I’m currently a law clerk for a judge and have been searching for my next job for a while. To give you some context, law clerkships typically last only a year or two, and mine is no exception. I was specifically told during the interview that she (the judge) didn’t want a law clerk for more than two years. No problem. Clerkships are viewed as stepping stones – a great opportunity after law school to observe all manner of court proceedings, improve and polish writing skills, research all manners of law issues, and generally compare many different styles of lawyering. So, after 18 months, I am ready to move on because I feel that I’ve learned all I am going to learn. Hence, I’ve been job hunting.
Job hunting, as you know, is almost a full-time job in itself. It takes time to research companies and organizations, track down job openings, write cover letters, double-check the resume, etc. Time consuming and tedious. Needless to say, I spend a lot of my free time doing all of the above activities, along with networking, volunteering on legal committees, attending conferences and continuing legal education classes, writing articles – generally anything to increase my presence in the area of law I want to practice in. And throughout, my friends and professional acquaintances have been more than generous in offering me leads, and more importantly, moral support.
Now, as I job hunt, I always find one or two opportunities which I tell my friends about. I don’t want to bore them with the tedious, time consuming details, so I only share certain opportunities. Some of these opportunities are from my dream list. The dream list consists of about 6 organizations where I would almost work for free. That’s how awesome it would be to work there. When I see that one of these organizations has an opening, I usually tell my friends to cross their fingers and toes and to pray extra hard to any and all gods.
The other opportunities I usually share on the ones where weird and/or frustrating things have happened. Like getting an email from someone who said they wanted to interview me, and would get back to me “at some point” before a certain date. Okay, a bit vague, but a chance interview is always a good thing. I emailed back to confirm receipt of the email and state that I look forward to speaking with them. Three weeks went by, no word. I sent a brief follow-up email to express my continued interest in the position. Another four weeks have gone by with no word, and it’s now three weeks until the certain date. Weird and frustrating. It’s living in limbo.1 And of course, I share this frustration/weirdness with my friends for sympathy and moral support, which they graciously give me.
Now, this is where the “what not to say” part comes in.
As I talk about these one or two opportunities, I have been asked if I’ve applied for any other jobs. I understand this question comes from a place of good intentions filled with genuine care, friendship, kittens and unicorns. But here’s how this conversation goes:
Them: Have you applied for any other jobs? What I'm thinking: Are you kidding me? What kind of question is that? No. Nope. Nada. I'm going to be out of a job in less than two months, with no place to live, but I've only applied for this one position. Seriously, let me show you the insane spreadsheet2 of the hundreds of jobs I've applied for. What I say: Um, yeah, a few.
I may actually punch the next person that asks me this.
So, in conclusion, when someone you know is job hunting tells you about this one job they applied for because they’re really excited about the opportunity or weird things have happened or whatever the case may be, I recommend not asking said job hunter if they’ve applied for any other jobs.
1 Note to employers. If you’ve made contact with a potential employee, outside of the standard “thank you for applying” email, please don’t leave them hanging. I’d rather hear, “sorry, I hired someone else so I actually can’t offer you even an interview,” than to hear nothing at all. Nothing at all gives you a glimmer of hope mired in despair and panic.
2 Yes, I have a spreadsheet. I have to have a spreadsheet because I apply to SO MANY JOBS, I’d never be able to keep track otherwise.