Bill Wilson spent over 20 years in legal departments at corporations large and small, from high tech to brick and mortar, and is writing about various topics while trying to find that next great career opportunity.

I was reading an article during the football season about Lovie Smith, the Bears’ head coach, and the writer highlighted his philosophy of never getting too high or too low in the face of media and fan criticism of his lack of visible emotion.  There is a very important lesson here for job searchers.

A job search is a process with deep roots in frustration, despair, pressure and panic.  I think back to Lee Trevino’s old story about “pressure is having two bucks in your pocket trying to make a putt for a five dollar bet.”  Whatever money you have during a search never seems to equal what you need.  Friction between spouses is not uncommon, rooted in money, or simply unspoken fear of impending disaster.

Recruiters who never answer, or never get back to you when promised.  Being rejected for no good reason for jobs you can do in your sleep.  Creditors who don’t take no for an answer. So it can be easy to greet good news with ecstatic joy only to have it replaced five minutes later by crushing despair.

As an attorney you have had some training in dealing with this type of problem: during a negotiation, you are savvy enough not to let your opponent know what’s good and bad by your demeanor.  You maintain your equanimity, even if you just lost the one battle you had to win.  It is essential that you control your emotions and keep that even temperament in your search.

First of all, those very same people who drive you to insanity will react badly if you actually show your emotions, and hurt your efforts to find a job.  I recall a conversation I had with a recruiter at a large well known firm, who told me “I needed to get rid of the bitterness.”  This comment came seconds after I had expressed some umbrage when she told me that a job that she had posted wasn’t available to me because I wasn’t on Law Review, despite the fact that I had represented a similar business for several years quite successfully and was then fifteen years removed from my last report card.  Was she being narrow-minded and clinging to useless stereotypes?  Undoubtedly.  Yes, folks, there are idiots out there, lots of them unfortunately, some in high ranking jobs.  But telling them who they are will not help you, no matter how much you want to.

Second, and far more important, it will hurt you in many other ways.  If you are what you eat physically, then you are what you feel mentally.  It’s going to be enormously difficult to project the confident, ready-for-anything persona that most legal employers want to see in a candidate if you are wallowing in a puddle of self-pity.  You might exude instead a somewhat repellent aura of hopelessness.  After a while, there is a toll on your physical health that is well-documented in the medical literature.  Loss of energy, ability to enjoy the good things that happen, even depression and worse can follow.

Easy – no.  Essential – yes.  There will be challenges, and many of them may appear insurmountable.  To have gotten through law school, you had to display a substantial reserve of self-discipline.  It is time to dip into it, and apply liberally.  Talk with your spouse.  Rely on trusted friends and share your frustrations.  You’re not alone in how you feel.  And if you believe, prayer is not a bad idea either.


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