*LONG POST ALERT*
When I was a little girl, I had one dream – I dreamed of being a lawyer.
Over time, this dream transformed into making partner at a firm that appreciated my value and most of all made me happy and left me feeling fulfilled. I never thought for one moment that one single complete stranger had the ability to crush everything I had worked 18 years for in a short 20-minute interview.
I know people will be asking well ‘ What made this interview so bad ?And yes I could go into every remark made in the interview (and I’m sure each one would leave you speechless ) but, I don’t want this post to be a bitter personal vendetta against the firm because well, that is not me or in my nature. I also feel that holding onto such negative energy would not benefit me in anyway. What I will say is that I left the interview with an overwhelming feeling that I had been discriminated against solely based on my gender. And let me tell you it was an awful feeling; one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Truthfully, I cried in the middle of the street to my mum for hours. I remember repeating to her that I would never make partner because I was a woman and told her I was done with the legal industry as a whole because my passion and self-worth had been involuntarily stolen and stripped from me by a stranger. How?
Before my eyes, I watched someone make countless degrading remarks towards me and the fact is I let them. I let them make me feel useless, unworthy and incompetent. Yet, I still tried to please them and even masked my own views in some backwards attempt to make them like me and make me feel worthy because I thought they deserved my respect as a senior and I think part of me at the time thought it was a ‘normal’ TC interview experience – I now know otherwise !!
So, I was left wondering how can I share this negative experience with my readers in a way that will add value and help you realise that NOBODY on this planet has the right to make you feel unworthy, regardless of their ranking, title or position within a firm.
The Effects of a Bad Interview:
After I calmed down from the interview, I knew in my heart that I had to open up about my experience in a way that I never have before. I knew that I had been given the chance to use my voice and speak openly and honestly through this platform that I created. If I opted not to, then everything I wanted this space to be would cease and I almost felt a bit like a fraud.
The stark reality is that the consequences of a short interview can have a lasting and deadly effect on you if you leave it unspoken and brush it under the carpet. Here are some of the effects…
- Turned off the legal career for good – the fact is that if this was somebody’s first interview and they were spoken to the way that I was, they would second guess their suitability to the career. This could very easily lead to closing the whole legal chapter of your life and looking at different career options. Even with the most incredible support network (and Uber driver lol) I would be lying if I said that I didn’t consider this. Thankfully I seen sense pretty quickly.
- Self-doubt – Those few comments made may only be words, but those words plant a seed of self-doubt deep within your core. Immediately after the interview (now referred to the BLIP) I continually asked myself ‘What did I say or do wrong?’. I even tried to justify the interviewer’s behaviour by blaming myself for asking too complicated and complex questions. How ridiculous is that? Previous to the blip, interviews were my strong point. I went into them fully prepared with extensive research into the firm and I secured every job I interviewed for as a result. After the blip, I doubted every single one of my strengths. My confidence, research abilities, humorous approach and bubbly personality took the biggest hit and I found myself portraying the avatarstic version of myself (hats off to you if you know what I mean) and not the real Evangeline.
- Regret – This is something that is taking me a bit longer to overcome. I wake up still feeling riddled with regret and I guess that is something that I will have to live with for the short term. I regret not standing up and leaving the interview when I knew that it felt wrong and I regret asking for feedback from someone so manipulated by power. But, saying this should I ever be in a similar situation again I now know what feels right for me to do and how to react.
- Lack of trust in the system – we as young legal professionals place our utmost trust in seniors in the legal field. We take their word as bible because well that’s what we were trained and taught to do throughout our career. Think back to our lecturers, university staff, mentors, directors of companies etc… We are encouraged to show them a certain level of respect because they are our seniors. Likewise, in interviews. We have to display a certain level of professionalism and respect to the interviewer because they are often more qualified, ranked higher and more senior to us. But what happens when the person you placed your trust in to conduct the interview fairly breaks that hypothetical promise that binds the industry. You are left feeling that the whole system is unfair and no matter how much you shine as a candidate the system has failed you and will continue to do so, so why be in the system if you can’t beat it.
- Clouded judgement – Coming out of this blip, I felt as though my perception of the world around me had completely altered (not to sound dramatic). I carried with me a pessimistic view of training contract interviews and the greater world and what almost felt like a bitterness towards certain firms with similar features. I knew that this attitude wouldn’t allow me to grow positively from the experience so essentially, I had to rid it completely.
One of the first things my mum said to me was ‘I am glad that you had this experience, and this is the best thing to ever happen to you’. I remember being so angry at the time that she said this because how could anyone wish that anger and hurt on someone. Looking back, as always, she was right – I just wasn’t ready to see the positives. A short time later, I’ve had some time to reflect. This singular event really has been the making of me. It has taught me things about myself and the wider world that no book, article or podcast could ever teach me.
What I thought were important characteristics in firms actually mean nothing. High rankings, awards and multi-million-pound clients mean nothing if you can’t progress in a firm or be in a friendly environment that supports personal growth and positive mental health. I now understand that sometimes what’s on paper means nothing and the only real way to understand a firm’s culture is by surrounding yourself directly with its people.
This led me down my own path of personal growth. Now, I actively look for female partner diversity initiatives and a clear pathway of progression. It saddens me how in this day and age women are still being overlooked by male counterparts due to what has been called their ‘inability to juggle a successful career and kids’. I have to admit that some of my top firms have been altered due to the volume of women being kept at senior associate level rather than at partnership level. However, I am glad that my research took this turn now, rather than in 15 years’ time when I figure out I can’t progress to partner simply due to my gender.
Thanks to this blip, I now know my self-worth and let me tell you nobody will ever speak to me like it again. I owe it to myself. I have worked too hard fighting grief, sickness and burnout along the way to let some narrow-minded individual ruin my journey. Don’t you dare let someone do that to you (I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you are and will be enough for the right firm. You don’t have to change or pretend to be someone to be enough – You already are enough).
They say sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can also hurt me. To that I say use that hurt and channel it into becoming a better version of yourself than before. For me, I am so glad for the anger as it has instilled more passion than I thought was possible in me and has motivated me to become a young female partner. (PS when that happens guess who will be getting a knock on their door hehe).
This is just the start – here’s to a future of success, longevity and happiness. One person does not define your journey – you define it so, go out there and create yours.