So after the 18 articling applications I threw together in a panic in the midst of studying for my exams back in July, I only landed one interview. It was kind of a blow to my ego – I had a chart all drawn out to schedule interviews over three days, but didn’t have anything to write in it. Ouch. BUT at least I got ONE (so I was not totally crushed), and more importantly, it was for one of my very top choices: the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Crown Law Office Criminal Division (CLOC). It was actually my second choice after the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Office of the Children’s Lawyer, but in hindsight, CLOC would have been an even better opportunity than working at the OCL because I’d get a much broader-based experience. In short, even though I only got one interview, it was one that I was very happy about and confident that would actually lead to an articling position for me.
Academically, criminal and constitutional law have been my favourite subjects. However, they are also areas in which I don’t have much practical experience yet. I was hoping that I could get that through this articling position since the CLOC deals with the majority of criminal prosecutions at the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. Because this Crown office only works on appeal cases, it means I would be dealing with/analyzing contentious legal issues, questions of law, and Charter issues, rather than trying to prove facts. To me appeal work seemed like it would be much more interesting, rewarding, and better matched to my personality and skill sets. This would have been my articling dream job.
For legal positions with the government, the interviews are essentially oral exams. They rank you based on a scoring system. An interviewing committee has a list of questions and if you answer correctly according to their checklist, you get the points. This is supposed to ensure that hiring is done through a merit-based process, rather than through nepotism. I suppose that this is fair and it good practice, but it is also kind of a myth because there is still some subjectivity involved. Not every candidate gets asked the exact same questions (there is a bank to choose from), and in this office, there were 2 different committees – one interviewed one half of the candidates and one interviewed the other. I also heard through the grapevine that in this office, one of the hiring committees tended to ask much tougher questions than the other one. Whether or not that is true I can’t confirm, and it would probably just be my own subjective assessment anyway. In the end, what I can tell you is that the interview was really hard. I didn’t expect it to be how it was even though I had anticipated a lot.
I had prepared quite extensively. I reviewed my criminal law and evidence notes from school. I read through a bunch of Supreme Court cases and gave some thought to how I felt about each one of them and why. I consulted with my friend’s father who is a Crown Attorney. I even took out books from the library on extraordinary criminal appeal routes. But in the end, it was a matter of applying myself. I had all the information there – but it was a question of whether I could use it effectively. This is where I fell short. I made one little stupid mistake, but for the last question, I was a little bit lost for what exactly they were asking me altogether (I was given a hypothetical fact pattern but I had a hard time narrowing in on the question/issue).
I had walked into the interview feeling very confident and not the least bit nervous. I knew I had prepared myself well and studied hard. And while I knew the process was going to be competitive, I really believed in myself this time. So what if the other candidates were crazy over achieving, straight A students, and the kids of judges? I went to McGill – the best university in Canada, and probably one of the best in the world. I have stared death in the face before and said FUCK YOU when I was told that I wouldn’t have time to finish my undergraduate degree. I have fought tooth and nail to be in law school through on-going chemo (and other) treatments fighting one of the deadliest cancers. I could compete with these people. Plus my naturopath constantly stresses the importance of positive thinking, belief, and visualization in order to make things happen/turn to reality. So I really really believed that I was going to get this. I believed it until the very end (of the interview).
I walked out of the interview feeling deflated. I knew I had screwed up in a few places. But at that time I wasn’t sure how bad I had screwed up. And it would be hard to gauge as well since I couldn’t listen in on/observe any of the other interviews. I still held out some hope though that maybe some of the other candidates did worse than me and by some stroke of God’s grace, I’d still get the position. But 5 o’clock rolled around on call day (the day when the employer offers you the position if you’ve gotten it), and my phone remained silent. 5:15… 5:30… 5:45…
ball starts to rise in my throat …
burning ears …
tightness in chest,
and tears, tears, tears come streaming down my face.
I throw a few things around in my room. How is this happening?? How did I not get it?? I curse at God. Everything that my naturopath told me was a croc of shit. I believed right down to my inner core that I was going to get this. I had visualized myself in the role over and over again just like she told me. So how come I still failed?
For the rest of the night I was miserable. And for the next few days I kept obsessing about it. I re-played the interview over and over again in my mind, thinking about all the things I should have said instead. I couldn’t let it go. I hate losing/failing. I remember in middle and high school I used to cry when we lost our basketball games. People might think that it’s just a game – but it’s not… not when you’ve invested your time, hard work, commitment, and heart into it. If you give all that and still don’t win – it is absolutely devastating.
I know I will have opportunities to do other things. I am not panicking at this point for not having secured an articling position a year in advance of when I need to start. That is not the issue. The issue is that this was my dream job, that it was totally within my grasp, and I let it get away. I only have myself to blame for this. I know with time that things will get better, I’ll have a bit more perspective, and that this will have been a learning experience for me. But right now it is still raw, I am still bitter, and I still have the taste of failure in my mouth. It sucks.
posted by Carrie Ng Grace
Tags: failure, job search, lessons learned
Filed under: Reflections