When I lost my first lawyer role in March due to Covid, I was really quite devastated. If I am honest, it took me a good two months or so to really feel like myself again. The uncertainty of the world doesn’t help, especially when it comes to the job market. However, there are still some things we can all control — we can believe in ourselves and our abilities, we can continue to have hope and not give up and we can keep putting ourselves out there! I wanted to share my story of losing my job, what I did with my spare time, how I dealt with rejection, how I kept positive and all of the things I did to find a new job. If you are still looking for work — I hope this helps to inspire you and please remember one thing — just don’t give up.
What I did with my time off
I spent my time off work doing a mixture of productive and non-productive things. Initially I wrote a list of things I wanted to do — taking new photos for my website, planning a new podcast, reading books, doing a wardrobe clean out, etc. I achieved most of the things I wanted to in my time off, but like many other people — I had good and bad days. I had days where I felt like being productive and other days where I just didn’t want to get out of bed. I took things day by day and on the days where I felt good, I would get things done and on the days where I didn’t feel so crash hot, I would take it easy. The one thing I have learned, from speaking to others for the podcast I created about Coronavirus (Our New Normal), is that there was no wrong or right way to deal with everything. We all have our own ways of coping and it doesn’t mean that you are failing or less worthy than someone because you didn’t use the time to thrive and you struggled. Like I have said, for me it really was a mixed bag. The one thing I did find myself doing, mostly subconsciously I think, was a lot of self-reflection and personal growth. For me, having lots of spare time where most of that time is alone with yourself and your thoughts meant that I had time to reflect on the things I went through last year, my time in my previous role and what had been happening recently. I feel that I learnt a lot about myself, the kind of person I am, how resilient I can be and how I always try to find a silver lining.
Being positive during a Pandemic where you have lost your job, friends have lost their jobs, you can’t go out with your friends and you’re not even allowed to leave the house unless it is a necessity — is really, really hard. For me, being positive doesn’t mean being happy and hopeful for the future all the time — it means that even on the bad days, you just keep going. I believe persistence goes hand in hand with being positive. I grew up with and am still surrounded by family members who tend to have a negative view on the world. My Dad, who I love to pieces, has told me that if I always expect the worst, I’ll be pleasantly surprised if something good happens. There is no way I could live like that. Having battled Depression for many years, living with negative self-talk and anxiety…I probably wouldn’t be here if I lived my life with a negative viewpoint. While life can be difficult and bad things seem to happen to good people far too often, life is really what we chose to make it. We can choose to be victims and feel sorry for ourselves when bad things happen, we can choose to complain about how unfair the world is, how much better other people have it, etc. OR we can choose to accept that while something may be unfair, it has happened and we can learn from it, grow from it and move forward with hope that better things will come our way in the future. I choose the latter.
See it as an opportunity
During my time for self-reflection, I had time to think about my career that I have worked so hard for and evaluate whether it was still what I wanted to do. I love law and do believe it is what I am meant to do. However, I had time to reflect on whether the area I had been working in (family law) was what I wanted to do. I really struggled to answer this question because it is the only area of law that I really had any experience in, apart from a brief stint of work experience in criminal law when I was really early in my degree. What I realised is that I wanted to use my unemployment as an opportunity to take on a new path. If I hadn’t of lost my job, I would have most likely stayed in family law and gained my PAE in that area — probably meaning that I would have stayed working in family law for the remainder of my career. But losing my job meant that I now had this opportunity to reset and consider other areas of law that I might like to try and maybe even give other areas a try to see how they fit. So, if you have lost your job — whether you are a law student or a lawyer like me, take some time to think about whether you are happy going back on the same path or whether you might like to try something new. Obviously, times are tough and I know that most of us are applying for everything and anything and we just want work — but that doesn’t mean that taking a job in another area of law can’t be a wonderful new opportunity that might lead you down a wonderful new path that you wouldn’t have considered if you hadn’t of lost your job.
Updating your resume/CV
I had put my previous resume together by using a Word template. I thought it looked okay…until I made a new one with a Canva template. The difference was huge — my new resume looked so much cleaner and more professional (even though I include my colourful leopard print branding). So, I would highly recommend spending some time to make a visually appealing resume with a tool like Canva, it’s free too. Try to keep your resume concise — 2 pages maximum, especially when you are a law student or early career lawyer. The other thing I would recommend is getting a written reference from your previous employer/s and including that at the end of your resume. From the feedback I received from the couple of job interviews that I had, having a written reference from my previous employer about my capability and skills being those of a more experienced legal practitioner really helped me get my foot in the door. The other thing that I recommend doing is a video resume (which I have already written a blog about). I think taking the time to make something like that demonstrates initiative and gives a prospective employer an idea of the sort of person you are, how you present yourself, how you communicate and whether they think you would be a good fit with their firm. We no longer live in an age where a black and white paper resume is enough and I think that’s awesome — we should all embrace technology and how it can help us to stand out from the crowd. So, while it is intimidating (and trust me, I did NOT feel comfortable filming myself talking) — take the leap and do it anyway, I am sure that it will only help you in securing employment.
Dealing with rejection
Only about two weeks after I lost my job, I was tagged in a post by a few people I knew about a law firm who was reaching out to their network looking for a family lawyer before posting the advertisement. I applied for the role even though it was for a family lawyer with 1–3 years’ experience and I only had 5 months’ experience. Side note, if you see roles where they request a minimum level of experience — just apply anyway and address your experience in your cover letter but that despite that you don’t have X amount of experience, you can offer X. I managed to get an interview and during my interview I was told that I was one of 5 being interviewed out of 18 resumes that were sent through. I felt proud to be considered but I didn’t just want to be interviewed — I wanted the job. Sadly, though I didn’t get it. I took it pretty well because I knew that many lawyers (with more experience) than me were unemployed and we were all essentially fighting for the same jobs. I knew it was a great opportunity to have an interview and to be considered anyway. A few weeks later after applying for other positions, I was fortunate enough to be offered another interview. The interview went really well and I felt pretty confident about being offered the role. This was confirmed when I received a call a few days later informing me that I was the front runner and asking if I still wanted the job before other candidates were called the next day to be told they were unsuccessful. I confirmed that I did and was very excited for the role. The following day I received the call I had been waiting for. Except, it wasn’t. I heard the words, I’m really sorry but you have been unsuccessful. I was in shock and didn’t say anything for about 2 minutes and just let them talk. When I did speak, all I managed to say was thank you for letting me know and take care. My friends and family were angry for me and my Dad asked me why I didn’t seek further explanation considering that I had essentially been told the job was mine the previous day. I said that I didn’t see any point — something had obviously happened and if they didn’t want to give me an explanation, there probably wasn’t a reasonable one. I also think the reason I didn’t ask more questions at the time was just simply because I was in shock. I took this rejection really hard because I started to question whether there were lots of unethical law firms and lawyers out there and whether I was really joining a profession that I wasn’t proud to be part of. I seriously questioned for the first time in my legal career, about quitting law and doing something else. Luckily for me, I snapped out of that after I realised that the reason I feel so passionate about joining the legal profession is because it needs more people like me — people who are honest and who genuinely care. So, I pushed the doubt to the side and just decided to get on with it.
A couple of days later, I had a recruiter reach out to me on LinkedIn and they offered to have a chat with me. During our phone call, they said to me — have you considered doing some work experience so that you can include that on your resume? They said that as time goes on, I am better off having experience to include on my resume rather than having a big gap where I am not gaining precious PAE (post admission experience). I told her that I had thought about it, but I guess I had kind of pushed it to the back of my mind because I was overwhelmed by all things Covid. That conversation gave me the push I needed to step outside of my comfort zone. I decided that I was going to put up a post on my public social media accounts (LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, in particular in a lawyers Facebook group that I am part of) with a photo of my face and the words — will work for experience. That night, I put up the post with a blurb about how I was looking to do work experience in return for a reference that I could put on my resume and to gain valuable experience. I discussed the idea briefly with my Dad to make sure that I wasn’t completely crazy and he told me he thought it was a good idea. I put the post up with no expectations and a hope that I would be able to do work experience in a different area of law so that I could decide whether I liked or hated it. That was it. However, what actually happened was so far from anything I could have dreamed of. I posted it Thursday night and by 10am the next morning I was having a phone interview for the role that I actually have now. Within three days I had three job interviews and multiple offers for work experience. On the following Tuesday morning (less than 5 days later) I accepted an offer for a full-time role as a Lawyer in Wills and Estates. Crazy, right!? So, maybe my idea was crazy — in that what happened was wild. My LinkedIn post has had over 30,000 views, I have had around 100 new LinkedIn connections and around 50 new Instagram followers just from that one idea. Even two weeks on from the post I was receiving messages about employment offers. I am so grateful that I have found employment, especially during a time where so many lawyers have found themselves unemployed. And I’m not sure I would be employed right now if I hadn’t of done something outside of the box and put myself out there. So, if you are struggling to find work — dive deep and think about what you can do to set yourself apart, to make your resume more appealing and to show that you have initiative.
Make sure you have a resume/cv that looks visually appealing — don’t be afraid to add some personal branding, colour, images (Canva has great templates)
Use social media to network — LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook to network — connect with recruiters, join Facebook/LinkedIn groups
Do something outside of the box — for me this was my post offering work experience in exchange for a reference (which had over 30,000 views on LinkedIn and was the reason I found my current job)
Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs in a new area of law or where they request a minimum level of experience — but just be honest in your cover letter and address your lack of experience but what you have to offer instead
Sign up for job alerts — I did this on Seek, LinkedIn and SmartJobs (Government jobs)
Make sure you write in your LinkedIn bio that you are looking for an opportunity, describing what you are looking for and what you have to offer — and turn on that you are open to opportunities in your LinkedIn profile. You can also add a link — so if you have a website, video resume, etc. upload that and link it!
Do work experience or volunteer — it’s a great way to learn, it may help you work out if you like/don’t like an area of law, it will be something to add to your resume and hopefully you’ll end up with a great reference from it!
Tell everyone that you’re looking for work — post it on social media, tell your family, friends, anyone that you know, reach out to recruiters, just shout it from the roof top!! That way if anything does come up, someone may think of you because they know that you’re looking!
DON’T GIVE UP. The only reason I have ever achieved anything in my life — my law degree, my admission and finding the two legal roles I have had — is because I kept persisting and just refused to give up. Being stubborn about your goals and believing in yourself is so, so important if you want to achieve the things you dream about.
I’m no expert in finding jobs (or keeping them haha) but I hope that this post has helped you with a tip you hadn’t thought of or at the very least, the hope to not give up trying. I am always happy to help or chat if you have any questions or want any advice. Best of luck to all of you who are still looking for jobs!
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