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Is a 5 month job search a sign that grades are a limiting factor?

By Edward Honnold

Q: For the past 4+ years, I have been employed as a Trial Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division, Western Criminal Enforcement Section. I also have 5 years experience in civil litigation with the Office of District Counsel, Internal Revenue Service. I have gained extensive trial experience through these positions. In addition, I am a certified public accountant with two years experience at a Big 8 accounting firm. For the past five months, I have been seeking employment in the private sector using both a head-hunter and personal mailings. All to no avail. I haven't even received one interview. I believe that my law school GPA may be the reason. I graduated from Rutgers University School of Law in 1991 with a 3.1 GPA. Is it possible to get around this "obstacle" so that reputable firms will show at least some interest in my credentials?

A: I wish I could advise you otherwise, but in today's job market, a five-month job search is often just the opening round in a job campaign. Your law school credentials may be a factor, though at this stage in your career, I would encourage you not to list your GPA. I assume your headhunter has reviewed and critiqued your resume; I often find clients with good legal backgrounds whose resumes are old-fashioned and poorly focused. Your litigation, tax and public accountant experience should be a major plus. To maximize your strengths, you will need to wage an aggressive and persistent job campaign. I would encourage you not to rely too heavily on the assistance of a headhunter, or on mailings. Instead, you will need to network through the phones, in visits to firms, bar association gatherings, and in a myriad of other ways. (Read Kim Waltons's book on "Guerrila Tactics to Get the Legal Job of Your Dreams.") Set aside a minimum of one daytime hour for job campaign activities every day, and persist. I often tell clients that looking for a job is like hitchhiking (if you're old enough to remember the days when it was more or less safe to do): you may feel terrible waving your thumb at cars passing you on the road, but all you need is one good ride to pick you up. Then you feel like a million bucks. Keep up the good work.

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