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The post about Why I Left the Law was a surprise success. I continue to receive comments and questions from other people sympathizing with my story and asking me how I did it. People seemed especially interested in technical writing careers as well.
I thought I would finally write a post containing that information. Here it is.
Here’s the fun version of my resume (skip below if you just want the advice!): I got my undergrad Bachelor of Arts degree with a pre-law type major. I had worked at a law firm while getting my undergrad degree — writing petitions (the Missouri version of a Plaintiff’s lawsuit). I then went to law school, and got on one of the law review journals. I had an article published, and later became an Assistant Managing Editor and got an award for my work. I studied abroad in South Africa one summer, and summered at a small personal injury firm for my second summer. I graduated law school in 2006. I got an on campus interview with a small general practice firm. I think they liked my interest in personal injury work, so I was hired and started working there in fall the fall of 2006 after I took the bar exam.
As you remember, I grew unhappy with what I was doing. I was pretty sure that I wanted OUT of the law entirely. Initially, I thought I would be an editor. I really loved it in law school and always had a strong aptitude for writing and grammar. I got a proofreading job at a small technology company. After a while, I realized that becoming an editor might not be a workable plan for a variety of reasons. However, I started to get some technical skill (working with XML, testing software, became a part in builds and maintaining PCs), so I started browsing for technical writing jobs.
Right around when I was looking for a new career was in 2008-2010 and jobs were scarce! Not to mention – new careers!
In 2009, I started writing a legal column. I used this experience, my previous proofreading job, and writing experience in school, as leverage to get my technical writing job. I found it from a recruiter’s posting on Craigslist.
Wow. That sounded so easy. But it wasn’t easy. It did take me quite a while to land my new job, and even when I did, I was hired on as a contractor. While job searching, I considered anything and everything:
- Going back to practice at another firm – I even got an interview
- Doing doc review – again, I even interviewed
- Editing, yes, I still wanted to do that
- Working at a publishing company
- Working at a law school admissions / career service job
- Working at any school
- Getting a government job – I phone interviewed for that
- Clerking for a judge
- Stripping – just kidding
- But seriously, I think I considered everything I possibly could
During the peak of my search, I spent several hours every week related to this effort – 2-3 hours a day most weeks (filling out applications, writing cover letters, searching). I did less when the jobs were particularly dry, or when I was starting to drive myself nuts.
If I had to give advice for would-be ex-lawyers or poor souls in law school that have just realized that the law isn’t for them, I would say. . .
- Don’t give up.
- Except if you’re in law school and can leave. In that case, leave.
- Remember that you are not a special snowflake and in many cases, you are probably one of hundreds that is applying for that job. And unfortunately, many people applying for the same job you are probably have direct experience for that job.
- Write fresh cover letters. Don’t use a form and adjust it for each new job application. You can smell a stale cover letter a mile away. I find that when I write cover letters from scratch, I put more thought into the argument that they should interview me. I truly believe that is what a cover letter is – a persuasive letter.
- To that end, don’t forget to adjust your resume too! Towards the end of my job search, I put my publications first on my resume, instead of my work experience. I also changed my legal experience to a very abridged version and tried to emphasize the communication portions of it.
- Consider seeing a legal career counselor. I did this a couple of times and it was ok, but I probably would have gotten more out of it if my problems could be fixed by just switching jobs, not careers.
- Don’t quit your day job. Hold on to whatever crap you are doing right now and just keep doing it. The author at the Simple Dollar has good advice for how to do this without going insane.
- In the meantime, try to get good sellable experience on top of your day job that will help you get your future gig. You want a technical job? Start a blog. Learn about HTML. (Another thing I did that I forgot to mention.)
- Keep your mind open. In this economy, you have to. And maybe your in-between job isn’t where you envision yourself retiring – but that’s ok. As long as you are getting experience you can use later – it will be worth it in the end. Hell, another paycheck is better than no paycheck, friends!
I could go on and on… It all varies depending on what you want to do, and what your background is. Hope that helps someone out there!
It’s so hot in St. Louis right now that the air is hotter than my own breath. I told a friend today, “I’m basically a mobile air-conditioner for the earth.”
Anyway, I decided to make chicken tacos tonight. Mark loves Mexican foods. After perusing a few different recipes, I felt pretty confident I could take this on.
I chopped veggies, avocado, and put spoons in the condiments. I roasted a poblano pepper on an open flame. Meanwhile, I chopped chicken into bite-sized pieces and cooked it in a skillet with olive oil, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Once the chicken was nearly done, I threw the chopped poblano in.
My lovely husband insists on taking wonky pics
All that was left to do was heat up some tortillas in a pan and start throwing condiments on.
I chopped up avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, put out cheese, pico de gallo … all the necessities!
Mark said I was a little heavy-handed on the ingredients – that I made a chicken burrito. What can I say, my inner fat kid was serving dinner. And my inner fat kid was quite pleased at the end of my filling meal. I had put out chips for a side but I only had room for a few.
In other news, I received my running medal rack.
Isn’t it cute?
I got it at etsy.com, and it was made by prettylovelypainting. I like its simplicity and uniqueness. It is also $10-20 cheaper than other medal display racks and can be personalized, but I chose not to go that route.
I chose to hang it right by my desk in our home office. Of note, it is quite full and I’ll be out of hooks (there are 13) by the end of this year! Whatever will I do….
* I bought this rack with my own hard-earned money and was not compensated to review it. *
In other running news, I updated my CHASING page (about my races) and I have registered for half marathons in October and November. If all goes well, I will have ran 10 half marathons, and 4 this year!
Healthy living blogs (HLBs – I just came up with that. Genius) are pretty goofy sometimes and I’ve found myself loving a little HLB-jabbing.
I ran across a little video blog called My Drunk Kitchen. Hannah Hart is hilarious and fun to watch. She makes me wish I came up with the idea of getting drunk, cooking something, and recording it. I’m pretty sure that even if I did, I still wouldn’t be as funny, or as fearless about putting it up for everyone to see.
These ladies are so funny and inspiring. Now I don’t know whether to go roast some veggies or make fun of myself for that. I’ll order takeout and call it good, I think.
I recently read a book called Born to Run. I had heard great things about it for quite a while but resisted – who wants to READ a book about RUNNING? It just doesn’t sound fun.
Well, I stand – er – sit corrected. It was a really fun book to read and I learned a lot in the process. It’s pretty much the counterpoint to a lot of things I had been reading on Paleo/Primal – that whole “chronic cardio” thing that some Primal/Paleo devotees preach against, is a way of life for the Tarahumarans. The author of the book, Chris McDougall, weaves scientific study and compelling logic to barefoot running.
One of the things I learned is that the modern running shoe is only about 40 years old. Homo sapiens have been running for much longer than that. Long ago, I had heard “embarrassing” statistics about how the fastest humans were slower than pigs. For years now, though, I’ve been hearing study after study theorizing and proving that humans were born to run distances (aka, chronic cardio ). The book discusses those studies and theories. Here’s a Wikipedia on “persistence hunting” and here’s a video about it (side note: I’ve eaten kudu when I was in South Africa and it’s delicious).
I digress. One of the most counter-intuitive and convincing facts the book explained was that the impact to the foot is greater in conventional running shoes versus the impact when barefoot running. That is – it’s counter-intuitive until you barefoot run around the house – you are much lighter on your feet naturally than you are slamming away in your cushy running shoes.
Here is an excerpt of an analysis from the Sports Science Journal:
Measurements of the vertical component of ground-reaction force during running provide no support for the notion that running shoes reduce shock. Robbins and Gouw (1990) reported that running shoes did not reduce shock during running at 14 km/h on a treadmill. Bergmann et al. (1995) found that the forces acting on the hip joint were lower for barefoot jogging than for jogging in various kinds of shoe. Clarke et al. (1983) observed no substantial change in impact force when they increased the amount of heel cushioning by 50% in the shoes of well-trained runners. Robbins and Gouw (1990) argued that plantar sensation induces a plantar surface protective response whereby runners alter their behavior to reduce shock. The less-cushioned shoe permitted increases in plantar discomfort to be sensed and moderated, a phenomenon that they termed "shock setting". Footwear with greater cushioning apparently provokes a sharp reduction in shock-moderating behaviour, thus increasing impact force (Robbins and Hanna, 1987; Robbins et al., 1989; Robbins and Gouw, 1990).
I was a skeptic of those really goofy looking Vibrams, but intrigued at the same time. And Born to Run did me in.
I ordered a pair of Vibram Bikulas.
Unfortunately, the parks nearby my home are not accessible for various reasons. So, my running in Bikulas has been very limited, although I have used them on the treadmill. The most I’ve done is about 1.5 miles so far. I really do like them though and I hope they will keep my legs healthy! I did run a short distance in them with my dog at a park. They feel really fun! After my first mile in them, I definitely felt tenderness in my calves… and these days, I rarely get sore from running.
If anyone is interested in barefoot running, this is a must read. This post in the Runner’s World forums lays out a plan for adjusting to running barefoot. I think people are surprised that they just can’t just run out the door and do 5 miles barefoot (isn’t that what we’ve done for millennia?). If you’re used to the comfort of running shoes, it’s unlikely your legs are prepared for the total gait change you must make with barefoot running. You really need to pretend you’ve started running all over again.
My name is Michelle and I like to write about running, food, and fitness in general. Check out my About Michelle section for more!