Tiffany Farber is a solo practitioner who has been practicing law since 2008. As someone who has been through transition in her career, she understands the challenges lawyers in this situation face.
Remember how you had to write a personal statement to get into law school? I’m betting that you didn’t write, “I want to be a lawyer because it looks like fun on Boston Legal.”
You wanted to go to law school for a specific reason, and you were able to convey that reason to the school that chose you. When you wrote your personal statement, you became more than a test score and a G.P.A. to the admissions office. It’s no different when you are applying for jobs. The person who will ultimately hire you wants to know that you are an interesting person who has had experiences that are pertinent to the job they are offering. It should be no surprise then that this week’s challenge is to write a new personal statement.
I recognize that you’re not asking to be admitted into a school, but you are asking to be chosen for a job. Perhaps you found writing a personal statement burdensome when you were applying for law school. Really, it was a great exercise for you to flesh out the reasons you wanted to become an attorney, and deep down inside you know it.
See if you can find the personal statement you wrote for law school and re-read it. Has anything changed since you wrote it? Maybe you experienced things in law school that changed your career trajectory? Since law school, have you practiced in a certain area you never thought that you would? Have you been in front of a jury or handled a real-estate closing? After you read your old personal statement, smile at the person you once were and appreciate the person you have become. Then, write a new personal statement.
This new personal statement will be just that — personal. It’s not meant to be given to a potential employer, it’s meant to help you figure out what you want to do next. Writing about yourself is a great exercise because it boosts your confidence and allows you to map out your experiences. When you think about it, a cover letter is a very similar exercise, only it’s tailored to a specific position. A cover letter serves a similar purpose as well; namely, it gives you a chance to explain to a potential employer why you would be great at the job you are applying for.
Hopefully, writing a new personal statement will get you in the mood to revamp your resume, and possibly even change your job search strategies. While writing, you may find that a particular experience you have had is far more interesting or important than you ever thought. That’s the cool thing about writing, sometimes you don’t realize something is important until you put it on paper.
If writing is painful for you, sit down with a friend or loved one and dictate your personal statement. As long as you are able to organize your thoughts and explain why certain experiences were important to you, it is still a great exercise. If you are someone who is uncomfortable talking about their accomplishments because it feels like bragging, ditch that thought. You have worked hard and you have earned the bragging rights!