I took a job in March, not a solicitor role, but a job which I thought would be a good way of getting me used to conventional private practice after being out for a while. Also it was a City firm, not at the top, but well known enough to potentially mean something on my now rather dishevelled looking CV, so it would be good experience generally.
It meant a slight pay cut, but when I worked out my contracted hours/pay, what I'd gain in travel and free time, and the fact that my practising certificate and CPD (including SRA management stage 1 course) would be looked after while I was there, I thought made the job a good stop gap whilst I continued to look for work elsewhere. There was also in the depths of my mind the potential could be there for a NQ position.
I remember the interview. I knew I would get the job, why wouldn't I? I was over qualified for it. I remember being asked about how I'd deal with being over burdened with work, and recall responding how I was not afraid of hard work, but also that I also knew what reasonable looked like, so I wouldn't be taken advantage of. So then came contract negotiations. On a one year fixed term contract they tried to get me to sign up to a three month notice period. Whittled it down to what I thought was a good compromise at one month. I asked about overtime and was told that it wasn't paid, but also that it wasn't usual for there to be a requirement to work long hours in the department. Great. I need a work life balance, I've got a proper job to look for.
So I start my job. Its not too long in when I realise that I am doing the same job as a solicitor at a considerably lower pay, and the volume of work I had been given required me to work considerably longer hours than I had been expecting. But I enjoyed the responsibility. I enjoyed the work. And I enjoyed the fact that I was performing, in the most difficult of situations (poorly organised contract, lack of direction, support and training, and over allocation of work to name a couple). I was achieving.
"I know what reasonable looks like" ran around my head, and I took a step back to recognise that a 50+ hour week did not resemble reasonable.So I contact HR. I say that I suspect she wasn't aware of how busy the department was when negotiating my contract, and filled her in. Could something be done? She'll talk to the department head the following day. A week passed. I didn't want to be a pest. Two passed and I got restless. I got in touch and she was on holiday, she'll sort it out when she gets back. Basically I got the run around for 6 weeks before it was "addressed". And only after I realised that I'd been fobbed off for all of that time, was it that I realised that I was getting used to being in to work at 7am and leaving after 7, 8, 9, 10pm each night. What happened to my job hunt?
I contact HR again, and the following day, department head pops by and informs me that the last thing he wanted was an unmotivated workforce, who felt unappreciated. These are words which I'd never uttered. He knew his department morale was at an all time low. We'd talk.
My supervisor contacts me, and informs me that an in principal increase has been agreed for an additional role I had agreed to carry out, but nothing formal had been done. So cash for the additional role, but what about all of the additional hours? I write to my supervisor, and the department head suggests I arrange a meeting with him. Of course, he goes away for two weeks and by this time four months has passed.
Its d-day and I'm called in to the den. I wasn't feeling nervous, and was quite optimistic that someone who had reached such heights and appeared so understanding when we had first spoken, was a reasonable person and understood what made people tick.
So tell me @little_lawyer, where do you live? What do your parents do? Why did they come to the UK? What university did you go to?I had clearly read this all wrong...
He expected all of his team to work hard, so the additional hours worked were neither here nor there, and anyway, its about the quality and quantity of output not how long it takes to do something. I had a few weeks previously received a dazzling review...I suggested that if I wasn't working at the required competency level, it was a bit late to start suggesting I was not performing.
I was not "visible" in the team and every time he saw me I was sat at my desk working. What. The. Fruck. He must have skimmed the bit about my work load. Also, I had a great relationship with qualified and non qualified colleagues (they're a good bunch), he was never in, what did he know!
He couldn't see how I "added value" to the team. Obviously he missed the emails and training sessions I had organised for his qualified and non qualified team without which the department was flailing under the pressure of workload and lack of training.
And anyway, and more importantly, he had the cash to pay me more if he wanted to, but what made me think I was worth more when he had the cream of the crop from Cambridge and Oxford working for him?
I assumed my usual (and recognisable) position at my desk.
That was two months ago. Ever since, my constant IJ sounds, "I'm going to resign today" but all of my friends and family keep telling me that I'm better in a job than out, and the news keeps telling me the recession is deepening so I should be grateful to have this job. There have been sleepless nights. My heart is constantly palpitating. For a time I was in excruciating pain in my back and face due to tension. And more importantly, I think its time to take the work "resilient" from my CV. In that brief 15 minutes, every stereotype about city law was confirmed, and almost every ounce of self belief and esteem had been verbally beaten out of me.
Optimistic. Scrub that.
Realistic. I know my place and others are only too pleased to keep me in it. I've not yet worked with anyone I have thought impressive and would wish to emulate but background counts.
Candid. It has taken me nearly two months to pluck up the courage to write this. I'm embarrassed by my career. I believed that hard work and half a brain would get me the career I thought I deserved. I am battered and bruised, beaten and defeated.