South Texas College of Law Annotations (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 40, No. 2, Ed. 1, October, 2007 Page: 7 of 8
If your job search leaves you little to be
thankful for, count your blessings
By Donna Gerson
Poet T. S. Eliot had it wrong-
November is the cruelest month.
The days grow shorter, exams
approach like a tsunami wave of
anxiety, and the holiday season is
upon us. It's easy to feel
overwhelmed, frustrated, and a bit
lost this time of year.
Anxiety, tension, and
disappointment are all emotions
that can hamper your job search.
Too oñen I see law students who
are so focused on a particular
shortcoming-for example, failure
to make law review or achieve an
A in Torts-that they dwell on this
fact to the exclusion of other
As a group, law students are
among the most ambitious, self-
critical people I have ever
encountered. The drive to achieve
accounts for their astonishing
successes in all sectors of the
professional world, but these
successes sometimes come with
a high price. By focusing unduly
on shortcomings, students deprive
themselves of the opportunity to
explore different career paths and
academic offerings, to become
leaders within the law school
community, and to contribute to
So, November might be an
appropriate time to give thanks for
all of your achievements and
begin to chart a course for the
coming year that will help you
reach your individual career goals.
Redefine success. Law school
emphasizes a very quantitative
definition of success: Professors
usually grade their students on a
strict curve; moot court
competitions rank participants in
order of skill; the on-campus
interview process targets specific
students who meet an employer's
profile. Law, in general, is
premised on winning or losing, so
it's easy to become caught up in
an either/or definition of success
early in your career.
Marti Moore, a career
counselor in private practice,
notes that when students are
immersed in a specific subculture,
they judge themselves by that
subculture's narrowest definition
of success. Many law students
become slaves to grades as the
sole measure of their success and,
as a result, a barometer of self-
esteem. While your GPA is
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important, grades alone don't
translate into long-term career
Daniel P. Goleman's
groundbreaking book, Emotional
Intelligence (Bantam Books,
1997), discusses the concept of
emotional intelligence as a
stronger indicator of life success
than IQ alone. He defines
emotional intelligence by factors
such as self-awareness, altruism,
personal motivation, empathy,
and the ability to love and be
loved by friends, partners, and
While focusing on doing your
best academically is important,
equally-if not more-essential is to
maintain a balance among classes,
your job search, and a meaningful
personal life. Take time this
month to cultivate your emotional
intelligence, as well as your raw
intellect. Enjoy the outdoors.
Connect with friends outside of
law school. Go for a walk. Visit a
museum. Share your feelings with
others or through journal writing.
Moore highly recommends
journaling as a way to assess your
anxieties and to keep things in
perspective. Recent studies on
journal keepers note that the act
of writing about feelings is itself
Deal with disappointment
Mick Jagger was right: You can't
always get what you want. Your
dream employer may ding you.
You won't receive every
interview, nor will you receive
every offer. In fact, every single
law student will encounter
frustration with a job search at
some point in the process, and that
will entail rejection that can be
both painful and disappointing.
Realize that you might not always
get what you want, but with a little
introspection and information
gathering, you will eventually get
what you need.
Caroline M. Olson, manager of
attorney recruitment for Morgan
Lewis & Bockius LLP in
Philadelphia, stresses the
importance of remaining positive
throughout the job search.
"Despite the fact that the job
search process can be a grueling
one, you do need to work to
maintain confidence that you have
value. [Students] may not get the
first-or even the fifth-job that they
want, but they will eventually find
a job with the right fit," Olson
"Despite your best efforts,
there will be times when every
inquiry is met with, 'Sorry, we're
not hiring (you!),' and you begin
to think the words job hunt and
failure Ate synonyms," says
Deborah Arron, author of What
Can You Do with a Law Degree?
(Niche Press, 4th ed., 1999). "So
get a sense of accomplishment
from tasks you can control instead
of believing that getting a job is
the only measure of success.
Consider your day successful if,
for example, you nail down an
appointment, or make three
telephone calls, or write a thank-
you letter the same day as an
appointment, or put in a full job-
search day. These little successes
will keep you going through all
the ups and downs that lead to the
Some students rebound from
rejection with equanimity and
continue to plug away at the job
search. Other students become
mired in the negativity of the
moment and waste precious time
and emotional energy. If you find
yourself feeling angry, frustrated,
. or cynical about the job-search
process, honor those feelings. But
then give yourself a deadline for
feeling lousy and move on.
Clarify your goals. Harboring
a vague notion of what to do after
graduation can contribute to high
stress levels. When I ask students
what they want, they sometimes
look at me, stunned, and answer,
"a job." Simply wanting a job is
not enough; the more specific you
can be about your employment
goals, the more likely you will be
to experience success.
Wherever you are in the law
school process, take some time to
assess your career goals. By
separating and prioritizing your
professional and personal goals,
you will have a clearer picture of
where you need to focus your
attention. Ask yourself:
• What law school classes have
What practice areas interest
• What kind of work
environment would best suit
my personal style?
Where would I like to live?
Am I limiting myself by not
thinking of other locations?
Keep yourself focused on your
individual goals and the
mechanics of employment will
fall into place.
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Lewis, Tamara E. South Texas College of Law Annotations (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 40, No. 2, Ed. 1, October, 2007, newspaper, October 2007; Houston, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth144583/m1/7/ocr/: accessed September 28, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting South Texas College of Law.