I recently entered the last year of my 30s and my wife asked what goals I have before turning 40. As an initial matter, I felt flattered that she’d assume I had goals at all. Rudderless suits me just fine, frankly. But rudderless at 39 seems less flattering than at 19.
So my two goals:
- Become a level-one certified sommelier.
- Complete one sprint-distance triathlon.
Diametrically opposed goals, I know. But I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to my third decade.
I’ve long admired Seth Godin and his prolific works. His short bursts of thought belie their profundity. I’ve often wished I could be more like Seth.
So I’ve decided to do less wishing and more doing. Now.
For most of my adult life, I’ve had two habits in a perpetually conflicting loop of affirmation and decline: fitness and writing. Every quarter or so, I commit to exercising more and writing more. And sometimes those brainwaves cross, leading me to moments like now, where I find myself writing this, but not exercising, at the gym.
Both have been important to me throughout my life. In high school, I ran speed chute drills for fun. I also wrote nonsensical entries on my now-defunct Geocities page. In my early 20s, shortly after moving to LA, I joined a marathon-training group that required religious devotion to Saturday 6am runs for a six-month period, an astonishing and arguably pitiful habit for any 23-year-old with an aspiring Friday-night social life. I tried compensating Saturday nights with one stone for two birds: through a blog about local bars and cocktail culture. And then in my 30s, I participated in the Lifecycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a seven-day bicycle ride down California’s coast and farmlands. Then I became a father and most all else fell by the wayside.
But I wish it hadn’t. Because both corporeal and mental faculties, it seems, tend to atrophy with inactivity. So about that treadmill…
I was fifteen years old when I had my very first, honest-to-Buddha job interview. It was with the City of Oxnard’s Parks and Recreation Department, which needed more scorekeepers for its adult slow pitch softball league. The interview was in a large conference room in the main city office building. I wore chinos and a green polo, the same chinos and green polo I wore to church or parties. (My wardrobe otherwise consisted of frayed jeans and tee shirts.)
My interviewers — there were two — sat next to each other on the opposite end of the table from me, holding copies of my three-page application, which included a one-page high-school caliber resume. They took turns asking me random questions off of my resume before moving on to a more impromptu portion of the interview.
“Have you ever worked before?”
“Why do you want to be a scorekeeper?”
Does anybody really?
“What’s your favorite subject in school?”
Finally, a real question I could honestly answer with a lie: “Geometry.” It was actually English, but I figured Geometry would somehow make me seem more capable of keeping score at a softball game.
Why do you want the job?
This is perhaps the most fundamental question that you’ll need to answer at some point during each interview. Even if you’re not asked the question directly, rest assured that your interviewer will want to know your motivation for seeking employment with them, so do everyone a favor and leave nothing unstated. Volunteer your motivation, if you must: “Let me just say how much I appreciate the opportunity to interview for this position because I’m very interested in your corporate immigration practice,” or what have you. Do not let the interviewer assume that you are simply looking for any job.
Side note on interviewing with regional or national law firms: law students often wonder, “how do I evaluate full-service law firms when they all look so similar? The honest truth is that I’m just trying to land a gig with ANY law firm.” It’s worth acknowledging the validity of this assessment, particularly with respect to full-service nations firms. After all, much of their business model and compensation structure are meant to look like those of “peer” firms. It’s also true that few law students or junior lawyers know enough inside baseball to credibly weigh law firm reputations. Besides, the hyper-competitive nature of law firm recruiting usually means the firms enjoy much more optionality than candidates. All that said, candidates CAN and SHOULD develop a baseline understanding of how an employer wishes to be viewed by the world. Study the website and understand recent cases or developments in which an employer has been involved.
Why should I trust you to do the job?
This may sound tautological, but it is worth stating in black and white: a hiring manager’s most important decision is who to hire. That decision will forever bear on a hiring manager’s reputation and credibility because the hiring manager’s performance will be measured by the performance of their team. So there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that a hiring manager will go out on a limb for you, as a candidate, if you cannot convince the hiring manager that you have exercised sound judgment and execution skills in the past, and are capable of doing so in the future. The interview is your opportunity to sell a hiring manager on that notion. And since interviews are timebounded, you’ll want to practice ahead of time.
Some candidates may approach an interview with more of an ad hoc approach, where their primary task is to answer questions without flubbing. You should certainly seek to anwer an interviewer’s questions with poise and clarity. But it would be a mistake to stop there. Hone your pitch ahead of time by answering for yourself, “why should I be trusted to do this job?”
Why should I want to hire you?
Lawyers, especially those early on in their career, spend an outsized number of waking hours working, usually with colleagues. You’ll pull all-nighters, share meals, imbibe, laugh, cry, gossip, sometimes even share lodging. (True, funny story: I once had to share a small Springfield Suites-room with a partner who failed to book a separate room. That night, I learned that he snores and wears flannel boxers.)
Given the literal and figurative close quarters that await you, you had better believe that an interviewer will be assessing whether they can work shoulder-to-shoulder with you for 12 hours straight. At the end of the day, an employer has to like you to hire you.