Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Back in the summer of 2010, I was feeling lonely and hopeless.

I guess I was depressed, but I was not desperate or suicidal.  I was just really unhappy.  And it sounds ridiculous and obvious to say, but I was so tired of being unhappy.  I was weary of showing up to my unpaid summer position at a government office that offered no hope for a post-graduation job.  I had to pick my classes and nothing interested me. I had to apply for jobs, but there were virtually none available to apply for.  And the worst part was knowing that I had another year of this ahead of me.

Two years prior to that, I was in my early twenties.  I was happy, healthy had great friends, and a dead-end but stable job in a city I loved.  Fast forward to 2010 and I was in a city I had come to dislike, lonely, gaining weight and run ragged by stress and regret.  I wanted those two years back more than I had ever wanted anything in my life.  I wanted a do-over, a reset button.  For the first time in my life, I just felt old.  I wasn't.  Not exactly, anyway.  But it dawned on me in a way that it never had before that we only get one shot at life, and that I had wasted two years doing something I ended up despising, and was about to waste a third.  I felt that I had squandered the happiness and contentment I had obtained in what I know see was a relatively charmed life after college.

The law school scam-busting blogs have done an immense service by warning people about the risk of attending law school.  But on a selfish level, when I started my blog, it just felt really good to be a part of something productive.  Unhappiness can be so isolating.  Suddenly, when I would write a post, I could check the stats and see that people were reading my thoughts.  Sometimes those people were reading my thoughts at 3:30 in the morning.  It made me feel so much less alone to know that even a few people cared about what I had to say.  And while I am under no illusion that people have been waiting with bated breath, frantically refreshing my blog for months on end in the hopes that I would update again,  I do feel a little bad that I left the readers I had hanging.

I graduated from law school almost 15 months ago.  It took me four months to find a job.  It is a non-legal job, which is what I was looking for.  I am enjoying it, and I feel some of the "spark" coming back.  But the sad truth is that the happier and more active I got, the less I could muster up the energy for blogging.  Not because I no longer held the same opinions, but because I wanted to put the past behind me.  I did not want to let my law school mistake define so much of my life.  But it occurs to me that my experiences with college, school, job hunting and unemployment should be heard.  Not because I am anything special, but because they provide another perspective for people who are contemplating a major personal and financial undertaking. I would be doing a disservice if I never update my readers.  If even one person would benefit from my experiences and forgo law school, I owe it to that person to at least attempt to update with some frequency, if not strict regularity.

I hope that all of my readers are doing well, and I apologize if I have not been terribly responsive to comments or email.  I thought I was better off trying to let go of the past, but you know what they say about that:  Those that fail to remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  Maybe by talking about my own experiences, I will spare someone the pain of repeating my mistakes!

Please do keep in touch!


Sunday, October 30, 2011

D.C. is no haven for recent law grads

When I was getting ready to graduate, several well-meaning people told me that Washington, D.C. was the place to look for jobs.  The federal government isn't getting any smaller, after all.  And I am told that there is a slightly higher percentage of people with law degrees working in non-attorney positions by choice in D.C.

My friends on the ground in D.C. told a different story. The market, they explained, is completely saturated.  There are a ton of law schools in the local area, not to mention graduates from top tier schools coming to D.C.  

This article in the Washington Examiner tends to validate their position.

Quick quote:
 "Here in the District, the situation is not as dire, but many are settling for jobs that fall short of the glamorous gigs they envisioned while piling up thousands of dollars in student loans."
 That's a bit of an understatement.  I can't help but speculate that the reason the situation in D.C. does not seem as dire is that people probably consider unpaid work "employment."    Unpaid internships are rampant in D.C., and I know more than one graduate of a D.C. area law school (not Georgetown) currently working for free.

The moral of the story:  a) Avoid law school like the plague.  b) Don't expect to do any better in D.C.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

If you're not the 99%, what are you?

I have not said anything about the Occupy Wall Street movement yet.  Part of the reason for that is that in a movement so expansive, it is hard to make generalizations about the participants or their motives.  We don't know what path the protests will end up taking, and so I can't really take a stance yet.  But I encountered this picture online and it made me really sad.

I applaud this young woman (I'm going to guess it's a woman based on the handwriting) for her wise financial decisions.  But what I can't applaud is the lack of any kind of sympathy for the situation that many of her classmates are about to find themselves in.  Not everyone has parents who are able to give them sound financial advice.  It's very easy for a 17 or 18 year old to sign the dotted line and go to their "dream school" without understanding the consequences.  Then, once they get to said dream school, they are inundated with credit card offers driving them further into debt.  How hard is it to see that that is predatory?

Another flaw is that this person equates working their "@$$" off with results.  Those of us who bought into the law school scam know that that is not necessarily the case.  Education and hard work are not the surefire recipe for success anymore, if they ever were.

I agree that people should not go into debt for higher education.  But that was not quite so clear cut when many of us were going to school, and it is vitally important that the word get out there about the pitfalls of student loan debt, so young people graduating from high school now do not become victims of the same mistake.  If Occupy Wall Street manages to convey that message, it will have accomplished something.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm overdue for an update!

Well I know I promised to continue posting, and let me assure you that my week and a half long absence is not indicative of what is to come.  I will continue posting but it has taken me some time to get into the swing of things.

Let me first say that I really, really like my job so far.  It is a cool place to work and I even find the work challenging.  (In a good way!)  I hesitate to say this, because I don't want to undermine my fundamental message, but I think that my legal education is coming in handy in this position.  Here's the thing:  They tell you that law school teaches you a new way of thinking, and a new way of problem solving, that is useful even in a non-legal position.  This might come as a shock, but I think that is absolutely correct.  The problem is that there is almost no way you will be able to convince non-legal employers that you are not a flight risk.  So even if you gain some useful skills in law school (which, despite my anecdotal evidence, his highly debatable), you will be hindered in your job search by the JD.  You know where else you gain useful skills?  In the workforce.  If you are fortunate enough to have a job in this economy, stay there.  I would trade the marginally useful critical thinking skills I gained in law school in a heartbeat, if it meant I could have those years of my life back.

I know I'm a broken record.  But it truly can't be said enough:  Don't go to law school if you don't want to be a lawyer, and make sure that you know what the practice of law entails before you decide you want to be one.  That's as close to a golden rule as I can get.

Things are looking up, guys.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

First Day!

Well, I am heading out soon for my first day on the job.  Thank you for all of the kind comments and emails I have received.  I'm anxious, but also excited.  If possible, I think my husband is even more excited.

I will be checking in later tonight for a "real" post.  Sorry for the slow week.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reflections on my Job Search

Since I just received my job offer early this Monday and will not be starting my new position until Wednesday, it may seem a bit soon to reach any grand, sweeping conclusions about my job search.  That said, I think that my search taught me some things that could be of use to those of you who are looking for jobs, specifically people with law degrees.

1) Networking: I can only speak for myself when I say that networking is beyond crap.  The conventional wisdom says that networking is the golden rule of job-hunting.  Making connections, meeting their connections, getting your business card/resume out there, etc. For me, connections did absolutely nothing.  The only connection that produced any result was my husband's former coworker.  And all that ended up getting me was an offer for an unpaid internship.  Think of it this way:  in a difficult job market like this one, basically no one has any job security.  Why are they going to stick their neck out for a friend of a friend, someone they might not know very well personally and whose work product they probably don't know at all?  I can't even blame them for it.  Maybe networking was more valuable when the economy was better.  Or maybe if you are looking for an unpaid internship someone will go out on a limb for you.  But that's not the climate right now, and I can't say that shocks me.

2) Law degrees for non-legal jobs:  I was able to get this job, a non-legal job doing research, writing and social media for an organization, despite the fact that I have a law degree.  I don't know exactly what the interviewers thought about the law degree, but they did ask about it.  Every single person who interviewed me asked me about the law degree, why I have it, why I am not seeking an attorney position, and how the skills might translate.  My point is that even if some of the stigma of the J.D. is starting to dissipate (and I don't necessarily think that it is), it is still a liability you will have to address.  So come up with a good explanation for why you went, what made you change your mind about the legal field, and how you plan on using the skill set.  Keep the tone as positive as you can.  For me, it is difficult to sound positive when discussing the law and the legal profession.  But I did the best I could and I think it helped.

3) Interviews:  I can honestly say that the best thing that happened for me in terms of getting this job was the fact that I interviewed for a virtually identical job earlier this summer.  Some of you might recall that I went all the way through the interview process at another organization this summer.  I did multiple rounds and submitted a writing exercise.  While I did not get the position, I learned from the questions exactly what employers in this field look for in a candidate.  I even learned something from the tone of their questions about the law degree.  Interviewing makes you a better interviewer, so if you get an offer for an interview you should take it, even if it is not a position you think you would want to accept.

But the most important thing...

4) Don't Give Up:  We all went to college and law school or graduate school because we ARE intelligent, hard-working people with something to offer an employer and society in general.  Trolls, shills and apologists come on these blogs and try to make us feel bad about ourselves.  As if it is our fault that we were taken in at a young age by a huge scam.  As if we caused the economic collapse that left us with few job prospects and crippling debt.  I'm all for personal accountability.  But the people who come here and scream about personal accountability in the comments section are here because they thrive on making other people feel insecure and bad about themselves.  I'm no psychologist, but I can tell you this:  DON'T internalize this portrayal of the young, indebted and unemployed.  Our only crimes were not being born with independent wealth and believing that education was the key to success. Keep applying for jobs, keep going on interviews, keep looking for openings.  You will find something eventually.  You will, of course, have good days and bad days during the process.  I certainly did.  Have someone to vent to: a friend, a significant other, a family member.  And, if you are sick of venting to those people, send me an email.  I'm always like to commiserate.

Best of luck everyone!  And as I said in my prior post, I will still be blogging.  Exposing the higher education scam is just as important as ever, and I will be here doing my part as long as I can.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My baby takes the morning train...

...and as of next Wednesday, so will I.

Yes, you read that right.  Last night I found out that I got a full-time job.  It is a non-legal job, but it pays well enough.  I don't know if the law degree had any impact on the hiring process, but I think the writing skills I learned will be somewhat useful for the position.   I can't swear to that, obviously, but they might.

I will admit it:  I am really excited about this job.  It has been a difficult few months and my self esteem took a bit of a hit.  Will I be giving up the fight?  Not a chance.  This good news has energized me and I am more committed than ever to fighting the law school/higher education scam.

Thanks for all of the emails and comments of support I received during the process.  I have some great readers.