In this fifth, and final, part of our job-hunting series for 3Ls and recent law grads, Katie Slater of Career Infusion Coaching addresses a very critical issue: How can you stay sane in the face of an extended job hunt?
Pay Attention to Your Mental State
The last level to work on in your job search is being aware of your mental and emotional state, and not underestimating the mental stamina you may need for the job search.
There may be quite a lot of anger, frustration, not feeling good enough, and other really fun emotions that come up during the process. By being aware that this may happen, you can figure out what coping mechanisms work best for you.
The job search can be an exhausting process. However, developing your coping mechanisms and figuring out what you need to do to not get exhausted and overwhelmed will give you tools to help you survive in the legal profession over the long haul.
You’ll Need These Coping Skills in the Legal Profession
As the trope goes, law is a jealous mistress. As a quick survey I took at a table of women practicing for 10-plus years as civil litigators, a judge, a finance attorney, and a trust and estates attorney revealed, this is true no matter what the field.
There is almost always more that can be done on a case, a transaction or in your practice.
You cannot start early enough on building ways to take care of yourself mentally and physically.
What kind of things can help?
The usual stuff that we hear about every day pertains to us lawyers, arguably even more so given the usual stress level:
- eating well
- getting sleep
- exercising in some form or function
- making sure you connect with friends, family, and the community around you
- practicing whatever spiritual faith works for you
I know — blah, blah, blah.
But there is a reason for all of those studies saying we need to do this — it helps keep the brain and body in good shape, and if the brain and your body are in good shape, you are more resilient and can cope with stress better.
Learning how to make time for those things now can teach you to make them a priority even when time gets tighter.
Tips for Handling Job Hunting Stress
What can you do when you do feel overwhelmed or desperate, or both?
Take a Break from Job Hunting
- First of all, step away from the computer or walk away from whatever is triggering you at that time. (Try to exit politely if you are talking to a potential job contact! But still, take some deeps breaths and then walk away.)
- Do something else non-job search related.
- Go for a walk, call a friend, play with your dog, go to the gym or for a run or bike ride.
- Do something that makes you feel better or is some sort of a endorphin stimulator!
I know your instinct when you are feeling this way is to fire off 10 more résumés or write 10 emails to potential contacts but do not do it in that mindframe.
If you do apply to positions in that headspace or try to communicate with people, the positions are often not the best fit or you may not be putting your best foot forward and you cannot see it in that moment, as you are desperate.
It can lead to a terrible feedback loop of applying, not hearing or being rejected, and then feeling even worse about yourself. Try to shake it off and come back to it when you are feeling better about yourself. You can then re-focus on your plan and make sure the actions you are taking fit with the plan.
Calm Your Mind
Practice as well taking deep breaths and giving yourself a moment. Both this, and taking a time out as above, will serve you in your actual practice.
One of the most useful things you can learn, regardless of your practice area, is how to let yourself pause and not keep your brain, or mouth, or both, going at full speed.
Pausing to collect your thoughts never lost a case or negotiation and in fact, silence can be a powerful tactic in either situation.
While we often collectively admire quick talkers, they can sometimes talk themselves into knots without you having to say a whole lot. Practicing the art of the pause and using silence, even if it is for you to gather your wooly or overwhelmed thoughts, will have additional positive ripple effects.
It’s interesting to observe how many people rush to fill a silence, often not to their benefit. And, if the pause or silence is done in conjunction with you taking some deep breaths, you will slow your heart rate down and lower your body’s stress reactions, helping you to think better by sending more of that energy to your brain!
Get Out of the House
An example of how I have seen things like exercise be beneficial to cope with the stress of the legal profession — some of the happiest lawyers I know belong to sports leagues. They are in leagues ranging from indoor volleyball in New York City, to soccer leagues in Houston.
Given limited time, these lawyers multi-task doing things that make us humans feel good — getting exercise and connecting with others (often non-lawyers!).
Finally, I’ve mentioned community work and volunteering before, but there is also a place for it in coping with stress.
Doing community work such as volunteering with causes you believe in will help re-focus your harried brain on something other than finding a job.
As well, it turns out that doing good for others makes us feel good — a great place to be when pitching yourself on a continuous basis. And, doing things that make you feel competent and confident, which volunteering can often do, also helps with the mental mind games that you can torture yourself with.
Best of Luck!
Attacking the job search on these multiple levels will bring some structure, and a feeling of greater control, to an otherwise thorny and unclear process.
Good luck — and hopefully you have some fun discovering a bit more about yourself and what steps you can take to get a job you will enjoy!
If you missed the other parts of our series, get caught up now:
- Job Hunting for 3Ls and Recent Law Grads: Introduction
- Job Hunting for 3Ls and Recent Law Grads: What Do You Want?
- Job Hunting for 3Ls and Recent Law Grads: Who Do You Know?
- Job Hunting for 3Ls and Recent Law Grads: How to Get the Inside Scoop
- Job Hunting for 3Ls and Recent Law Grads: Coping with an Extended Job Search
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Got job hunting tips or questions? Leave them in the comments!