Tag Archives: job search


Last week was the big fancy dinner that my job throws.  Unlike a lot of nonprofit functions, this one is usually not boring, and doesn’t involve a lot of big financial requests.  And it made me feel very inspired, but mostly it made me feel lucky and thankful.

You guys, I work for the best people in the world.  I truly and genuinely believe this.  I work for people that care about me as a person, about me as a lawyer, and about women in general.  I think this is awesome.  Our organization does good work, and I feel like I have all of the support in the world from my boss.

I point out a lot that I work regular hours.  And I brag about this not because it means I get home at 5pm, but because I truly believe that my office’s fierce protection of regular hours is more about them trying to improve work-life balance for Americans and trying to prevent staff burnout.  I don’t make a lot of money, but my office has my back.  Additionally, my company creates part-time positions designed to help stay-at-home parents re-enter the workforce, and positions like mine allow the idea of having children and a fulfilling career seem possible, and I think that is really important for organizations that are committed to improving the lives and status of women.

This year, it’s pretty easy to say what I’m thankful for, because it’s my job.  It’s my job that reminds me continually why I went to law school.  It’s my job that gave me a chance as a lawyer, that values me as a professional, and it’s my job that allows me to continue to serve person after person who is in desperate need.  It’s my job that makes me feel fulfilled, which has made me happier than I knew I could be.

Plus I get to walk to work.

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The New Job

The new job has started.  Entry is rough, but I think I’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.  It turns out that after seven months of saying, “oh, no, I’m not the lawyer,” I’m really eager to say, “HI I’M YOUR G-DD-MN LAWYER AND YOU BETTER LIKE IT.”  It’s a total shift in terms of area of practice, responsibilities, office setup, and everything else.

I’m not allowed to say, check my email or write blog posts, so expect blogging to be pretty quiet, or not at normal times, or clearly written yesterday and scheduled for the morning.

I am allowed to request office supplies, but I’m pretty sure this means, y’know, a monitor riser and not an iPad, since I now work for a non-profit.  It turns out that one thing I absolutely cannot live without anymore is a carbon-copy memo-book.  I need one of these for a couple of reasons.  The first is that I lose stuff, but with the carbon copy memo pad, I have a carbon of the person’s phone number, name, and message, even if I lost the message.  The second is that I like to have a chronology of who called when, and I like to have them all neatly in one place so I can check through the book and see whether I spoke with Ms. Jones before or after Mr. Smith and which day of the week that was on.  The third is that if I do not have a memo pad, I write down 6 messages on one piece of notebook paper and then I don’t know whose file to put my notes in.  I’m not going to write each message on a single piece of notebook paper, because that is a waste of space.  So I’m requesting a memo-book.  Unless you think an iPad would be more efficient, but I’m pretty sure the $295 difference in price will decide that for me.

My office is also desperately, sadly, in need of some art.  I’m probably not supposed to share pictures of my office, but I am sharing this one of the wall opposite me because I cannot fathom that it is actually breaking any rules.  This is what I’m looking at from my desk.

I’m gonna need some art.  What color would go well against the wall color?  I want something nice that I won’t mind looking at for the next few years.  Inspirational quotes are acceptable, but no demotivators or quotes about love, family, wine, husbands, shoes, or other unprofessional things.  Not really anything about lawyers either, since I will be meeting with clients in this space.  I want the space to feel warm and friendly, but like I take them seriously.  I can’t achieve the streamlined effects of the downtown BigLaw offices that are more glass than anything else, but I want to feel like more than a nonprofit lawyer making do with what was offered.  Also, this workspace is mine and it isn’t temporary and  I want to make it what I want it to be.  Suggestions, please!


Filed under Lawyering

Interview Questions, Part III

Do you have a family?

When asked this question on an interview last year, I nearly choked.  This is a question that is not only illegal, there is no good answer.  Saying “yes” says that “I will be leaving work early to go to piano recitals” and saying no says, “yes, but I might in the future.”

Several people asked if when a lawyer asks this question, is it some kind of test as to whether or not you know this is an illegal question.  Several people have suggested that I take the interviewer to task over this question.  Those people clearly do not understand the market, in which applicants are a dime a dozen and employers have the upper hand.

So how have I handled this question?  The last time, I simply said, “yes.”  Because well, everyone has a family.  I said yes in a halting way, as if I found the question offensive and the interviewer had better clarify why he/she had asked it.  Which he/she did, or tried to.  But I walked away from the interview wondering if a job that asked me about a family was somewhere I wanted to work, so the question really hurts both people.

The tips I found on the internet for avoiding illegal questions are to say things like, “I can meet the demanding requirements of this job, if that is what you are asking.”  I’m not quite that slick yet, but I’ve been practicing.  I think another easy “don’t-you-know-that-question-is-illegal” answer is, “what exactly are you asking?”  The problem is, they might clarify by saying, “do you have children?” And a don’t-ask-don’t-tell, “it is my understanding that you are not allowed to ask me these types of questions” is probably not the right response, but will do if you’ve already decided you don’t want the job.

I’ve actually been asked this, or if I am married, quite a lot.  So I need to have a better response in my back pocket that says, “MYOB.”  Any suggestions?  Has anyone else faced this?


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30 by 30 – Progress Report

Becky inspired me to update my 30×30 list.  I decided that I’m going to leave it un “finished” for now, because I might add things to it in the next four years.
  1. Run a marathon (in progress – hopefully will meet on March 18)
  2. Do a century bike ride
  3. Do an Olympic distance triathlon
  4. Make my own cheese (done)
  5. Make my own yogurt (done)
  6. Go back to Egypt
  7. Do a trail race (hopefully will be achieved on February 4th)
  8. Pace my friend E. on one of her Ultramarathons (done! twice!)
  9. Go diving in the pacific ocean
  10. Take an overnight train trip with my husband
  11. Put a backsplash up in the kitchen (done!)
  12. Grow vegetables (we are on the waiting list for a community plot)
  13. Go on a racecation (race + vacation)
  14. Volunteer at the nature center where we got married
  15. Try CrossFit
  16. Take a boxing class
  17. Take a photography class (done – I took a four week intermediate photography class this fall)
  18. Take baked goods to the new neighbors
  19. Go to Australia
  20. Do a bike tour of Niagra wineries
  21. Do a beer tour somewhere new
  22. See a Broadway play
  23. Run a half-marathon in under 2 hours
  24. Learn Spanish
  25. Score the winning goal in a hockey game (done!)
  26. Earn a salary and have health insurance.

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Good Things About 2011 (And Better Things To Come in 2012)

2011 was, for the most part, for me, clouded by one thing, and one thing only – the loss of a very dear friend.  As my parents health starts to fail and they get older, that pain is compounded by the fact that we no longer have our dear friend, the one my sister and I could always turn to and who we thought would be there for us as our own parents aged, is no longer here.  Instead, we struggle with being there for his family as they need us, and we struggle to accept his death as anything more than a completely senseless tragedy that did not need to happen.

So that was the downside of 2011.  But, in keeping with the spirit of Petite Chablis and her post, I’m now going to say the things that happened in 2011 that didn’t completely suck.  In 2011, I:

-Got a job!!! Two, actually.  I got my first attorney job, where I learned how to be an attorney, and then I got my law clerk job, where I have learned to be a private-practice attorney.  I’ve been very lucky to have wonderfully supportive bosses in both cases who are committed to helping me be the best attorney I can be.

-Ran a ten miler and a half marathon!  I didn’t meet my time goals for either race, but I’m happy that I’m not injured and I’m doing really well with my marathon training.

-Lost 14lbs!  I finally shed the pesky post-wedding weight and the five pounds that showed up my third year of law school and wouldn’t leave.

-Decided to keep my name!  I am really proud that I finally came to a decision, and also really happy that it’s the decision that involved the least amount of work.

-Went on a bike trip through Wales!  Without fighting with my husband AT ALL.  It was really amazing.  We also did several long bike rides leading up to it, which was awesome.

-Went camping, twice.  Goal is to go 4 times in 2012.

-Read a LOT of books.  Thinking about it, I think I read somewhere between 15 and 20 books in 2011.  Thank goodness for libraries and library lending on Kindle!

-Made new friends.  I made new friends on the internet, in the city where I live, and within the legal community.  I also kept in touch with old friends in a meaningful way, which takes a lot of totally-worth-it effort.

2012 will hopefully bring me a finished marathon, a finished half-ironman (or at least Olympic Distance triathlon!), a PR for my half-marathon, a permanent, salaried, lawyer job, and a solid relationship with my spouse, my family, and my friends.

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Filed under Exercise and Fitness, Family, Job Search, Lawyering, Life List

Interview Questions, Part 1

Welcome to my ongoing series about interview questions and how to not answer them.

“Why do you want this job?” 

I hate this question.  Hate it.  Usually, either the answer is, “I don’t, but the people I want to hire me won’t hire me,” or “I like this field and would like to work in it.” 

Nonetheless, when asked this question, I usually sort of blank out or freeze.  I think the best answer I gave was, “I would like the opportunity to learn about private practice and my last job stopped paying me.”  I think the worst answer I gave was, “er, um, I think the work is important.” The answer I want to give is, “you pay well and provide health insurance.” 

So, for interviews in the future, this is the question I will start preparing for.  Why do I want the job?  Let’s see:

1) It’s a natural progression from my current job, where I do xyz, but offers more challenges and room for advancement. 

2) I’m interested in the field and I would like to continue working in it/start working in it. 

3) I find that I am well suited for [this type of work] and am looking for a position that allows me to use the skills I’ve already developed as well as learn more about [the aspect of the job that I'm less familiar or experienced at]. 

Then, the biggest trick is going to be to stop talking.  I think for interviews, I tend to run on.  I need to talk less, so coming up with a one sentence answer and then not talking anymore is going to be the big key. 

How would/do you answer that question?  Is there something in particular employers are working for, or is it just a quick way to make sure you actually want the job?


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There is a certain state agency that I would really like to work for.  I happen to have a fair number of dealings with a particular office of their’s, and last week, during conversation with a paralegal there, she mentioned that she would be leaving soon so she had been swamped lately since she was getting ready to transition out at the end of the month.

At which point I wondered if there is a polite way to ask an almost-total stranger if you can have their job.

Probably not, right?

Especially not when you’ve been calling them with all kinds of dumb questions and generally sounding like a moron who doesn’t know anything about anything?

But you better believe that I’m stalking the agency website, waiting for her job to be listed.  Even if it is a paralegal position, it’s probably a really good way to get a foot in the door of the agency.  Or at least get that fancypants health insurance stuff.

Any other suggestions on how to get inside information or a foot through the door?


Filed under Job Search, Lawyering, Unemployed

No lateral moves

Somewhere along the way, I made a promise to myself: no lateral moves.  No moving from my job to a slightly-better-job.  I want a salary, I want benefits, I want personal fulfillment.  Does this make me sound entitled?  Maybe, except I have a job that I like very much that does not have a salary or benefits (but is more personally fulfilling than I ever expected.)

So there is this other job, that was listed yesterday.  It’s at an organization I used to work for, doing work I swore I was finished with, but it has a salary and benefits and personal fulfillment.  I would be working in an office with a very good friend of mine and I would be doing good, important, meaningful work.  It would be a lot of litigation, which isn’t something I have any experience with (and experience I probably need), and it would offer me a route back into the public interest job sector.  It has reasonable, flexible hours, and reasonable expectations of it’s entry-level opportunities, so it seems like a no-brainer.

What doesn’t it have? An avenue for advancement.  A guarantee that if I got and took this job, I would eventually end up back in public interest elder law (an area that just doesn’t hire enough.)  A guarantee that if I got and took this job, I could eventually transition to a future in legislative advocacy work.  A guarantee that if I got and took this job, I would be good at it.  A guarantee that if I got and took this job, we would have everything we’ve been talking about for a year and therefore Everything Would Be Okay, like we’ve been talking about for a year.

I come down to wondering if I’m just scared.  I’m scared, genuinely scared, to get a real job.  I have always worked at jobs that were below my experience level, that didn’t pay, that offered rewards in their nonmonetary compensation.  When I have been paid, it’s almost a token of appreciation, enough to pay gas and parking and maybe for groceries.  I make money at this job now, but not a salary.  And I wonder if there is a reason for that besides the crummy economy – if I’m letting The Fear hold me back.  If they pay me a salary, they will expect me to show up and work hard, and while academically, I know I do not have a problem with hard work, I have always worked hard, and I will continue to do so, what if what if what if it isn’t good enough for the real world?

At the same time, I’m itching, as my friend C. said, to get out there, to lawyer, to put my name on my work and have it be mine and to own who I am and what I do and stand up and say, “I’m your lawyer, b*tches.”  But on the other shoulder is the little scardy cat scales of justice telling me that if I continue to go for jobs that aren’t what I really want, I’m selling out for the money and the health insurance and in twenty years I’ll look back on my life and say, “well, how did I end up here?”

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How to apply for jobs

I know a lot of people are on the market these days, so I thought I’d put together a quick post on how I apply for jobs, and keep the application process straight.  The most important thing to have is probably the spreadsheet of jobs applied for, interview dates, and/or responses.  Just a google doc with the position applied for, firm/organization, date applied, follow-up, and response will do.  Try to keep it up-to-date – it’s helpful to know when you sent in applications and when you should make follow up calls.

Next step: create a document folder for job hunting.  Then, create sub-folders.  I create a sub-folder for each individual organization if they request multiple materials other than a cover letter and resume.  If they want a writing sample or have a specific application, they get a sub-folder.  In the main “Job Hunt” folder, I keep my up-to-date resume (labeled name_date), because in the past I accidentally submitted an old resume.  I like to have one master resume and avoid multiple copies, but sometimes experience needs to be tailored, in which case I create a sub-folder and the resume goes in that.  Other than specific organizations, I create sub-folders for types of jobs – e.g. “firm jobs”; “family law non-profit jobs”; “other non-profits”.   Generally, everything stays pretty organized.

The other thing that I think is extremely important is to make sure that you print all application materials to a .pdf.  If you are working in Open Office, there is a built in .pdf exporter under the file tab.  Otherwise I use CutePDF, which is a free program I’ve been using for several years.  I sent a copy of my cover letter to a friend yesterday for edits and she responded with, “the spacing is seriously messed up and your header looks weird”.  Your resume and cover letter need to always open and print onto one neat, professional page.  I also firmly believe in consistent file names – saving a document as Vado_Porro_Resume and Vado_Porro_Cover_Letter is helpful for employers who might be putting all the files in one place and don’t want to figure out whose resume is whose.

I also have a “job search” email.  It forwards from my gmail, but it is more professional sounding, and helps me keep my job applications and responses separate from emails from Ann Taylor suggesting I need another suit.

How do you keep your job search organized? Any tips for applicants?

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I was at a party recently and talking to a fellow attorney.  Who, when I said that I was working as a law clerk, responded with, “oh! so you’re not like, working as an attorney at all?”  With a “that is just so sad for you” look on her face.

My response should have been, “go screw yourself” but instead I yammered politely about how I felt that I needed life experience and private practice experience and I wasn’t really interested in starting my own firm straight out of law school, especially when I went K-JD.  I also pointed out that I don’t have debt, which is the number one thing that changes the tone of the conversations I have about my job search.  As soon as people find out that I don’t have debt, they go from asking why I’m not taking just any job available to me to why I’m not volunteering somewhere until I can get my dream job.  (Because even if I don’t have debt, I still don’t have a money tree in my backyard. I would like to have children and a house and a retirement account, people.)

So I just wanted to go over a few things you should not say to under or unemployed lawyers.

1) “Oh! So you’re not like, working as an attorney at all?”  No, I’m not, lady, and it bothers me way more than it bothers you, so why would you bring it up at a party?

2) “Have you heard of Idealist.org?” You mean the job search engine that’s gotten me half of my internships since I started college?  No, what is that?

3) “Have you thought about starting your own firm?” I can guarantee you that there is not a lawyer in this economy that hasn’t thought about starting their own firm.  If the one you are talking to hasn’t yet, don’t push the issue.  Also, maybe we shouldn’t encourage brand-spankin’-new attorneys to go into private practice and risk their licenses quite so much?

4) “So is your husband supporting you?” Seriously, why the eff do you care how my family puts food on the table and shoes on our feet?

5) “Is the market really that bad?” I graduated magna cum laude and am working as a law clerk.  Yes, it’s that bad.

6) “You would have made a great law clerk.  Why didn’t you do that?”  I dunno.  Why don’t you go ask the judges that didn’t hire me?

What have you heard?  Any other things I should avoid saying to people who are on the market?


Filed under Job Search, Lawyering, Unemployed, Volunteering