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It’s not you, it’s me

|Written By Amy Avis, Chelsey Lapointe, and A. Shaw

So you thought things went great.

Not only did they look great online, but in person it went better thanyou could have possibly hoped. You had so much in common! You laughed.You swapped stories. You had common interests. And there was no denyingit; there was chemistry.

They said it was great to meet you and to expect their call. And so you did. You expected their call . . . and you kept on expecting it.

You avoided showering for fear of missing “the call.” You made sure you had cell service. You checked to ensure you had given them the right number. You even had your mother test-call to see if your phone was broken (it wasn’t). Finally you mustered the nerve to contact them thinking — “maybe they just misplaced it” or “maybe they have been too busy.” That’s possible. Right?

Turns out that there never was going to be “the call.” Ultimately, you get an e-mail assuring you that it wasn’t you, it was them, and that you shouldn’t take it personally.

Online blind date? Worse: the application and interview process for summer law and articling jobs.

Many on a job search would agree that the process is a lot like what one imagines online dating to be: obsessing over your profile (and closing your eyes as you hit the “send” button), assessing ad nauseam your strengths, weaknesses, values, and goals, and spending hours picking out the appropriate clothes for the occasion.

And though we are writing from the perspective of law students, we are certain this experience of rejection is not unique to us (or so we tell ourselves to feel better). We fully expect this is common to recent graduates of other disciplines looking for a job in this economy.

On the prowl

Firms, like a profile on a dating web site (not that we would know), seek to elicit interest online, primarily through smart marketing campaigns featuring cool graphics and photos. Not sure if you noticed, but everyone looks percocet-happy in the group shots (especially those advertising the student program). Alright. We know for a fact it is not going to be that much fun at work every day. In fact we are counting on it. Seriously! We are desperate for jobs because we want to be challenged and to work hard.

The seduction

Regardless, we are sold on their profile. We want them, and we want them to want us. And we think that we stand a chance. They say they are “seeking someone intelligent with good interpersonal skills” and that a “sense of humour would be a bonus.” And you think to yourself – that is ME! They want ME!

So you apply. You first get the e-mail saying that “you may or may not get a call.”

Then the e-mail saying to “expect a call.”

Then the call to set up an interview.

The interview follows (please see above re: chemistry). And it is worth noting that you played it cool in the interview. You acted a little hard-to-get, alluded to “other” interested parties, and steered clear of looking desperate by not breaking the first-date rule of talking about your “future together.”

Then (lucky you) this was followed by another interview/dinner/reception and the exchanging of a series of e-mails mutually expressing how awesome and interesting you find each other.

Head over heels

The courtship is so consuming that you start to chant their firm buzzwords in your sleep: modern, international, full service. Eventually it doesn’t matter what law firm it is; you have gone through so much that you want them. Desperately.

Then . . .

Unfortunately this, at least in our experience, is followed by the expecting-the-call wait (see above), which you prepare for by recording, and re-recording your voice mail message (over and over again) to ensure you sound professional yet approachable (your self-help book about “power” suggests recording the message standing up so that you sound alert). The wait leads to realization, then disappointment and heartbreak.

Lessons learned

So why write this article? In short, the application process for young graduates today is intimidating, discouraging, and full of rejection. This article is dedicated to our fellow “rejectees” to whom we communicate that you are not alone. We understand that it is very hard not to take the rejection personally, especially when you felt like the courtship went so well.

We also appreciate that those doing the hiring and interviewing were once law students, many of whom also endured the expecting-the-call wait. We trust that they (i.e. potential interviewers and bosses) will understand this article as a catharsis rather than a criticism.

So, fellow rejectees, we will close with the things people say when dating doesn’t work out: they weren’t right for you, they weren’t ready for you, you are too good for them, and there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

And if all of this positive thinking is not comforting, take heart in the following: in the not-so-distant future you will run into that firm that broke your heart and it will finally be ready for commitment. The firm will tell you how much it needs you (the market picked up; they are short-staffed), how important you are (it is in desperate need of minions to set up closing rooms late into the night), and how it failed to realize what they had available to them at the time.

And then you . . . OK, let’s be realistic — do a happy dance, call your mother/father/significant other/friend, uncork some champagne, and OF COURSE accept the job!

The authors are currently in their third year of common law at the University of Ottawa. They are still seeking articles. Interested? E-mail