December 15, 2011 - Phil Hodgen

Why young tax lawyers should learn to read job advertisements

This is yet another piece of free advice (heh) from me to young tax lawyers out there.  I have been given priceless help over the years by many people.  Some of them were even tax lawyers.  🙂  This is my small effort to return the favor to the universe.

If you are looking at a job advertisement and you need a job, I have one piece of advice for you.  RTFA.  Read the Fine Advertisement.

If you are looking for a job you have a pressing and immediate problem.  Solving that problem by flinging yourself in front of every passing car and begging for quarters isn’t going to do the trick.  And that’s precisely what sending out resumes by the boatload is like.  (True confessions — I did exactly this when I was starting out and got a zillion letters back saying “. . . no thanks and we wish you success in your legal career.”  In other words, KTHXBAI.)

I’ll give you a clue from the employer side of the equation.  When there are instructions in the advertisement for what you should do, they have been planted there for a devious reason.   We are trying to figure out if you are smart or stupid.  If you don’t do what the advertisement asks you to do, you have immediately declared yourself stupid.  You will not be hired.  You are wasting your time and ours.

If the advertisement asks you to contact the employer by email and you call?  If the advertisement asks you to attach a written statement as a PDF and you attach it as a Word document?  Thanks for playing, goodbye.

Let’s talk about the bigger life lesson here.  The problem with a job search mentality like this is that you thinking of yourself.  You’re not thinking of the person on the receiving end of your email.  What does that person need?  What are the pressures on that person?

When you do work for clients you have to think about their problem from their perspective — as much as you can, anyway.  You have to be patient and be willing to sit and listen — REALLY listen — to clients to understand what needs to be done.   You are unlikely to solve a client’s tax problem by brute force, just as much as you are unlikely to solve your own job search problem by brute force.  It requires thinking.  It requires focus.  Then it requires directed application of intelligence and energy.

You succeed by getting to “no” fast.  You solve your clients’ problems efficiently by saying “no” to suboptimal alternatives as quickly as possible.  The fastest and best way to get to “no” fast is for you to say “no” to yourself.  The next best way to get to “no” fast is to have “no” thrust upon you.  Related to that, read “Fail Upwards.”