• Hayley

Now what? Starting my Career in a Bad Job Market

I sometimes find it useful to start at the beginning. I wouldn’t say that my entry into the legal profession was unorthodox; it just wasn’t very inspired. At sixteen it was time to fill out my university preferences and I was an overachiever with little direction. I suppose it’s no surprise that I wound up here then!

From the moment I started my degree, I knew it was the right fit. But as had plagued me at school, I started without an end game.

As the years wore on, it became blindingly apparent that the commercial stuff wasn’t for me. I loved administrative law, I loved policy… government was where I wanted to be.

And to be honest, I didn’t think I’d have much of a problem. I was a hard worker but I never expected the dream job straight out. I was ready to push paper and work my way up the food chain. This realistic attitude, combined with my hard years at university, stood me in fairly good stead I thought.

Not so much.

The job market is bad. I doubt there were any sharp intakes of breath then. We all know. And I’m not all that fazed. It might be harder on people who had that one life-long dream that is going to be that much harder to fulfil, but I was always content to slog away at it.

But here’s the question now… How far away do you get from the job you want, before you start hurting your chances of ending up there? If your dream is to work in litigation and there are no entry-level jobs going, do you take a job in a firm that involves no court work? If you can’t find a graduate job at all, do you apply for paralegal positions? Or do you take a year off and travel? Essentially, how do we mitigate the damage caused to our careers by the downturn in the market?

It’s a pretty distressing thought. But don’t worry, I’m not just asking rhetorical questions. I’ve done a bit of asking around. I’ve spoken to people in a wide range of legal fields, from very experienced barristers to young lawyers. And the overwhelming response is this:

Don’t worry about it.

In reality, there’s a huge range of jobs that could utilise legal experience while (okay, lets be honest), treading water. A number of companies are looking for secretaries and legal admin staff, which could provide a huge insight should corporate or in-house work be the direction you’re heading in. Corrective Services have a number of jobs for those interested in criminal law. And don’t ever dismiss working regional areas! I know a number of people who credit their career advancement to the experience they gained in small communities.

Not a single person that I have spoken to has furrowed their brow or made any expression of concern. Go overseas, don’t go overseas. Become a legal secretary, don’t become a legal secretary. Like all industries, the market is versatile, and unlike many professions, law is flexible. Jobs will appear in surprising places that will hold you in good stead for a legal career further down the track. Think practically, be sensible and seek opportunity.

Well I’m not sure how convinced I am, but I’m going to make conscious effort to give it a go. As of now, I am not worrying.

Enjoyed this post? Sign up for the Survive Law weekly newsletter for more.

#careers #badjobmarket #firstjob