Bart Scagnelli is a 2L at Loyola University Chicago. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Iowa, where he concentrated in creative writing. Bart was born and raised in the Chicago area, where he now resides.
It‘s no secret that the legal job market leaves something to be desired for law students and recent graduates. We hear about it from everyone; family, friends, professors, recent graduates, and each other. And in case you didn’t get the memo, there are an abundance of blogs, websites, and disillusioned lawyers roaming the streets that have devoted a significant portion of their existence to ensuring that each and every law student knows just how dismal our prospects for future employment may be. But in these discouraging times, I would like to offer some much needed words of resistance: don’t dwell on it.
I learned long ago that going on a job interview is a lot like a first date. You get dressed up, give yourself a pep talk, and then spend an hour or two talking with someone you barely know about what you are doing with your life. And the person on the other side of the table, be it an employer or your date, (hopefully not both), is paying a lot of attention to your personality and behavior. They are not only thinking about what you are saying, but how you say it. And why do I make this comparison? Because employers, like dates, dig confidence.
Like it or not, our conscious and subconscious insecurities have a way of making themselves known. They sneak their way into our facial expressions, tone of voice, posture, and other social cues. And these subtleties have a powerful effect on how we are identified and perceived by others, especially employers. One way to guarantee yourself some insecurity is to spend a lot of time drawing pessimistic conclusions about your ability to get a job. Sure, we need to be practical and realistic about our futures, but there is a point at which spending time and energy worrying about the poor job market is going to get you nowhere and cost you a lot. Literally.
The corrosive effect of a pessimistic approach to employment reaches beyond the confines of the interview. Airing your dissatisfaction on the Internet or at a networking opportunity is not helping you either. Sure, it can be healthy and therapeutic to express the frustration you feel, but there is a time and a place for everything. These statements might elicit the sympathy of your audience, but it is not helping you to shape your identity as a confident, outgoing person headed for success.
A pessimistic approach to the job hunt can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It hurts one’s presentation to employers, and for some it diminishes their motivation to pursue opportunities in the first place. So, the next time you see your thoughts or discussions on a crash course for that jobless, dystopian future everyone is so afraid of, I suggest changing the topic of conversation. Instead, for a change, try talking about the privilege and excitement of participating in a profession that is so rich with intellectual substance and challenging ideas. Remember that you study law because you love it, and, hey, there’s no turning back now anyways.