Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Day My Career Finally Started

It was 4pm. I was still in the office.

Every few minutes someone would pass my desk and give me a "why the hell are you still here?" look that was part astonishment and part pity. I was feeling a fair amount of both.

It was my last day at work.

Two weeks before I had accepted an offer from a law firm and promptly given notice, relishing the prospect of ten low-stakes days of coming in late, leaving early and two hour lunches.

But reality was far less glamorous.

I got the job I would be leaving seventeen months after I graduated from law school, and I graduated from law school two months after the Bear Stearns collapse and four months before Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. Not a good time to be a new lawyer in New York City if you aspire to more than doc review.

A big investment bank was starting a private wealth management group, and I would be a lawyer on the trusts & estates side. It was the job I had been waiting for, with only one catch. Since the group was new, they couldn't hire both a junior lawyer and a secretary, so for awhile at least, I would have to be both.

I was grateful for the job, and didn't ask a lot of questions about how long this dual role would last. I just jumped into the position, eager to finally be a lawyer.

Only I wasn't.

What legal work there was was handled by my boss while she lectured me how to answer the phone, file to her satisfaction, and properly format the agenda for our weekly meeting.

Every now and then I would do some legal research, but the bulk of my time was spent as a secretary and I was too busy worrying about the legal job market to stand up for myself and ask to do the work I had been trained to do.

The months dragged on. Every time my boss dropped a business card on my desk to add to her contacts I fantasized about throwing it in her face. Every time the phone rang I considered not picking it up, something I had been warned never to do.

So when the law firm came calling, I jumped at the opportunity.

After I gave notice I was handed a list a mile long of everything I had to finish before I left. So instead of spending my last two weeks shopping and lunching, I spent it writing a manual for my successor on how to do this legal job that contained virtually no legal work.

Which was how I found myself sitting in front of my computer at 4pm on my last day, instead of having drinks to celebrate my fancy new job.

I shifted in my chair and began the final section of the manual. As I typed the words "booking a flight," the stupidity of one lawyer instructing another how to properly book a flight for a third hit me.

I was done.

I shut down my computer for the last time, and headed for the door, leaving the manual unfinished.

I had a career to start.

19 comments:

  1. When I put in my notice at my first job in advertising to go to another big agency, they slapped me with a huge media plan due on my last day. I worked my butt off those last two weeks, but at least I was doing meaningful work. If I had been forced to write a manual on secretarial duties and booking a flight, I would have walked out, too. Enough is enough! So glad you moved on from that experience!

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    1. Instructing a lawyer on how to book a flight for another lawyer was the very last straw. I'm definitely not sorry.

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  2. A subtext on the yeah write grid this week seems to be "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore."

    I like it.

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    1. I don't think I have ever been as mad as I was during those 2 weeks. Putting a manual together of all the secretarial work that I had done for the 2 years I was at the job just crystallized it for me. I absolutely couldn't take it anymore.

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    1. Thanks! (I'm hearing lots of girl power songs in my head right now)

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  4. Nice! Sounds brutal...but I'm sure you built lots of character in that job - and learned what NOT to do as a boss!

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  5. Well done! It all happens for a reason, doesn't it. One job that sucks so bad that you keep looking for anything else and FINALLY you do it, you make it to the 'fancy new job'.

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  6. love it! so glad you are out of there. they've wasted your brain too long!! you're on your way. :)

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    1. Haha thanks. This actually happened a long time ago. I have been at my current job (which is the "new" job in this post) a little more than 2 years. But it was so bad there at the end of my old job that I remember it like it just happened.

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  7. Ho.Lee.Shit. That sounds awful, but I'm so glad you're at a new place where you're going to be valued! YAY!
    great post, btw. Well done!

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  8. Ugh! Writing that manual sounds like hell to me. However, if I ever forget how to book a flight, I'm coming to you first! Go have those belated celebratory drinks now - it's never too late! Great story and post!

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  9. I would've walked too, Sam. So happy for you that you moved on up! I completely relate to what you said about the business cards and wanting to throw them in your boss's face. I worked at a record label for a while and every time some up and coming act came in and my boss told me to go get them coffee and bagels it was like a sucker punch to the gut.

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  10. I admire your ability to do as much of the manual as you did. Sure, I would've made an attempt to leave notes, but stay late, probably not :)

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  11. Those first jobs are always tough and never what we really want to do. Good for you for hanging in until you got the job you were meant to have. I have been doing mine for so long now (IT Director), I'm ready for a change, but way too many bills to pay, so I'm doing this writing thing, hoping one day, probably retirement, I can work on it full time :)

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  12. Sometimes the smartest thing to do is to leave the manual unfinished! Great story. Hope the next job is more fulfilling for you.

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  13. Didn't you just love graduating into the shittiest economy in recent history? The one in which everyone tells you to be grateful for the crappy work they give you? Lol.
    I am SO GLAD you got out! And I love the way you finished - damn the man!! :) Reading about you finding your dream job gives me hope.

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