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Job Searching in 2020

By Ava Morgenstern

Job searching is stressful.

Job searching while surviving 2020 is incredibly stressful.

If you’re looking for a job right now, I want to offer solidarity and advice.  I just completed a job search this summer and I feel what you’re going through.  You will pull through this. In the meantime, I hope these resources can help.

There already are many practical tips out there to help you apply for and interview for jobs remotely.  You can get these tips from places like your law school’s career resources center, or general public resources like LinkedIn’s GetHired newsletter, Ask A Manager, Ellevest, and law-specific career sites such as PSJD, Attorney at Work, and the ABA’s Law Practice Today.

But there are fewer tips out there for how to stay healthy, productive, and positive when job searching these days.  That’s what I want to talk about here.

My suggestions to you are:

Manage Time

Whether or not you’ve already found a work-from-home or study-from-home routine, I encourage you to create a specific job-search-from-home routine.  There are plenty of articles out there for planning a remote job-searching time-management strategy, but I’ve also benefited from and recommend the pre-pandemic advice of this e-book.

Based on your available job-searching time, plan a daily strategy for how many potential connections to contact, how many job postings to read and apply for, and any other useful tasks.  Remember, though, that it’s more fruitful to network than it is to put in a ton of cold job applications.  Plan your time and energy accordingly.

Even if you hate networking, you can do it successfully and still place boundaries on it: for instance, you can email X number of people per day (perhaps using these or these email templates) and get it over with early each morning, or you can keep your schedule open for Y number of calls per day and no more.  More tips abound for making remote networking less painful.

If you miss study spaces or cafés, and you think you’d be productive in a virtual “coworking space” alongside other people simultaneously doing the same, check out some intriguing options.

Manage Community

Every job-searcher these days has struggled with isolation.  Fortunately, you can do quite a bit to counter these feelings and build up your support system.

Especially now, when everyone is staring at screens all day, you can and should use social media to strengthen your professional network.  Develop a professional social media strategy using tips from NALP.  In particular, you should get comfortable with best practices for using LinkedIn as a law student, recent grad, or lawyer.  Go beyond just setting up a basic profile, and use the platform regularly to engage with the right people.  Check out some tips from ABA Journal, ABA’s Law Practice Today (parts 1, 2), and Attorney at Work.  If you like Twitter and you use it professionally, consider engaging with #LawTwitter, which many find to be a great networking resource.

Beyond those platforms, look for other online spaces to meet lawyers.  Look up relevant national and local bar associations, by practice area and/or affinity group, and see if they have listservs, LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, and/or virtual networking events.  If you’re a law student, job-searching recent grad, or public-interest lawyer, ask organizations about discounted membership rates.  Ask your networking contacts for suggestions of other good groups or listservs to join.  Here in DC, check out this list of all the local voluntary bar associations – including, of course, the Washington Council of Lawyers!  (Consider joining!)

Keep cultivating community.  The more you can give, the less you’ll feel like you’re just taking or begging – and the better you’ll feel about your capabilities.  Keep a list of your job-searching friends and check in with them regularly to see how they’re feeling.  Share job postings you find with friends and other networking contacts who might want to apply to those.  Offer to give feedback on cover letters, resumés, and LinkedIn profiles, and to introduce contacts to each other.  Read professional listservs, LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, and/or Twitter threads, and jump in when you know you can realistically answer someone’s question or take them up on their request for help.  Sign up for mentoring initiatives as a mentor for high school or college students interested in law school, for 1Ls or 2Ls, or for anyone else with less experience than you who’d like to be in your field someday.  Volunteer for causes you care about; for a sample selection of remote pro bono opportunities, see our COVID-19 page.

Manage Money

While you’re looking for a long-term position, consider shorter-term legal freelancing and contract work.  Learn more about your options through these resources from ABA Journal, Berkeley Law School, Stanford Law School, and Yale Law School.

Check out general financial advice for job searchers such as the tips outlined here and here.

Manage Stress

Legal professionals unfortunately often suffer from mental health conditions and addiction.  The events of 2020 are only exacerbating these concerns.  If you are struggling at all – even if you are high-functioning generally – you should definitely check out wellness resources specific to the legal profession.

Many law students, recent grads, and lawyers have found these resources helpful: the confidential Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) in every jurisdiction (DC’s is here); the Mindfulness in Law Society; the Lawyers Depression Project; The Introverted Lawyer; The Anxious Lawyer; How to Be Sort of Happy in Law School; and AwareHealth.  More 2020-specific resources are at the ABA and Lawyerist.

Other 2020-specific mental health resources generally: Local DC resources; national resources; online meditation and therapy information.

Maintain Perspective

2020 has dumped a lot on us and you shouldn’t feel bad about feeling bad.  But you can still do quite a bit to keep yourself from feeling worse.

Be careful about visiting sites pedaling unverified gossip or sensationalistic clickbait about the legal profession.  Instead, get your legal news from sources with more integrity and from people genuinely working for positive change in the profession, the nation, and the world.

Seek out job searching articles that are encouraging and practical rather than terrifying. Here are a few examples.

Above all – keep going.  Don’t give up.  We need you in the legal profession.  Stay strong.  You can and will pull through.

I look forward to someday meeting you and celebrating with you on the other side of all this!

Ava Morgenstern is an attorney in Washington, DC and a member of Washington Council of Lawyers’ Communications Committee.  She wrote this blog post in her individual capacity.  Feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn!