For those of you who are not familiar with J.D.Vance’s recently published memoir, Hillbilly Elegy¹, about his transition from naïve, poor country boy to Ivy-league educated attorney, it may come as surprise that a top students like J.D. always thought that the way to find a job depends on sending a resume and waiting for an employer to respond. After he broke into the elite ranks of the legal profession as a Yale law student, he learned that getting hired was a different story than applying online. J.D. discovered, as many others do, that the most coveted, i.e. upper echelon, most desirable, “best” career opportunities are shared among a tight circle of insiders who recommend their contacts. In other words, so-called openings are not actually available to all applicants even those with incredibly good paper credentials and while an interview is a part of the process, it is not the sole determinant of a candidate’s fate. J.D. describes how he blew an interview at a prestigious firm, but actually got an attractive offer because his law professor intervened and gave him a glowing recommendation to her colleague at the firm. He learned as you can, that networking, connections, trust all carry more weight than absolute credentials matching an employer’s “official” requirements. What counts is having the right connection recommend you to the hiring authority. In a very competitive job market, there is one qualification that supersedes all others: existence of an influencer personally promoting you to the decision maker.
If you are in disbelief and still think there’s a strong chance of getting a job offer based on submitting an outstanding resume, just read J.D.’s account². His words illuminate this topic perfectly providing important information you need to know to achieve your own career success. This includes having an influential ( i.e., well connected) sponsor, gaining the support and cooperation of your colleagues and being familiar with “how things work” (for the legal field, this means how clerkships are awarded, law review editorial appointments assigned and summer internships are earned. )
¹ Vance, J.D. (2016) Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
²Ibid., pp. 214-215.
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