Is Everyone Employed But Me?
UCI Law Alumna 2012
I expected Fall of 3L year to be as challenging as previous semesters. I expected to be challenged by my classes and clinical work. I expected that Law Review or an externship would take up a tremendous amount of my time and energy. However, I did not expect the toll that being a 3L seeking public interest work would take. I knew that a post-grad public interest job would not simply fall into my lap. I knew I would have to work hard to find jobs to apply for and even harder to make it through an interview, if I was fortunate enough to get one. I was prepared for that. I was not prepared for the psychological and emotional challenge of not being employed when it seemed like everyone around me had a job or multiple jobs.
By Fall of 3L year, many of the people interested in working at large law firms either received offers during the summer and were employed or were interviewing. The big hustle for judicial clerkships started in September and continued throughout the semester. It seemed like everyone was constantly applying for work and traveling all around the country for interviews. Although, the applications for a few of the Government Honors programs and the major public interest fellowships like Equal Justice Works and Skadden were due in the fall, it was otherwise all too quiet on the public interest job front. This was where 3L year became unexpectedly difficult and stressful. I felt that I was doing something wrong; that I was not applying to as many places as my classmates were. I felt that I was somehow dropping the ball on my job search.
In thinking about writing for the Alumni Corner in Voice, I thought about what I would have wanted to hear from alumni, if any had existed, last year. I wish someone could have warned me about the process of searching for public interest work and how difficult it would be. I believe that knowing more about the process could mitigate the stress of 3L year. It would have helped to hear that it was not just me and that eventually the right opportunity would work out.
Although it did not feel like it at the time, I was not the only one stressing out and still looking for work. Many people, especially students wanting to do public interest work, were unemployed and feeling the same way I was. Late in the spring semester I learned from friends and various mentors that the hiring cycle for many public interest jobs is different from large law firms and clerkships. Many public interest employers do not know what their budget will look like until the spring or summer and are not in a position to consider new hires until then. Others do not hire recent graduates until after Bar Exam results come out. Although learning that some employers would not post jobs until August or November was not the best news, it was helpful to have a more accurate understanding of the public interest hiring process. .
New opportunities for public interest work popped up throughout the Spring semester and summer. However, it became more difficult to apply for them with final exams, graduation, and studying for the Bar Exam to focus on. Some of my mentors suggested that I put my job search on hold while studying for the Bar Exam. Putting the job search entirely on hold was too stressful for me—worrying about not applying to jobs interfered with my studying more than applying did. Instead, I became more selective and used my limited time to apply to the jobs that I really wanted and thought I was potentially qualified for. This may not work for everyone—applying to and interviewing for jobs while studying for the Bar is incredibly stressful and it may be worth putting things on hold. Both the job search and Bar Exam preparation are unique experiences; therefore any approach should be individually tailored.
There were times during and after 3L year when the job search seemed hopeless and overwhelming. It is tough to keep putting out applications and going on interviews when opportunities do not work out. The most trying part of the job search is dealing with the self-doubt that can start to grow as the process drags on. This self-doubt creeps into job applications and comes out during interviews. The most helpful piece of advice that I got from a mentor was not to take job rejections personally. An employer’s decision to go with another candidate suggests less about you and more about the needs of the organization at the time. You just have to move on to the next opportunity.
There is nothing fun or easy about looking for work during 3L year or while studying for the Bar. The reality is that things might get more stressful before they get better. You might not find a job before graduation. You might not find a job before the Bar Exam. That said, I truly believe that eventually things will work out and you will find a job. How can I be so certain especially when there are still fellow alums looking for long-term employment? I am certain that things will work out because as members of the UCI Law community we take care of each other. Not only, do we send each other any potential job listings we come across, but more importantly we are not afraid to slap some sense into each other when self-doubt starts bringing us down.