We are all familiar with the statistics – thousands of people are called to the Nigerian Bar every year to join even more thousands already roaming the legal job market. Only a very tiny percentage of law school graduates land the job they want immediately after school. The vast majority of new lawyers have to spend months job hunting before finally settling for something they consider less than ideal.
However, by thinking objectively and carrying out a few exercises, you can learn to properly deal with the rejection, and more importantly secure the career you desire.
- Do not lose hope
It’s not you, it’s them
It can be a major blow to a candidate’s self-esteem when they constantly receive rejection emails, or worse, no response at all. The first thing to do, which understandably is often the most difficult, is to decide that you will not take the rejections personally.
It is helpful to realise that beyond your ability to do the job, there are many factors – right or wrong- that determine whether you are called for an interview or hired.
The organization may already have too many employees of your ‘type’; it may not have any vacancies fitting your skillset; it may feel that you are overqualified; your application may not even have been opened because the HR department was not doing its job properly. The possibilities are so limitless that it is actually pointless to take rejection personally.
- Be honest with yourself
It’s not them, it’s YOU
Whilst all of the above is true and there are many factors that determine whether a candidate is hired, candidates need to be brutally frank with themselves and accept their own part of the blame.
Did you honestly send out the best application that you could on every single occasion; was your correspondence error-free; did you properly highlight your experience; did you follow the simple instructions that were provided by the hiring firm?
If you were called to an interview; did you conduct extensive research on the company beforehand; were you appropriately dressed; did you get there on time and conduct yourself in a professional manner throughout?
Answering the above questions truthfully will uncover areas that you need to work on.
- Ask for feedback
If you feel that you have done all you know to do as far as job applications go, it could be helpful to get an outsider’s perspective.
In some cases, especially if you made it to the interview stage, you might be able to approach the hiring manager for feedback on why your application was unsuccessful. If the rejection is delivered via email or on the phone, politely respond by asking the hiring manager to let you know how you can improve your prospects in the future.
Where you are unable to do this or you did not proceed to the interview stage, consider speaking to a senior colleague. Ask them to review your CV and cover letter(s) and provide their honest feedback on your prospects.
When you receive the feedback, again, resist the temptation to take it personally; it is a great opportunity to return to the drawing board and come back better-equipped.
Insanity they say is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Once you have had a frank conversation with yourself and received feedback, make the necessary changes.
That copied and pasted CV/cover letter clearly hasn’t gotten you anywhere thus far, so it may not be fit for purpose; give it an overhaul. Change your interview wardrobe; practice your responses to interview questions, etc.
It may be necessary to reach out to a professional to help you review your CV or prepare for interviews. If this is the case, resist the temptation to be penny wise pound foolish.
- Do something while you wait
Half bread really is better than none.
These days, the fact that a candidate has been out of a job for six months is not an excuse for a six-month CV gap. Depending on the circumstances, it might be wise to take up roles you consider to be less than ideal.
You stand a better chance of, for example, getting into a big Litigation law firm when you can show that you have spent the last year working with a smaller one-man Litigation firm, honing the skills required to work in Litigation. This is better than telling a hiring manager that you have been doing absolutely nothing for the last year because you are “job hunting”.
If you look closely around you, you will find that there are vast opportunities you can take advantage of even while unemployed. Unfortunately, you may need to be prepared to take up an unpaid opportunity, if it presents a good opening to bring you closer to your career goals.
In other cases, young lawyers have even gone ahead to create opportunities for themselves by taking up and handling briefs for private clients. This is extremely valuable experience if it is appropriately showcased on your CV.
- Develop yourself
Following from the above point, spend your resources on initiatives that will enhance the odds of securing the career you want. These may be workshops, online programs, group memberships, etc.
If for example, feedback has highlighted that your grades are standing in the way of your desired career, under proper mentorship and guidance, seek out programs that could allow you to bridge the gap.
- Try try try again
Once more, do not dwell on past disappointment, but keep seeking new opportunities because even if you are not contacted for one vacancy, your CV may be retained and you may be contacted to fill another vacancy.
Keep in mind that when you were actively applying but did not get any offers, you at least stood a chance; now you have decided to give up you stand NO chance at all.
Keep it moving!
Yimika Adesola is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Legally Engaged. She is a corporate lawyer with a diploma in Human Resource Management, described by This Day Newspaper as “a young and clever lawyer who has been blessed with foresight”.
In her professional legal career, Yimika has advised an assortment of sophisticated Nigerian and international clients on various areas of law including mergers, acquisitions and capital raisings, restructurings, taxation, finance, employment, compliance, etc.
She seeks to provide direction to students and young professionals by providing them with the information they need to launch successful careers and make better career decisions. Follow Yimika on LinkedIn here.