Archive | February, 2012

7 Tips That Will Make You More Confident

29 Feb

Have you ever looked up to someone and wondered how they became so confident? I do this all the time. There is something fascinating about the person who can stand up to their peers and tell them how it is without flinching a muscle or someone who give a sales pitch to 10 top executives without breaking a sweat. Every time I find myself mesmerized by these types of people I wonder how and when they became so confident. Was it after they landed a big deal? Was it something they have always had? Was it something that came over time?

We all know that confidence is a must for success in business and life in general. Having confidence makes it easier for you to connect with people and makes other people trust and respect you. While confidence is the key to success, it is not often easily obtained. I find myself struggling with having confidence every day. Here are some tips and suggestions to help you build your confidence that have worked for me:

1.  Put Yourself Out There.

Sure, speaking up at a meet may be intimidating, but if you have something to contribute, then contribute. When you push yourself outside of your comfort zone you will find that confidence will follow. Just think, if you speak up in a meeting and your comment goes over well, wouldn’t that make you feel good about yourself? Of course! The more you put yourself out there and let your voice be heard the more confidence you will have. Don’t be a wallflower, be noticeable!

A lot of times I feel too nervous or shy to speak up, but I find that when I do my anxiety goes away. We all have situations or circumstances that intimidate us, but if we push ourselves through those situations or circumstances you will find that confidence will follow.

2.  Don’t Always Assume That Other People Are Smarter Than You.

When I was in law school I always beat myself up assuming that others were smarter or better than me. I found that when a professor asked a question I didn’t know the answer to and a classmate answered correctly, I felt stupid and inferior. I remember one day being completely confused by the topic of damages in my Contracts class and crying myself to sleep after a girl in class got an answer I hadn’t even considered. While this sounds absolutely crazy, people think other people are better than them all of the time.

Think about it, have you ever looked at a colleague and assumed that everything they said was better or smarter than you? When you do this you are cutting yourself short and instantly shooting down your own confidence. Rather than assuming that Suzy Q is smarter than you, focus on yourself and your own growth. If Suzy Q does something amazing in a meeting, learn from it and try to make yourself better.

The more you realize how smart you are the more confidence you will have. Stop focusing on others and focus on yourself.

3.  Have People You Can Turn To.

It is always important to have people you can go to when you are feeling down, have a “stupid” question, or just need some advice. These people need to encourage you and make you feel better about yourself. Try not to associate and rely on people who tend to be suck-ups or yes-men. These people will always tell you what you want to hear, and that is not what you need. What you need is a tight-knit group that will be honest with you and help you grow personally and professionally.

Being that I am so young and new to the work environment, I haven’t quite found my tight-knit group yet. When I find that I am upset, scared, or nervous I turn to my husband, my non-lawyer friends, or my mom. The people you turn to don’t need to be in your field, they just need to have your best interests in mind.

4.  Help Someone Else.

If you find that you don’t have anything to do offer to help someone around the office, in your neighborhood, or at the local charity. The more people you help the better you will feel about yourself. This “help” doesn’t always have to be work related. Just helping out your local charity will give you the boost you need to be more confident in yourself. I find that helping people always makes me feel like I am contributing to society and valued by those around me, which in turn gives me more confidence.

5.  Wake Up Every Morning And Say Something Positive.

We all wake up on the wrong side of the bed sometimes. It is in those very moments that a positive thought will get you through the day and bring back your confidence. One of my good friends used to tape inspiring quotes all over her bathroom so that when she got ready in the morning she would see them. At first I thought this was a little strange, but when I found myself reading the quotes as I got ready in her bathroom it all made sense. The quotes make you happy about yourself.

 When you are feeling down about your recent work performance, about your health, or about working that day, just telling yourself “Today is going to be a good day,” will make everything a little easier. Positive thoughts about yourself always lead to confidence.

6.  Work In An Encouraging Work Environment.

A person could have all the confidence and positivity in the world, but if they work in an environment or for a person that always brings them down the confidence won’t last long. To be the best worker, the best person, and the most confident that you can be, you need to make sure that you are working in an environment that promotes growth and positivity. Who wants to deal with a boss that yells all the time or with coworkers that constantly put each other down? Not me.

7.  The Sky Is The Limit.

We all have big dreams. A lot of times I find myself day dreaming about my career ten years from now. I dream about being a great attorney, a fictional writer, a renowned blogger, and a role model for young women. While some of these things may happen, others won’t and I know that. If I spend my time focusing on the fact that it is hard to get a fictional novel published then I won’t take the time to actually sit down and write one. If I focus on the fact that it takes a long time to build a blog fan base I may be discouraged. Rather than focusing on the “what if’s,” it is important to focus on the many possibilities. Dream, and dream big. It is those dreams and the hope for a great future that will give you the confidence you need to be great in business.

Preparing for a Lunch Meeting

28 Feb

The one-on-one lunch meeting can oftentimes be intimidating. For me I fear having nothing to talk about or having long, drawn-out silences that send my heart pounding. For others they may fear fumbling over their words or saying the wrong thing. Whatever your fears, you are not alone. The one-on-one meeting with someone you have never met should be a little awkward. How often do we really go sit down with people we don’t know? While some people may tell you not to worry because it is “just lunch,” the truth is that it is never “just lunch.” People don’t just go have lunch with people they don’t know for no reason, but this fact doesn’t have to scare you. Here are some tips for conquering your first lunch meeting.

1.  Prepare Ahead of Time.

The first thing you should do to get ready for a lunch meeting is to get familiar with the restaurant you will be meeting at. If it is in a location you haven’t been before you might want to check it out before the meeting. I find that if I go scope something about before the actual event I feel less nervous the day of. If you are like me, seeing the parking situation, the restaurant, and knowing your way around the cross-streets may ease your nerves a bit. This is especially important if you are meeting someone for a lunch interview.

2.  Arriving On Time.

The first rule you need to remember for every lunch meeting is to BE ON TIME. Remember, if you are early you are on time. If you are on time you are late. If you are late don’t bother coming. On top of the fact that being punctual is a necessity in every business occasion, it is never nice to keep your host waiting by themselves. You wouldn’t want them to regret asking you to lunch, would you?

To be on the safe side it is a good idea to leave a little earlier and plan for traffic. I always try to get to a lunch meeting about thirty minutes early. This allows me time to gather myself and use the restroom if I need to.

3.  Waiting For Your Host.

If you arrive earlier than your host you can either take a seat at the table or wait in the bar area. If the bar area is far away from the entrance of the restaurant I would recommend taking a seat at the table. Remember, just because you are in the bar area DOES NOT mean you can have an alcoholic beverage.

The second rule you need to remember for every lunch meeting is to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER have alcohol. I don’t care if your host orders a drink and suggests that you order one too. If you are trying to land a client or the job you need to be on your best behavior. You cannot take the chance that alcohol may make you stumble over your words or have a brain-fart.

If you do decide to take a seat at the table you can go ahead and order your water or soft drink. Don’t worry, it’s not rude.

4.  Navigating the Conversation.

Once your host arrives allow them to lead the conversation. While you may be antsy to get to the, “So, why are we here?” part of the conversation, you shouldn’t be the one to bring that up. If they want to get right down to business then go ahead, but it is likely that they will engage in a little “small talk” before they get down to business.

To be prepared to engage in “small talk” with your host, it may be good for you to do some reasearch on him/her. Find out what your hosts interests are and where they have worked. Learn about their background and anything else that may help you in those moments of awkward silence. The more you know about the host the easier the “small talk” will be.

If your host is a male, try to stay on topic as much as you can. As we all know, men can be single-minded and focused on one subject at a time. This means that they have a hard time jumping from subject to subject without getting irritated. Remember the last time you asked your significant other to go shopping with you? Do you also remember how annoyed he got when you looked at the cute new summer dresses when you told him that you were shopping for shoes? The point is that men like to stay on point, so if you are speaking to a male be cognizant of that fact.

5. Ordering Food and Eating.

When ordering food make sure that you order food that is easy to eat. Can you imagine talking to an interviewer or someone who is about to invest $1 million in your business when you have food falling out of your mouth? Avoid foods that you have to eat with your hands or that have a tendency to splatter. It is best to get something light and easy to eat, such as a salad, or something that can be cut neatly with a knife and fork.

If your food comes out differently than you ordered, like your salad has dressing on it when you ordered your dressing on the side, don’t complain about. The last thing you want is for your host to think that you didn’t like the restaurant. If it is a place where you normally would never eat, suck it up and order something. Just go with the flow and make the host think that you are enjoying your meal. Chances are that they really like the restaurant themselves.  

When your meal is finished and your server asks you if you would like coffee, follow the host’s lead. Nothing is more annoying than waiting for that person who orders a cappuccino when everyone is ready to go.

6.  The Bill.

If the host is the one that invited you out to lunch for a specific purpose, such as an interview or to engage you for business purposes, the host should always pay the bill. While this part of any meal can definitely be awkward, you shouldn’t make it any more awkward than it has to be. There is no need to offer to pay or continue the conversation while he is paying if it has fizzled.

7.  Thank You’s.

The last rule you need to remember is to say THANK YOU when the meal is finished. It is also important that you follow the verbal thank you with an actual thank you note. This note can be via email or by regular mail.

* * *

I know that the lunch meeting can be tricky and intimidating for those of you who are a little shy, but it is not impossible. With a little guidance from me and some confidence you can nail the meeting or interview and leave a great, lasting impression. Good luck!

7 Things Your Co-Workers Don’t Want To Hear About

27 Feb

No matter what type of office environment you have at your current job, i.e. young and energetic, reserved, all-business-no-talk, or somewhere in between, everyone chats with their fellow co-workers from time to time. Heck, we spend more time with these people then we do with our own families, right? Sometimes I find myself becoming quite comfortable with my co-workers and talking about things that are far beyond the workplace. I know that sometimes these talks can lead to workplace drama and the spreading of rumors, that is why I tend to choose my words carefully around my colleagues. Of course we all know that politics, religion, sex, and anything in between is completely off-limits when it comes to subject matters you shouldn’t be discussing with your co-workers, but have you ever wondered what other things you shouldn’t be discussing with your co-workers? Here are 7 things I think you should leave out of your cubicle chats:

1.  Problems Conceiving or Other Intimate Baby Problems.

At one of my old jobs there was this young woman, recently married, who was trying to have a baby with her husband. She was always one of those people who just looked down in the dumps. So, naturally, you would ask her if everything was ok. That is the polite thing to do, right? Wrong. These how-are-you-doing questions always lead to her divulging her entire medical history and her inability to conceive. Sure, such a topic is ok to discuss with those whom you are REALLY close to, but not with everyone at the office. I found myself trying to avoid being alone with this woman for fear of being sucked into a sad conversation about her cervix, the shots she was taking, and her period. We all know and understand that being unable to conceive is hard on someone and can cause a lot of stress in their lives, but please, please, please don’t share it with everyone you know!

2.  Weekend Recap.

The one question everyone asks each other on Monday mornings is, “How was your weekend?” The normal response would be to tell them that you weekend was great or relaxing or too short. The wrong response is to go into details about how you partied until the wee hours of the night, woke up in someone else’s bed, and puked your brains out the following morning. Remember that rumors around the office spread fast, so be careful what you put out there. The last thing you want is for your boss to hear that story. Despite the fact that these escapades happened on the weekend when you were not representing your employer, your employer may assume that you act that way out of work all of the time. Attracting negative attention to yourself is never good, so avoid the partying and sex related stories.

3.  Wedding Planning.

Sure, all of your co-workers are excited that you are recently engaged and probably can’t wait to be invited and attend your wedding, but this doesn’t mean that they want to hear about every single detail of your wedding planning. When someone asks, “How’s the wedding planning coming along?” they really don’t want you to go into details about the cocktail napkins you ordered with your wedding date on them. Instead, they want a short conversation where you tell them that the planning is going well. Sure, if you are particularly close with some of your co-workers it may be ok to go into more detail, but be careful who you make listen to your wedding planning stories.

4.  Family Drama. 

Everyone on earth has had or is currently experiencing some sort of family drama. Whether it is a divorce, a child getting in trouble, someone getting hurt, or something really juicy, no one wants to hear about it. Everyone has their own family issues and the last thing they want is to hear someone griping about their family issues everyday at work. The last thing you want is for your boss to think that your mind isn’t on your work.

The same girl who always talked about her inability to conceive always came to work and told us about her marital problems. The only thing this did was lead to gossip among the co-workers discussing whether we believed her husband was abusive or not. At the end of the day we had no idea whether he was the nasty person she was portraying him to be, but her stories definitely lead to some workplace gossip. In an effort to keep your family out of the gossip and to avoid people hating your significant other, keep your marital and relationship problems to yourself.

5. Salary and Raises.

Most of you should hopefully know that talking about your salary, raises, and bonuses with your co-workers is completely off-limits. But, just in case you didn’t know, I decided to add this to the list. A person’s salary, like a person’s religion, is an extremely personal matter. If you tell your co-worker that you got a $20,000 raise and he only got a $2,000 raise, how do you think that is going to make your co-worker feel? Worthless, stupid, and incapable. It is always best to keep salary conversations to yourself no matter what, even if you are good friends. No one wants to feel bad about their raises or salary. The only thing salary talks will lead to is workplace gossip and conversations about why Bobby doesn’t deserve the salary he gets.

6. Negative Views of Your Co-Workers.

When I go out to lunch with my co-workers we often end up talking about work and the people at work. While discussing matters that everyone knows about (like Mr. X’s wife having a baby the previous week) is ok, telling your co-workers that you hate or highly dislike another co-worker is NEVER appropriate. This applies to those whom you consider good friends. We would all like to think that when we tell our “friends” at work certain things about other co-workers that it would stay between the two of you, but this rarely ever happens. Rumors always go around and someone always tells someone else what you said badly about your co-worker. It is best to keep these thoughts to yourself in order to avoid workplace drama and unnecessarily hurt feelings.

7. Complaining About Your Job or Boss.

Everyone has had a bad day or week at work, but this doesn’t give you a free pass to complain about your job or your mean boss to other co-workers. Too often I hear people complaining about how their boss is a jerk, is in a bad mood, or just plain sucks. Sure, you may be thinking those things, but in an effort to avoid looking like a constant complainer, keep those thoughts to yourself. My advice is to not say anything to another co-worker that you wouldn’t say to your boss’s face. You would certainly never want any of those negative comments to get back to your boss and then have to explain yourself, would you?

Socializing is oftentimes a part of going to work, and that is fine. Just remember that co-workers, whether or not they are your good friends, have their own interests in mind. So, rather than divulging every personal detail about yourself, keep the conversations fluffy and not too personal. Of course there are those of us that have really good work friends, or think that we do, but my advice is to make sure you know that these people are real friends before you discuss any of the above topics. At work it is always better to tread lightly.

BEWARE: Tricky Interview Questions Ahead

24 Feb

You have submitted your resume, called back to see if they received it, and then, after what seems like an eternity, you FINALLY receive the call that they want to call you in for an interview. While this may seem like great news in today’s market, don’t get too excited. Remember, you always have to be prepared for an interview and the tricky questions the interviewer will have up their sleeves.

According to an article by Jenna Goudreau entitled Watch Out! Ten Interview Questions Designed To Trick You, Joyce Lain Kennedy, author of Job Interviews for Dummies, says that hiring managers spend countless hours interviewing potential candidate after potential candidate. In order to sift through the qualified candidates and the not so qualified candidates, Kennedy says that hiring managers often use “tricky questions.” According to Kennedy, the following are some of the “tricky questions” hiring managers ask to catch job hunters off guard:

1.  Why Have You Been Out of Work So Long, and Why Were You Laid Off?

If you read my post Why Are Gen Yers So Unhappy you will remember me saying that Gen Yers who sit around waiting for the right job will have a hard time explaining to potential employers why they have been unemployed for so long. According to Kennedy, the interviewer may be trying to determine whether you are a “second string employee.” Kennedy states that while the employer might not come straight out and ask why you were laid off right away, if they ask any questions regarding your lay off they will likely be trying to determine whether or not you were considered a “second string employee” that was not worth keeping around. Rather than answering the interviewer honestly, Kennedy suggests that you simply suggest that you have no idea why you were laid off because you were a great, hard-working employee.

I do think, however, that if you have seriously been looking for work and have been unable to find ANYTHING, then you should be honest about that aspect of your job hunting experience. Of course, if you were laid off because you stole something and can’t find a job because you don’t have reference, maybe telling the truth is not such a good idea.

2.  If You Are Employed Right Now, How Are You Able to Come to an Interview?

According to Kennedy, the interviewer is trying to see whether you have a pattern of short-changing and lying to employers. The best way to respond is to tell the interviewer that you have taken personal time for the interview and that you only go to interviews that seem like great opportunities and great fits. Kennedy suggests that if additional interviews are requested, you should ask for an interview time outside of normal work hours.

While job hunting when you currently have a job is tricky and maybe slightly unethical in some instances, it is possible. I found my current job while I was employed by someone else. I only went on two interviews the entire time I was looking and it was only because those jobs were jobs that sounded like jobs I wanted. I didn’t go on an interview for a job I wouldn’t have taken had they offered it to me on the spot. My advice is to be picky if you are employed and have that luxury. You definitely don’t want to give off the impression that you go on any interview that you have a chance to go on when you already have a job.

3.  Do You Know Anyone Who Works For Us?

A lot of times we assume that having a connection on the inside will help us. According to Kennedy, having a connection on the inside will only help you if you are absolutely sure of that person’s standing within the organization. It won’t help you to have a buddy pass along your resume if that buddy is seen as a slacker within the company. Kennedy suggests that, because the employer will likely associate your friend’s traits and characteristics with you, make sure you really know your friend and their standing within the organization.

4.  How Does This Positions Compare To Others You Are Applying For?

Kennedy states that the “intent is to gather intel on the competitive job market or what it will take to bring you on board.” According to Kennedy there are two ways to approach this issue, you can either say that you don’t talk about other interviews or you can say that you have received other competitive offers. Personally, I don’t like either approach. The first approach makes you sound stuffy and secretive, and the second option makes you sound cocky. Of course, if you have really received another offer you should bring it up as long as you are sure it won’t ruffle any feathers. But I would tread lightly and make think through whether or not the interviewer would react positively or negatively to this. If you don’t want to discuss other interviews that you have been on, then simply suggest that you have not been on any. Sure, this may make them think that you are not as highly demanded, but at least you don’t sound like a complete tool when you say you don’t feel comfortable discussing other interviews.

There are other deceptive questions that interviewers try to ask that you should check out in Jenna’s article on Forbes. The bottom line is that landing the interview does not mean that you have landed the job, so be prepared.

Avoiding Little Mistakes At Work

23 Feb

Last week I had one of those days where it seemed like everything I was doing was wrong. I went into a partner’s office to discuss a new matter when she FINALLY gave me some feedback on a brief I had worked on the month before. I realized two things while she was giving me feedback: (1) I am not as consistent and detail-oriented as I want and/or need to be, and (2) I have a hard time accepting constructive criticism. The mistakes that she pointed out where not major mistakes. They were the kind of mistakes you make when you have a lot on your plate, are time crunched, and are working too fast. My mistakes where things like not having the page number the same font as the body of the brief, not taking out a reference to a party that was not involved when I super-copied some text, and making sure that there wasn’t a page break where there shouldn’t be one. Thankfully the comments were not substance oriented, which would have upset me even more, but hearing a comment from your boss saying, “make sure to check the dates, remember it’s not 2011 anymore,” it makes you feel completely stupid and incapable.  

As I was reading the list of comments the partner provided to me, which was actually very helpful, I got a phone call from another partner, we will call him Jack, who wanted to discuss an assignment I had worked on for him. I can remember my heart pounding in my chest and my anxiety rising as I walked down to Jack’s office. While I am normally an anxiety-prone person, I typically don’t get anxiety from speaking to my colleagues. But this day was different. I just had that feeling that something else would go wrong. As we discussed the results I had found for him, it seemed like I couldn’t provide him with the answer he was looking  for. It wasn’t that I hadn’t spent time on the assignment or that I didn’t know what I was talking about, it was just that I didn’t know his personal style for discussing the particular type of matter. Basically I think I came to the meeting too prepared and rehearsed when all he really wanted to do was have a casual conversation.

The next day Jack asked me to sit in on a meeting with him and another colleague. The point of me sitting in on the meeting was so I could learn his style and see how the colleague spoke to him about her findings. Sitting in on the meeting was a great learning experience and really showed me that he wanted to help me grow, but it still stung. It made me wish that I didn’t need those tutorials. I learned two things with my interaction with Jack: (1) while being prepared is always good, being too prepared can sometimes backfire, and (2) learning how an individual works takes time and patience.

We all make mistakes at work, this I know, but I got so frustrated with myself because I don’t want to be one of those people. No, I am not a perfectionist, but I pride myself on my work product and don’t want anyone to ever think that I didn’t take enough time or put enough effort into a particular assignment. While I aim to be the perfect employee, last week taught me that in order for me to be the great employee and attorney that I want to be I will need to make some mistakes along the way. All I can do is learn from my mistakes and move forward, right? I mean, that is what life is all about. No one is perfect at anything right from the start. While feeling anxiety, depression, or anger regarding silly mistakes is good because it lets you know that you care, it is ultimately a waste of time. Rather than focusing on the mistakes and beating myself up about them I should be continuing to grow. I should be learning from my mistakes.

So, this week I have set new goals for myself. (1) Pay more attention to details, (2) Take things as slowly as I need to, (3) Don’t be so impatient with the learning process, and (4) try to take all constructive criticism constructively rather than personally.

Have you ever made mistakes at work? How did they make you feel? How did you learn from those mistakes?

Women Are Still Underrepresented in America

21 Feb

I must admit that I am a little behind on the whole birth control debate that swarmed the blogs last week. For those of you who don’t know, on Thursday, February 16, 2012, five male Congressional leaders held a hearing about women’s access to birth control. More specifically, the hearing was regarding whether or not religious employers should be required to pay for birth control for their female employees. Despite the fact that this issue is dubbed a “woman’s issue,” there were no women invited to partake in the hearing and there were no women at the Congressional table. Religious or not, the hearing was being held to make decisions about a woman’s body, yet no women were invited to give their opinion. Isn’t it strange that women are 51%of the population, yet they still don’t have a say when it comes to their reproductive rights.

In addition to last week’s Congressional hearing, the State Legislature of Virginia passed some awful law requiring women seeking an abortion to receive a trans-vaginal ultrasound, which requires the insertion of a probe inside of a woman’s vagina, whether or not she agrees or wants an ultrasound. This bill, if passed, will be considered one of the toughest ultrasound laws passed in the states. What is most shocking to me about the trans-vaginal ultrasound is that there is a noninvasive ultrasound procedure that could be adopted instead. The law will also require a printout of the ultrasound to be placed in the woman’s records, whether or not she wants to view it. To put it another way, Virginia has authorized State sanctioned rape when a woman decides that she wants, or in some instances needs, an abortion.

Then, to top it all off, Rick Santorum backer, Foster Friess, told host Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC that “Back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.” Essentially Friess was telling women to keep their legs closed, and getting annoyed that a debate on contraceptives was even going on. Seriously? Does this guy still live in the 1940’s? Does he not see how we live in a hypersexualized society? Does he not see that the media often depicts women in a derogatory manner, making young girls think that sexualized activity is normal? Freiss’s comment makes it sound as if the increase in sex among young, and even old, women is simply due to the fact that these women can’t keep their legs closed. This guys needs to come to grips with reality and open his eyes.

Now, although it may seem like I am, I am not trying to talk politics or religion. I am simply writing to express how concerned I am that more women are not represented in the U.S. government. I am also frustrated that despite our grandmothers’ and great-grandmothers’ efforts, women still don’t have a say when it comes to their reproductive rights. Women hold only 90 of the 535 seats in Congress, which is an astonishing 16.8% of seats within the U.S government. Only women are currently acting as state governors and only 35 women have ever held a governorship.  What statistics cannot explain, pictures can. In an article entitled It’s Reigning Men: Birth Control Panel As One Float in DC’s Televised Patriarchy Parade, Karrin Anderson showed various pictures proving that it is mostly men who debate the hot topics in Washington that have an impact us. The pictures prove that women still don’t have a seat at the table when it comes to important decisions.

If the past week has shown women anything, it should be that we are not adequately represented in our government. Because of this, we cannot automatically assume that equality will come from our government and the laws and policies they enforce or enact. Sure, there are some men who have women’s interests in mind, but men and women often have different views on such issues and men don’t really understand what it is like to be a woman. Does a man really know what its like to have a probe inserted into their vagina? Do they know how uncomfortable that could make a young woman feel? I doubt it.

So what solutions do we have? The only solution I see is to encourage other women to run for political office. Women need to come together and support, rather than criticize, female candidates. Sure, we may not like Sarah Palin’s politics or Hillary Clinton’s stance on a particular issue, but that doesn’t mean that we need to put her down. Women need the support of other women. We need to support all women that run for political office as they are our only chance at equality.

How can you get involved with this cause? There are a lot of organizations out there trying to ensure that women are adequately represented in government, such as the National Women’s Political Caucus, The 2012 Project, and Off the Sidelines.

In my opinion younger women need to step up and help women become better represented in Congress. What are you going to do?

 

The Truth About Law School: What They Forget to Tell you

20 Feb

Picture via Girlinyourworld.blogspot.com

I have to admit, I am a pretty big fan of drama shows or movies portraying the lives of lawyers. Mostly I like these types of shows because they are completely inaccurate and make the life of a lawyer look far more interesting than it really is. I recently got into the show The Good Wife. While I do like the way Alicia is portrayed as a hard-working litigator, I don’t like the way that the show makes it look as if the life of an associate attorney at a big Chicago firm is as exciting as it is. In real life, a big firm would not allow two associate attorneys to try a murder trial; instead, Alicia would be up to her head in case-law. I would guess that it would take Alicia five years of paper pushing before she actually stepped foot into the courtroom. Then there is Legally Blonde, where the dumb valley girl gets into Harvard Law, graduates top of her class, and then goes on to become a member of congress. Sure, achieving such things may be possible, but not likely for someone like Elle Woods. And how about The Lincoln Lawyer, where a bad ass (and sleazy) attorney suddenly has a change of heart when he represents a defendant that he discovers actually committed the murder (no way).  Now, if I weren’t a lawyer and really knew what the day-to-day life was like, these movies would make me want to run right over to the closest law school and submit an application. The truth is the being a lawyer is nothing like what the media portrays. Maybe these media portrayals are responsible for the increase in law school applications.

In 2009 and 2010, many college grads turned to law school so that they could finally stop the useless job hunt and have a safe and stable career as a lawyer. In 2010 alone there were 87,900 applicants to law school. While this may not sound like that many applicants, you have to keep in mind that there are only 200 accredited law schools throughout the U.S.  That is about 439 new potential lawyers for each school (if every applicant is accepted somewhere). Although this number went down in 2011, likely due to the fact that people are FINALLY starting to realize that being a lawyer doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a job, there is still an alarmingly high number of college grads running to law school in hopes of a better future. This fact scares me!

This post is not about statistics or about the media’s portrayal of lawyers, it is about the things law schools don’t tell you. It is about the things that people don’t know until they are graduated and take the time to reflect back upon their law school experience. I am writing this post to enlighten those of you who have an inkling to go to law school. While I am not trying to discourage those of you who want to go, I am going to share those things with you that I wish I had known before I sent in my application. These are the things, in my opinion, that law schools don’t tell you:

Grades Are Important, but They Are Not THAT Important

Anyone who has gone to law school or has read any sort of law school book, like 1L,  knows that grades are important. You need good grades to get scholarships, to be considered for certain internships, summer associate positions, or judicial clerkships, and to make people even want to read your resume. Getting good grades in law school is definitely not a cake walk, but it is possible. If you find yourself with a B or a C at the end of the semester, it isn’t the end of the world. Trust me! Surely you don’t want to be the person who has a C average, but getting one “bad” grade is not going to kill you.

I graduated from law school 13th in my class. So, needless to say, I had pretty good grades. All of the administrators in law school always told us that if we had great grades we would be able to land those big law firm jobs that pay at least the $100,000 to start. We were told that if we had good grades we would get a clerkship in a federal court, which is a highly coveted position. They told us that if we had good grades things would just be easier. The only thing my good grades did for me was get me a summer associate position at a big Dallas law firm paying me big law firm wages. Good grades didn’t make me an automatic shoo-in for the job. Good grades didn’t teach me how important it was to be able to schmooze with the attorneys that summer. Good grades didn’t land me a job at one of the  numerous clerkship positions I applied for.  And when I moved to Georgia after graduating law school, my good grades didn’t get me the best job in Atlanta.

My point is that while grades are important, they are not the end all be all of job opportunities. Sure, it is self satisfying to know that you got the highest grade in your federal jurisdiction class,  but knowing that doesn’t get you a job. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how good your grades are if you don’t have connections, contacts, or know how to network. You could also have straight A’s, but if you graduated from a third-tier law school that won’t matter. Who do you think law firms want to hire, a 2.5 from Columbia Law School or a 3.7 from some law school no one has ever heard of? So yeah, grades are important, but they will not define you as a lawyer and will not make you an automatic shoo-in for law firm jobs.

No One Cares About Moot Court

Everyone always tells you that you should either do moot court or law review when you are in law school. Both are competitive extra curricular activities that you essentially have to “try out” for. While doing moot court and getting the experience of arguing/litigating a case is great, employers don’t really care about your moot court experience. Every job that I have ever applied for has required or seriously preferred that you have law review on your resume. How often have you ever applied for a job that required moot court? So, while moot court is great experience, if you want one of those big law jobs law review is a MUST.

Those Job Stats That Law Schools Put Out For Each Graduating Class Are NOT Accurate

For those of you who don’t know, fifty plus law school grads are suing their alma maters alleging that the law schools they graduated from lied on their job placement statistics. Suits have been filed against the following law schools. I have included the alleged “employment” statistics:

  • Albany Law School (reports rates of between 91% and 97%);
  • Brooklyn Law School (reports rates of between 91% and 98%);
  • California Western School of Law (reports rates of between 90% and 93%);
  • Chicago-Kent College of Law (reports rates of between 90% and 97%);
  • DePaul University College of Law (reports rates of between 93% and 98%);
  • Florida Coastal School of Law (reports rates of between 80% and 95%);
  • Hofstra Law School (reports rates of between 94% and 97%);
  • John Marshall School of Law (Chicago) (reports rates of between 90% and 100%);
  • Pace University School of Law (reports rates of between 90% and 95%);
  • Southwestern Law School (reports rates of between 97% and 98%);
  • St. John’s University School of Law (reports rates of between 88% and 96%);
  • University of Baltimore School of Law (reports rates of between 93% and 95%);
  • University of San Francisco School of Law (reports rates of between 90% and 95%);
  • Villanova University School of Law (reports rates of between 93% and 98%); and
  • Widener University School of Law (reports rates of between 90% and 96%).

 In 2011, almost all top 100 law schools reported nine-month employment rates of at least 90%. This means that 90% of those who graduated from a particular law school apparently held “legal” jobs within nine months of graduating.  NALP similarly alleged that 88.2% of all law school grads were “employed” within nine months of graduation; however, these number reflected those working in non-legal jobs and part-time jobs. If those non-legal and part-time jobs were excluded, only 62.9% of law school grads were “employed” within nine months of graduation.

After my husband and I graduated from Michigan State University College of Law we received one of those inevitable are-you-employed forms in the mail. The form asked if I was employed in a position where I was receiving a salary or if I was unemployed and seeking work. While MSU does separate their job placement data based on legal jobs and non-legal jobs, it doesn’t necessarily specify what those “non-legal jobs” are. For example, are those people who wanted a non-legal job? Are those people working at Starbucks? Or are those people who couldn’t land a legal job, and as a result had to take a non-legal job?

Of course statistics can always be a little misleading, but 90% placement after graduation in this economy, seriously? So, for all of you out there who believe these employment statistics and hope to be one of the 90% employed after graduation, take into consideration that “employed” may include being a barista at Starbucks.

You Will Not be Able to Enjoy Those High Paying Salaries

Sure, if you are lucky enough to land a big law job you will be making $100,000 or more each year, but you won’t be able to enjoy those salaries if you owe $100,000 in student debt. For some insight into law school debt, check out my post. They say that the average law school graduate comes out of school with about $97,310 of debt. YIKES! While paying that debt off with a salary of $100,000 a year may seem possible, let me tell you that it is not as easy as it seems. I came out of law school with about that much debt and I currently pay about $700 a month. How long will it take me to pay off my debt? 30 years! So, sure, law jobs can pay you a lot, but they forget to tell you how much you will owe to the government once you graduate.

Don’t get me wrong, being a lawyer is challenging and intellectually stimulating, which a lot of jobs are not, but make sure that it is really what you want to do. Make sure you will be happy working long, hard hours for little pay.

Do you wish someone would have told you something about law school before you applied?