Job Hunting

There are few things stranger in this world than job hunting. The problem with job hunting is that no two people end up in the same place in the same manner. Almost all my jobs from my computer consulting days in high school through my current job at the University of Connecticut have been primarily the result of people asking me to work for them because I had a skill they desired. In college my job search process for summer internships largely involved sitting at my desk and deciding which of the multiple offers to take. Unfortunately things are not quite that easy post law school.

The focus of many online websites and consultations with career services is a resume. I’m not entirely sure why. I have a resume and I am proud of it but even at two pages it is rather brief. I’m not completely sure how someone pulls a full story from it. In fact I do not believe I have ever seen a resume that I would deem useful. On a resume you can look for certain benchmarks like whether people have experience doing certain types of things and if their grades are decent but that is not going to tell you if the person is enjoyable to be around, a good team player, or has the ability to quickly learn new skills. Some people will try to fill these gaps by writing that they are a team player on their resume. I am not sure how helpful that is considering I have never seen a resume where someone says they are a bad team player. Suffice to say that if I was hiring someone I do not think resume searching would seem like an efficient method to find a good employee. That’s why I try not to blame employers for not getting back to me after I cold send them my resume from a job site.

From the perspective of a job searcher it is also difficult to ascertain whether a job or internship will be good. I have had both extremely promising internships turn into duds and seemingly boring internships turn into the most valuable experiences of my professional career. Some things are simple like you can see if the job falls into your field of interest or is the type of role you might enjoy. However you cannot tell whether the people at the workplace are good to work with, whether the employer treats the employees with respect, or how much opportunity you might have to grow there. If you want to learn these things you have to conduct rather extensive background research. Even then the people you talk to might be biased or interact in the environment differently than you. Law firms solved this problem by bringing on associates the summer of their second year to take them for a test drive. Then the economy collapsed and this model sort of died. I think it would be a good idea to have more of this, not less.

Another problem is that now all companies want are people with experience. This is code for not wanting to train the employee so they will basically only hire someone who is currently doing the same thing for their competitors. This means that if you have a job you have a lot of leverage because if you have a valuable skill there are people trying to poach you on a daily basis. This is most famously rampant in Silicon Valley but I have also heard stories of it in the legal field as well. When I search for legal job postings there are plenty of jobs for people with 2-5 years of experience but not for fresh graduates. I think eventually companies and law firms will realize that it is cheaper to train new employees than paying higher and higher salaries for employees they poach from competitors. Until then new graduates are at a huge disadvantage.

This is why job searching is all about networking and who you know. It is much easier to have someone vouch for a person and trust they will work out then to do the cold job hunting thing. This means that the networkers are at a huge advantage and it is difficult to get jobs entirely based on your skill. Sometimes career services offices try to teach networking or hold networking events, but I only know of one person who has gotten a job from them. Real networking is usually accomplished through your internships or when a parent or uncle knows someone who knows someone who has an opening. Yet in law school they don’t teach us how to effectively leverage that.

So far my takeaways from job searching post-law school are the following: be open to new experiences, first impressions can be wrong, do not be afraid to talk to people about your job search, and never give-up hope. If I was career services I would probably spend less time focusing on resume editing and more time helping students connect with groups and organizations in their area of interest so they can get more of the valuable type of networking. I would also encourage them to develop a portfolio of work or projects they can use in their applications or interviews. One of my cold interviews was with the State Elections Enforcement Commission and one reason I was able to successfully interview was that my senior project at WPI was on the efficacy of the Citizens’ Election Program. These not so small things make a huge difference.

Underrated Products

Today I forgot my Bose earbuds and had to bring the stock Apple ear buds that came with my iPhone to the gym. I had never used these and was surprised how terrible the quality is. Much of the detail of the song disappeared when I was using the Apple ear buds. It’s no wonder that Apple was able to sell lower quality 128kbps AAC files for so long. Once you get used to speakers or ear buds with quality it is difficult to go back. If you want to get good quality audio for cheap then I recommend the Sennheiser HD 201 headphones. I also think that it is worth scouring eBay for deals. I got some Harmon Kardon Soundsticks for about $60 there. With less than a $100 investment you can finally start enjoying your music the way it was meant to be heard.

If you own an automobile you should check out Adam’s Polishes. I discovered them when I was looking for a way to buff out scratches on the used car I purchased a little over a year ago. In addition to selling polishing kits they also have car wash kits and all sorts of cleaners to tackle any part of your car that might be dirty or old. They also have all great instructional videos on how to properly use the products. By investing a little bit of money you can improve the appearance of your car and remove marks or dirt that otherwise has been stuck on there for years.

What underrated products would you recommend?

My Advice to New Law Students

I found out that tonight starts the orientation for the new class at UConn Law. The Internet is full of advice for new law students, but I figured that my recent experience might help people that are still getting their bearings. Below are ten pieces of advice that I think might help. Good luck!

  1. Don’t be afraid to quit. Law school should not be prison. It’s tough work but you should not be miserable. You can blow just as much money being happy as hell. I have a couple of friends who bailed on law school after a semester. They lived and are doing well.

  2. Lock-in your Kaplan or BarBri rate. Kaplan is just as good as BarBri. You’ll thank yourself three years from now. Even better if you sign-up to be a BarBri or Kaplan rep to get a free course.

  3. Check the Co-Op,, and Amazon for textbooks. Be a savvy shopper. If you are buying a new edition the UConn Co-Op is often competitive with the online outlets. If you are buying used then and amazon are your best bets. You can check out the book form the library in the meantime.

  4. Brief your cases. Law school is a mental endurance sport. You only get better through practice. Many classmates will buy and use commercial outlines. You don’t need those. If you need a case brief or additional information it’s all free on the Internet or WestLaw. If you still really need a hornbook or something to explain the subject then it’s free at the law library. BarBri also has free materials and lectures available as well.

  5. Learn how to format properly using Microsoft Word. It’ll save you headaches later. This document has some advice on making a table of authorities. Use the styles and headings at the top of Microsoft Word to mark your sections and make a table of contents. Buy a copy of Typography for Lawyers.

  6. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White is still applicable. You should buy a copy if you do not own it already.

  7. Downtime and sleep should not be neglected. Friday and Saturday nights you should relax. Try and get some walking or other exercise in. You do not want to burn out.

  8. Attend as many events as you can. Your student fee pays for them, the food is usually free, and you meet interesting people and learn new things.

  9. Do the write-on next summer. Join a law journal. It’s worth it, if only to have a place to go on campus and built-in group of people to lean on.

  10. Force yourself to do some things you are not comfortable with. If you do moot court or mock trials it will help you understand other things later. Not everyone gets on moot court board but you will not be worse off by participating in these competitions.

Chris Murphy's Town Hall on Jobs

Last night I dropped in on Congressman Chris Murphy’s town hall on his jobs plan. The event was originally cast as a debate between Murphy and Linda McMahon, the Republican nominee for the United States Senate in Connecticut, but McMahon chose not to attend. In spite of this she sent a large cohort of her supporters to the waive signs outside the venue and occupy the seating. Politically I’d say this event was a wash. The room was packed with partisans from both sides and nobody was going to switch. However the media showed up. So did Chris Murphy.

The night began with Murphy laying out the foundation of his economic plan: tax reform, strengthening American manufacturing, and investing in transportation, education, and renewable energy. A signature of the campaign has been his push to have the government to buy more goods from American companies. He explained that we need to tackle our spending but by moving that spending back to America we can cut the budget and increase or maintain economic activity at home.  I think most people can get behind these, but Murphy astutely noted some of these will be easier than others. For example many tax deductions or loopholes have groups of people that fought for them and are there for a reason. Murphy is both a dreamer, unafraid to set big goals, and a realist at the same time.

Then he took audience questions. Murphy, unscripted and raw, tackled the intricacies of policy from the impact of Dodd-Frank to farm subsidies. Murphy was unafraid to get into specifics like suggesting we stop providing the farm subsidies for large agro-businesses but keep them for smaller farmers. Murphy also told the story of a pizza shop owner who he met that explained how much paperwork and cost goes into starting a business. Chris made it clear that he did not want to suspend important regulations that ensure the air and water are clean but that we should take a look at the regulations impacting small businesses and eliminate the ones that are not helpful or phase them in at a later stage in the life of the business. Murphy’s solutions were not just off-the-cuff; it was clear he searched for data and stories from his constituents and used that information to formulate these policy suggestions.

Linda McMahon’s staff people handed out copies of her economic plan at the debate. I took a copy and there were some places that she agreed with Murphy. For example Linda supports getting rid of the agriculture subsidies as well (although her plan seems to indicate she would eliminate all of them). She also wants to get rid of tax loopholes and reduce regulation on businesses. However they support removing different types of regulations. Murphy supports healthcare reform and Dodd-Frank while Linda opposes it. So while they might concur on a few basic principles, they quickly diverge when it comes to the details.

The biggest difference between Murphy and McMahon seems to be the approach to creating jobs. McMahon wants to make a large number of changes to the tax code. For example she suggests increasing educational tax deductions. This might be helpful for an older person that is going to school but for full-time students that don’t make enough money to pay taxes it does little to nothing. In contrast Murphy proposes doing things like investing money in transportation infrastructure which has been shown to produce economic activity in Connecticut since we are so close to New York City and Boston. The takeaway is that Murphy is an investor while McMahon will fight for tax cuts and prey that if people have more money they will spend it.

How to Fresh Install Mountain Lion on a New Hard Drive

Last night I attempted to fresh install OS X Mountain Lion on a new hard drive. Doing a hard drive install on a Mac is much easier if you have iFixit’s 54-bit driver kit. It has all the bits you need to remove the bottom cover the of MacBook Pro and the torx bits to transfer the hard drive mounting screws.

It took a lot of research to determine the best and proper way to install Mountain Lion. Unlike older versions of the operating system Apple does not provide physical media. After replacing the internal hard drive with a new blank one, I used an adapter to boot the recovery hd on the old hard drive via USB. You can do this by holding the option key while the system boots. It will give you a list of valid hard drives to boot from and so you just choose the recovery hd. Owners of modern macs can also hold command+r in order to do an internet boot. Once you boot the recovery system you should then choose the standard Mountain Lion install to the new hard drive. It will take a long time to download. About two and a half hours for me. However it is critical you choose this option over simply restoring from a time machine backup or cloning your old drive if you want your new drive to have the recovery hd partition to enable the Find My Mac and FileVault encryption features.

Before I was aware of the recovery hd issue I started restoring from a time machine backup and then stopped. This did not cause any adverse effects. When I did the fresh install after restoring about 10% of my time machine backup, the computer booted without issue. The apps that had been transferred were still present. I used the migration assistant to finish restoring the time machine backup after verifying my system worked.

Others have already reviewed Mountain Lion to death so I’m just going to share a couple thoughts. The first is that for the longest time my iPhoto application was importing photos taken on my iPhone 4S as blanks. Trips the Apple Store and use of the iPhoto library manager did not fix this issue. The fresh install plus time machine restore appears to have remedied this. The second issue I’ve noticed is that when accessing the external firewire hard drive the computer slows down when it spins up. This issue persists into Mountain Lion. It is disappointing Apple has not addressed it.

When upgrading to Mountain Lion the computer will prompt you about any software that is incompatible. The only software that was not compatible for me was Parallels 6, but the author offers a paid upgrade that is compatible. With the advent of the App Store paid upgrades have been less common so I find it irritating when I have to pay. However the software developers have to eat.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.