How to survive a bad job

By Alexandra Sumner 

So it’s finally here: the first day of your new internship or job. You’ve scoured the employee handbook, bulked up on business casual clothes.

For many of us, there will come a moment when we realize this position (or this company for that matter) isn’t all it was said to be. Your boss could be flakey or nonexistent, the work could be either too menial or out of your experience area and the company culture could just be toxic.

What’s a poor 2L to do? (Moreover, what are any of us supposed to do when we realize we signed up for a position that doesn’t quite fit?)

Below are two tips to help you make the best of a bad situation. From focusing on the positives to directing your energies outward, there are ways to make your days more manageable while still keeping your cool.

Think of the positives. If you knew me, you’d know that it’s a bit odd for me to say something like this — I am not someone known for my sunny disposition. When I say “think of the positives,” what I really mean is “think of the ways you can capitalize on this opportunity to make it work for you.”

Is the job with a well-known firm? Network until your hands fall off. Connect with as many people as you can there, so that you when you ultimately find a more appropriate position, you can still call on those people for advice and (even better) references. If you’re bored beyond compare, use the time to learn a new skill or think about what types of areas do interest you.

My first summer job after 1L was working in the compliance department of an insurance services company. Yawn. While I knew I wasn’t interested in selling GAP insurance, I did develop an interest in the up-and-coming cybersecurity insurance line, which ultimately led me to writing a paper on it and later pursuing a privacy certification. There are ways to turn negatives into positives.

Build out your resume. There are two kinds of resume entries: Those that build you up and those that build you out.

Things that build you up are those that increase your experience in a niche or field — multiple jobs in the criminal law sector, five years of experience as a research assistant, a published article on Anti-Stark changes.

Items that built you out are typically outside your field but show you have every intention of being a well-rounded (and hopefully, well-liked) professional. Volunteer at a church, participate in a fundraiser, read books to kids at your local library. Work weekends at a farm if you have to. Use the pent-up energy you feel at work and direct it toward something that will make you feel good as a professional and can add to and shape your personal narrative.

If you still can’t stand your new job, whatever you do, don’t burn any bridges. Likely your position is only a summer long — if you act out, quit, or try to get fired you’re shooting yourself in the foot and using glass to patch up the injury.

No matter what city you live in, the legal community is small. Your bad attitude will precede you making it unlikely you will ever get a position you consider good

 

 

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