off, it must be because something was wrong with them because otherwise the firm would have kept them. And that people who work as contract attorneys are only doing that because they’re not good enough to have found a “real” job.

            These are all stupid and baseless stereotypes, but they don’t care about fairness or the new graduates. With way too many graduates coming out of the schools, they can afford to be this way and take only the “best,” which means they never have to even consider a contract attorney. It’s just one easy way to narrow the massive list of applicants, just like going to a tier two school.

            And again, I don’t agree with this mentality. However, I am not in charge.

          • There are recruiters who won’t even talk to you if you do it. Will it continue? prob, legal field is slow to change.

            If you do it, just don’t put it on your resume if you want to work in Biglaw or other fields that look down on it. If you are looking at gov/small firm I think its less of an issue.

          • I’m not in this position, but wouldn’t taking doc review off your resume and leaving a time gap be just as bad. Time spent unemployed seems like just as big of a scarlet letter for biglaw.

            My question is whether there’s a chance to go into biglaw if you went into regulatory/compliance work (not practicing) post law school graduation.

          • “I’m not in this position, but wouldn’t taking doc review off your resume and leaving a time gap be just as bad.”

            That’s why you get a Research Assistant gig with a professor on the side.

          • Hmmm….in my school I was told that Research Asst was considered just as “transparent” or “non-prestigious”. And only law students, not post-grads did this.

          • I also thought that research assistant positions were generally things that current students did and people who had already graduated wouldn’t or couldn’t do.

    • divaliscious11 :

      Pay your bills but document review is not experience, and don’t list it as such.
      If you take a substantive contract, such as in-house during an organization wind-up or for a project where you get actual legal experience, that may be different. Most of the people I have come across during contract work (back when junior associates did it for hours) get stuck in the contract world. Some like that, the flexibility etc… but most got on a treadmill and couldn’t manage to get off…

      • giving up :

        all this just makes me want to give up. i was happy to get doc review and have money for food, and now me and my top 10 law degree can just go do wedding planning.

        • divaliscious11 :

          Don’t give up! Just don’t put it on your resume! If you tended bar to make ends meet while job hunting, you wouldn’t put that on your resume, would you? Approach temping the same way.
          As for you top 10 degree….more importantly where were you in the class? What do you want to do? are you willing to move etc…?

          • But then what do you put on your resume? Just leave a gap? I have read so many articles about how big gaps are red flags to employers. Don’t you have to have something on there to indicate you weren’t just twiddling your thumbs at home?

          • I’m w/ anonymous. With the wide reports of employers who are now refusing to interview unemployed candidates-not so sure that it’s wise to leave off any employment no matter how un-related it may seem.

            When I get resumes, I have no problem interviewing candidates who are going through long term un-employment; we all know what the market is like regardless of the industry, nor will I pass on a candidate who has taken a stop gap job in order to pay their bills.

        • Seriously. I’m weary of the snobbish attitude in the legal industry. People are just so ignorant of reality its too much at times. I’m a research assistant now, and I’ve done contract work and doc review. That’s what happens when you graduate in 2009 and the economy tanks just as you’re leaving school. I guess I should be punished for paying my rent and eating!

          My friend in a mid-size firm recommended me for a position and the recruiter dinged me because my offer was rescinded. Evidently, even in a recession I must have done something wrong. Twerp. (suppresses feelings of “I hope these people lose their jobs too”).

        • Are you as a wedding planner hiring? 10 years out of law school and it’s not much better…

    • Anonymous :

      Just to provide a counterpoint – big fancy law firms may be snobby about contract doc review, but most other legal employers aren’t. It pays the bills and it’s better than bartending or something because at least it gives you legal experience. I work in the public sector and I wouldn’t mind seeing doc review on someone’s resume.

      • Doc Reviewer :

        a lot of my colleagues seem to have no problems moving into government or in-house work. I’ll stick to doc review though, because the money and flexibility are great

    • Id rather have a job and not live in my parents basement then hold out for some employer who may or may not hire me in the future.

      Also, although some employers do see the doc review as a scarlette letter, unfortunately they also see unemployment the same way. Usually, these are the employers you have no shot at so don’t listen to some of this advice.

  2. The magazine rec caught my eye. http://www.inc.com/ has some preview if the amazon link Kat provided doesn’t give you enough content info.

  3. Contact all the professors you had a good relationship with – they may know of positions, or at the very least maybe able to give you an RA position to fill the gap in your resume. I know several people who have gotten interviews/jobs this way.

    Go to as many events at your law school as possible, in fields you’ve got experience/interest in (the free events that are meant for students). Introduce yourself to all the speakers. I also know several people who have gotten interviews/jobs this way.

    • Typically professors are really limited in hiring folks that aren’t current students. Several of my professors at law school really wanted to hire recent grads, but school rules (and a preference for work study) got in the way.

      • I think most law schools are doing a program that lets recent grads do this… mine is…

      • My experience has been that some schools aren’t being upfront about it, and doing it anyway. Keep asking and talk to deans. My school has hired recent grads as TAs and to teach short sessions but you won’t find it publicized anywhere.

  4. Another Sarah :

    I agree with Kat’s advice to stay positive. I’m currently looking for (better) work, and it makes life a whole lot easier thinking, “What awesome things am I going to do with this sabbatical from life that the economy has given me?” rather than “OMG I’m so worthless, as evidenced by how no one will give me a job.” I think one thing to add is that no one will think less of someone because they are out of work. Times are tough, and many perfectly capable people are falling through the cracks left and right; just because they aren’t working doesn’t mean that something is wrong with them.

    I completely agree with going to the gym – wahoo endorphins!! I would also add, to make the time go by faster, to pick up a hobby or resurrect one you dropped while in school. I recently started playing the piano, which I haven’t touched in years, and it makes me feel a whole lot better to get results from something I work at. For me, it’s one of those things (unlike law school) that pays dividends depending on how much work you put into it. I’m also much calmer from practicing for an hour than I would be looking at blank job boards for an hour. :-)

  5. Anonymous :

    >Attend as many networking events as you can.

    And BE NICE TO EVERYONE. Networking goes both ways. Years ago when I was thinking about grad school, I went to a small group event for professional women where one of the attendees introduced herself to the group: “Hi, my name is Elle. I’m a grad student at X University working toward Y goal.” After the event was over I introduced myself and asked if we could speak sometime, as I was considering grad school at X University. Holy crow, you’d have thought I asked her for a kidney. She replied stiffly, “I’m sorry, but I need to spend my free time networking to find a job.”

    • Ballerina girl :

      I couldn’t second this point strongly enough. I’ve been looking to change fields and have been networking a bunch lately. A big part of that is to try to make yourself an asset to those you meet. So many people I’m coming to for favors/advice now are people I helped land internships, jobs or consulting work in the past. The best way to get people to help you down the road is to help them now…and keep in touch!

  6. Why not consider opening your own firm?

    I had a plan for getting a job: go to work as a clerk for a solo who wanted to expand and then be the new associate. I got the offer, but no longer thought it was the right thing for me. So I spent the summer looking for a job, while studying for the bar. (The bar ended on Wednesday and I had interviews that Thursday and Friday.) I had a drop dead date in mind: if I didn’t have a job by then, I would start preparing to open my own practice. That date came and went in mid-August.

    I’ve spent the last few months doing research on being a small firm owner (I’ll be partnering with 2 other lawyers), making connections with local lawyers, and doing a little contract work for them here and there.

    There are tons of resources out there for people who want to start their own firm. Even the ABA and sites like Above the Law have recognized it as a valid choice with resources directed toward solo and small firms.

    I’ll own my own law firm by December 5th. It’s both awesome and scary.

    • ballerina girl :

      Good luck with it! Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Law school turns us into lemmings–hope it goes well for you. Either way, you’ll be proud of yourself for trying.

    • I’ve had my nose to the grind now for about a year… With a small hiccup getting married and changing my name in September (I wanted to wait to use my married name for my practice), I’ve been doing everything I can think of to find work. I’ve been available to do contract work (which I see as long term interviewing), networking when I can find the money, and finally – starting my own blog to keep myself sharp and make a name and a presence for myself.

      Amid all of this – the best piece of advice I got actually came to me at a networking event from a partner at a big local firm here in Western MA. He told me that I “had my head on my shoulders” and knew what I wanted to do – something that he, after 14 years of practice, still didn’t know. So with my personality and ambition, if I opened up my own firm and rode out the economy… when I went looking for “work” I would be extremely attractive to a firm. I would be an active attorney with a client-roster, rather than an underemployed law grad making ends meet.

      The whole conversation with him was a huge compliment, but the point was very clear. If I couldn’t cut my teeth in a firm *right now*, I could pursue my ambition solo. I had the skills. I didn’t need anyone else to validate me. I could turn the network of attorneys in the area into my co-counsel. It is extremely collegial out there (thankfully!) and they are completely willing to help me get started.

      So last night, as I went back to networking, and people are so excited to hear “I’m starting my own firm” as opposed to “I’m looking for work”. The response was stellar, and I have a number of attorneys in the area that now know that I can do something for them that their clients have been asking about. So now, all of my networking pays off – even if I’m still open to the idea of working for someone, if they have room in their firm.

      I’m open for business now, and terrified, but it’s worth it. (Fake it until you make it, right?) I know what I want to do and I have a budding business plan to back it up. Now, to turn myself into a rainmaker…

    • Wow!! My hat is off to you! Keep us updated on how it goes. My SO just applied for a job in Themiddleofnowhere, and while the possibility is still distant, I can’t help but wonder what I’m going to do for a job if we have to move (town does not exactly have a thriving legal community). I’d love a first-hand story of how putting out your own shingle works. Scary, but sounds pretty exciting, too!

    • Wow, congratulations! You’re two days in! If you get a chance, email me — I’d love for you to do a (short) post on my career blog about your experience starting a firm. I think it’d be interesting, plus it’d give you and your new firm some exposure. Email: [email protected]

  7. I know it’s rough, but I have been through this (successfully!) and if you can manage it, I strongly recommend doing the best work you can get for free instead of doc review for pay. I had good experiences with both a legal aid office and the DA’s office. In each case, I had someone who knew someone (a former intern, actually) give me permission to drop their name in my cover letter to increase the odds it was read. In my cover letter, I was also very specific about my level of commitment, i.e., that I would keep certain regular hours (it ended up being 3 full days a week) for at least 2/3 months. The commitment is key if you are competing against deferred associates. I got a full time job offer from a firm with 1 month left to go in my 3 month commitment to the DA. The firm did not mind waiting a month while I got more experience that they weren’t paying for. And many others I know who have stuck to doc review jobs are still waiting for an offer.

  8. As someone who has been there (I finally got a job a mere 8 days before the one year anniversary of my graduation from law school) I absolutely agree with Kat’s advice. I would also suggest that you at least attempt to take advantage of any pro bono opportunities in the field that you eventually want to practice in. This is actually how I got my job, my firm works very closely with the legal aid organization I volunteered with. Additionally, get creative with you job search, I found the posting for my job on Craigs List. My fiance found his through the intercollegiate job bank (which you should absolutely use, your school’s career services can give you the log in information). Along those same lines, keep in touch with your Career Services office, if they know what you’re doing they are way more willing to send job postings your way. Also, look into government organizations that are in your field, almost all will have a job postings section on their website. Finally, try and stay positive. I know it sucks, I was there myself doing pro bono work and working retail to make ends meet, but you will get a job, and a year later you will look back on the job search as a learning experience.

    Best of luck to you!

    • divaliscious11 :

      This is great advice. There are always tax clinics, and guardianships etc… that you can get some transferable experience…

  9. Some really good advice here!

    Unfortunately, some of us who are year or couple of years out also got laid off from biglaw. That is not enough experience to go inhouse and law firms are not looking at us either.

    • Anonymous :

      If success stories help, I was laid off after 2 years and, after about a year of temporary positions and freaking out, found an awesome in-house job that is about a zillions times better than my Big Firm job ever was.

      Don’t lose hope.

    • divaliscious11 :

      Actually, a lot of in-house positions are available with 2 years of experience, and you actually are still junior enough to get in a firm, although you might have to give a year or to of class year…

  10. I’m in a similar position. It would be nice to hear from people who were unemployed at graduation (’08 or later) but have since found employment. I feel like nearly all the comments are from people for whom networking worked during good times or who otherwise haven’t been in this kind of situation. It would be heartening to hear an actual success story.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      I have friends from ’08 who were unemployed at graduation and in the past couple months finally found jobs. They are now practicing in areas they never would have chosen (personal injury, immigration, worker’s compensation), but they are so very happy to have attorney jobs at all that they couldn’t care less about what exactly they are doing. I also have a lot of friends from ’08 and ’09 that are still looking, including my SO, so you are not alone Mimi. It is very tough out there.

    • Now Employed :

      I graduated in 2009 and just found a job in state government late this summer. I did not have any connections to the agency and got the job over at least one person who did have connections. The pay is abysmal, but I’m working in a practice area I really like and have great coworkers. I have another friend who got something in June just by sending in an application as well.

    • I’m an ’08 grad, and it took me about nine months after graduation to find a job, despite having a good resume, and past employers who wanted to help. I stayed in the city where I went to law school (medium-sized metropolitan area). Applied to the local DA’s office, and went through an endless interview process (seriously–they kept telling me they were going to hire me “next week” and I’d been through five panel interviews by the time I withdrew myself from consideration). I finally took a job in a small firm in the suburbs after seeing the listing on craigslist, mainly because I was desperate. Luckily, I landed in a rare practice area that I love and in which I would never have been able to work this early in my career. The pay is still really low, and I don’t think I’ll be here forever, but I feel like I lucked out. The key for me was to lower my expectations, and just try to think that any experience was good experience, and any money was good money. I still think that’s pretty much true, outside of biglaw. Anyway, good luck!

    • Anonymous :

      I’ve been working for a while, but my nonprofit employer has hired several 08 and 09 grads. All worked as (unpaid) interns or research assistants for several months before getting hired. They didn’t get the internships with the understanding that they’d be hired for a job, but when jobs become available, our current and former interns are the first people we consider because we know they do good work, they know how our nonprofit works and thus don’t require as much training, and so it’s a win-win for everyone. So if internships are a possibility and you can swing it financially, you should seriously consider this option.

    • I was an 08 grad and did not have a job upon graduation. I had applied for some and finally got an interview right before I took the bar exam. I didn’t hear anything for a while and then around September they called and offered me a job. I think I was their second choice and something had happened with their first choice and it didn’t go through. I didn’t care though! Now I really love my job.

      We just hired two new attorneys and I could not believe the amount of applicants we had–and its government work and the pay is low.

  11. Radical Chic :

    More and more, jobs are obtained through personal connections. I have never been able to get a job any other way. For a person to obtain a job without a special connection is pretty amazing these days.

    • AnonAnonAnon :

      I agree. I got my clerkship over a student ranked in top 20 of my class (I’m somewhere around 85ish) just based on connections. The judge said I came “highly recommended” and that did it.

      Don’t network at the same events every other unemployed 10L is going to. I’m part of a women’s network that no other law student is part of. It’s full of people with 5+ years experience and they were happy to see a 3L so settled and focused join the network.

  12. I work for a mid-size firm that isn’t adverse to hiring associates laid off by big firms. We practice in a specialized practice area, though, and want people who are genuinely interested in/committed to that area rather than people who are applying to us because they have no other choice. One thing to consider if you’re in a bigger city (and particularly in DC) might be focusing your networking activities in a particular substantive area so you can make a strong case to the employers in that area. E.g., look at the Telecommunications Bar Association* events, their Young Lawyers Committee, and the seminars your state bar’s Telecommunications and Utilities Division puts on, rather than just the general bar association happy hours.

    * Not actually my area so this may not exist, but you get my point.

  13. Where is everyone looking for work? I know some areas are pretty saturated and recent grad friends of mine have had to expand their searches – looking throughout a region instead of one city, for example.

  14. Anon for this one :

    A quick success story. My friend is an ’09 grad. She didn’t have a job for quite some time. Was going to every networking event imaginable, thinking it was for nothing. Gave out lots of cards. Finally took a job doing something she didn’t like. Then, out of the blue, got a call from someone she had met over a year prior at one of those events. The man (who she hadn’t met prior to the event) said “Hey x, I met someone recently who is looking for an associate. Hope you don’t mind, I passed on your card.” The person who received the card called her and it was her desired type of law. She got the job! Don’t give up hope even though it is so frustrating that her success story took a year to play out.

    Also, contact your undergrad. I just learned mine has some “young lawyer clubs” in various cities and the like.

  15. backtowork :

    It took me a year — and a lot of disappointment interviews — to find the job I have now, which is the perfect fit for me (finally!). I agree with the comments above about how important it is to keep a positive attitude. And when it gets really hard, consider antidepressants. Sometimes everyone needs a little help.

  16. I have been through this and really feel for you. It is so, so hard and it’s okay to admit that and have bad days. Sadly, it may not work out as you hope- but you will work again- this is key to remember- and you may open doors you don’t even know about yet that could be a great fit for you. But it might take a long time to get to a good place so it’s okay to feel frustrated and try to maintain a long-term view. Legal careers are not overnight endeavors.

    I did seven years of work I mostly didn’t like after law school and felt extremely disheartened at many points along the way. At one point I was unemployed for almost a year and did doc review during that time. That was horrid though it did teach me a few things about myself and how large cases are put together. And the laws of labor market supply and demand (which for lawyers are depressing these days). I am now in a dream job in a senior position at a global company working on issues I am passionate about. It all would have been a lot easier if I knew it would all work out some day. And I value my current situation immensely, knowing I may not have it forever. All the ‘crappy’ stuff I thought I was doing to get experience has ALL ended up being helpful in preparing me for the challenges I take on smoothly now in my work- and it shows. I am valued and respected for my abilities. It’s the ability to remain calm in dealing with all kinds of situations, people, etc. those are the things that you may be forced to grow and develop by doing stuff you don’t like.

    My advice: consider moving locations. If you are in town where you went to law school, that might be helpful, but beyond that keep an open mind as possible. My career was in a dead end in New York- I moved to Seattle unemployed and turned everything around. Ask around about what you are interested in, and where there are more jobs. DC is the best market right now in my view- it is competitive, but there is just so much work all around. New York is likely the worst.

    Also, try to leverage something you’ve got, or get something. Don’t try to make too many transitions at once- I tell friends try either sector, skill set, or level. For example, if you have no managerial experience, no expertise in a given area, or no demonstrated achievements in a skill set, you will not get a job requiring all three without a miracle. But if you have a hook in just ONE of these areas you might- connect the dots for people to show how you could add value. So keep an open mind about what you could do- consulting? specialize in a certain country? a language? whatever gets you excited- consider pursuing it. This will make it easier to show genuine interest when an opportunity comes.

    I found it almost impossible to ‘stay positive’ during my unemployment, which made networking really hard. Also everyone I seemed to meet at professional networking events was also depressed and job searching. I like the suggestions above to do some hobbies and meet people that way, even if it feels wrong.

    Also- forget the big firms. Who cares, they are (many not all) a miserable lot and snobby for stupid reasons at the leadership levels. There’s a whole world out there that could care less. Set yourself up for a happier life.

    Good luck and we have our collective fingers crossed for you and all the others in this difficult situation.

    • Totally agree with this advice. There are places in the country that have law jobs open – those places just aren’t NYC, L.A., Chicago or D.C. I’ve had several friends who, after getting laid off and searching fruitlessly for jobs where they were, ended up moving to smaller cities and finding great jobs they never realized were out there. I have a friend who graduated from law school in 2009 and ended up moving back to Kansas City (his hometown) to get a job – and he is doing great, although when he was in law school in Chicago, going back home was the furthest thing from his mind. If you swim in the big pond, you need to be a big fish to get anywhere. If you change the size of the pond you change your odds, and it helps if you have family or personal connections where you’re going. There are a ton of good-size Midwestern, Southern and Southwestern cities that have good quality of life, more career opportunities, and also a better chance to meet people and form relationships than the big coastal cities.

  17. One more note… I book my spouse and I have found immensely helpful over the years is “the unoffocial guide to landing a job.” there are some things in here for interviews especially that work everytime, I swear. And it helps to have one structured place to go for a game plan. Gives you stuff to do in a limited fashion. We have both used it throughout our careers.

  18. Social networking! Online presence!

    I don’t know anything about the legal job market, but I got my MLS in May and the librarian job market is pretty terrible right now. However, there are a lot of librarians who blog and tweet; by being active on these fronts I have managed to raise my profile a lot & get to know some interesting people (who are much bigger deals in the library world than I am). While it hasn’t landed me a job yet, it has gotten me an interview and some writing opportunities. I remain hopeful that my online presence — and the lines on my CV that are coming out of it — will ultimately distinguish me from other candidates.

    More broadly, I’d say: think about what you’re good at, and what you can do within the resource constraints (time, money, childcare, whatever) that you have. In my case, I’m good at writing and it’s something I can fit around my childcare situation, so I’ve been getting as much mileage out of it as humanly possible. But if you love volunteering or are a great schmoozer or whatever, and your schedule lets you do that, make your name that way. Whichever. I don’t think the exact tools people use are as important as the fact that they’re using tools that work well for them, and they are working hard at it (you won’t build your online presence with an hour a week of effort).

  19. I have a different problem. I have a job, but am not being treated seriously by the manageing partner. For some reason, even though I have a JD and was on Moot Court, he thinks I am there just so that he can stare at me. He does not give me any meaningful work to do, and I just have to sit with him in his office when he takes calls. He says he is training me but I do not know for what. I know the job market is bad, and he is paying me money, but I really don’t think the experience I am getting is worth anything. I know I am only 1 year out of school, but I think my time is being wasted, because all this guy does is stare at me and tells me that I will be a great lawyer someday. What do you suggest that I do with this strange situation? If I had another job offer, I would go, but I really don’t have a chance to do anything because the partner wants to know where I am every minute and most days insists on taking me out to lunch. PS. He is old enough to be my father, and is bald. Help!

    • That’s unfortunate. I’d recommend trying to work with other people. As much as the situation sucks, the managing partner liking you is a plus and you should take advantage of that but seek substantive experience by working with other partners.

    • Anonymous :

      This schtick is getting old fast.

      • It is profoundly insensitive of you to post this question here, where everyone’s actually trying to figure out how to GET A job. No sympathy for you. Plus, does he really sit and just steadily stare at you?

  20. I also recommend trying to get published. I know a few people who decided to write articles or start a legal blog and that has been an advantage on their resumes.

  21. Been there, done that :

    I really feel for you! It was 3 years from the time I graduated law school until I got a legal job. In the meantime, I took whatever I could – secretarial work, tutoring, customer service, retail, waitressing, some doc review, whatever I could find. People told me, and I’m sure they’ve told you, to do pro bono work, but that wasn’t at all feasible for me because I had to pay rent, eat, pay student loans…I didn’t have any safety nets like parents or significant others to live with or on while I searched, so that really prolonged my situation. All of the pro bono places needed people to work weekdays when I needed to be at a job. There were a few local churches that had legal services on the weekends, but I had a weekend job at the mall too.

    I sound like a downer, I know, but hang in there.

  22. Check out your local Legal Aid organization. Most places are getting more clients than they can handle and always need people to take on cases. If you don’t have experience in a particular area but are interested in branching out, they often offer free CLE courses and only ask that you take on a pro bono case in return. Sometimes they can even find you a more experienced attorney who is willing to let you work with them on pro bono cases if you don’t feel you are ready to go solo in a particular area. It’s a great way to gain experience and meet people.

  23. It also sounds like the student loans are driving the reader’s job search. She can put these loans in deferment (several of my friends have said it takes less than half an hour), or even take (hopefully cheap) classes at community colleges that build your skills and keep your loan payments at bay. Being unemployed is hard enough; the reader shouldn’t have to make student loan payments on top of it! Good luck!

  24. by the way.. non-legal people don’t know what document review is, so if you broaden your search, it’s okay to put that on and shows you did something. ’boutique securities firm’ working on billion-dollar cases sounds impressive to non-lawyers!

  25. I was exactly where you are last year. I did eventually find work, but even the job I have now is not my dream job.

    My advice regarding student loans is to defer or put yourself on an income based repayment plan. One of my loan providers reduced my payment down to zero based on my income. Under the income based repayment, I am getting credit for months that I do not have to pay anything towards my loans. You are not the only one in this position, so work with your loan company to find the best option for you.

    I could not find any “free” legal work. So I took jobs that had nothing to do with law when needed to. One thing I did do successfully was tutor local law students and/or paralegal students. You have some valuable skills that you can offer to others at a reasonable price. Also, there are websites that hire licensed attorneys to do at home research for firms.

    I have a friend who turned one good relationship with one attorney into contract work for a few hours, which turned into a more steady gig as he kept getting new attorney referrals. It just takes one.

    My job I eventually got my job through Craigslist, but I did not get the position the first time I interviewed for it. I made enough of an impression that when their initial choice did not work out, they emailed me instead of interviewing again.

    One final thought, sometimes there are reasons (other than the economy) that you are unemployed. During my unemployment, I had a death in the family. Because I was unemployed, I was able to spend two weeks helping out and making sure everyone was alright. I found work a month after that. Sometimes you have to trust that what is best for you is not what you necessarily want at the moment.

  26. Bravo on a good article!
    May I add:
    -create an employment proposal (it is an effective way to tap into the hidden job market)
    -check out www.thesimplejobsearch.com (one of the best blogs)
    -join the www.careerealism.com club (low cost). I’m an approved career expert
    -listen to great podcasts on www.secretofthejobhunt.com for FREE

    I didn’t see a reference to using social media
    Here’s my own link bit.ly/twitter4jobsearch
    And for FREE, email me on my new ebook Turbocharge your job search: 16+ sizzling tips on how to be irresistible to employers

    And I LOVE the reference to learning French. I am French speaking!

    Best wishes,
    Melissa Martin, bilingual career specialist

  27. You’ve probably had many events in your past that were significant and worthwhile. Maybe you just don’t put much value to them. You may even refer to them as being “nothing special”. But in actuality the way you view your accomplishments can have a huge positive impact on your CV.


  28. Great Article! Another great book to read when looking for a job or looking to change careers is What Color is your Parachute? By Richard Bolles.

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