How Clerkship Rejections Were The Best Thing That Happened To Me

Last year, I faced a series of rejections that I never expected would affect me the way it did.

I had good grades and a nicely ornamented resumé I was proud of. Then the rejection emails came. Relentlessly. One after the other. It got to the point where I only had to read the opening line, ‘Due to the high calibre of applicants this year…’ where my heart would drop and I knew what would follow. After a tiring couple of months, I wounded up empty handed and broken hearted.

While many of my brilliant friends had their summers filled with clerkships, my summer was scarily vacant with three empty months before my exchange in Prato, Italy. As someone who itched to be busy and needed an eventful summer, I decided that I would apply for a short one-month intensive unit in January 2018 in Jerusalem, Israel. I was accepted into that program and had two free months before I flew off to Italy.

As I sat at my desk, planning out the spare time that I had because I didn’t have clerkships, I reached into my backpack and discovered an old crumpled pamphlet. I remembered speaking to a random lady at an airport about my dreams and aspirations six months ago. We bonded over having the same name. ‘Oh, you’re interested in human rights? Have you heard of Calev Myers? He’s a human rights lawyer in Israel,’ she said as she handed me a pamphlet with the large words ‘Jerusalem Institute of Justice’ on its cover. I remembered taking it, smiling, and shoving it in my backpack. I forgot about it for the next six months, until that day.

After a brief Google of this mysterious Calev Myers, I decided to spontaneously email him because why the hell not. My email went along the lines of something like this: ‘Hello Calev, I’ll be in Israel studying for a month. I love your work. If you’d like, I’d love to have a catch up when I’m in town. Thanks!’ I cannot emphasise how informal and shabby it was.

Two days later, he responded with a ‘Thank you for reaching out to me, Carol. You seem like the perfect candidate for an internship in the Jerusalem Institute of Justice! I’ve just forwarded your email to the CEO and COO of the organisation. They’ll be in touch with you.’

This literally went straight from zero to a hundred. I immediately looked up this non-for-profit organisation and found that there was a formal application process for an internship, which I had skipped entirely. Just like that, through a late night sleepily-drafted email, I had landed myself an internship in a reputable human rights organisation in the Middle East.

I ended up living in Jerusalem for three months from January to March. I visited some of the most beautiful and culturally rich places on earth, ate incredible food, picked up conversational Hebrew, educated myself on politics, formed opinions on issues I was once absolutely clueless on, gained deeper insight into my faith, and found lifelong friends. And when I say ‘lifelong friends’, I mean kindred spirits that celebrate with you, cry with you, and do life with you.

My three months in Jerusalem easily became one of the best three months of my life.

Often when we’ve planned for something that doesn’t happen, we’re left we a daunting amount of spare time lingering in the place of our unfulfilled wishes. Embrace it. Reach out into your backpack and pull out that crumpled, untouched pamphlet. Contact that person you met months, or years, ago with the job of your dreams. Draft an email, or emails, to the person that inspires you the most. It doesn’t even have to be career-related. Those empty months are waiting to be transformed into spontaneous adventures, new skills and experiential knowledge.

 

***

After a total of 7 months in Israel and Italy, I finally settled back in Melbourne and returned to life as I knew it. I started applying for grad jobs in commercial firms. (For those who didn’t get clerkships – grad applications are your second window!)

After a gruelling process of interviews and psychometric tests, a familiar wave of rejections swept over me. Except this time, it felt much gentler and kinder. After the first wave of clerkship rejections, I’ve somehow built a resistance against ‘no’. Barely dismayed, I dusted them off. I was having coffee with a friend when she said to me, ‘I don’t see it as rejection, but redirection.’ Sure, it’s a catchy phrase. But I was soon about to find out how right she was.

One day, another friend suggested that I mind-mapped my aspirations to have a clearer idea of my future. Initially, I thought it sounded silly. I’m not in kindergarten. I am a fully-grown adult who pays for her own Netflix account. But I decided to give it a shot anyway. I spread out a large, blank sheet of paper across my desk, and formed three broad categories: Passion, Talent and Lifestyle.

Passion. My passion is people. I love hearing their stories, unpacking their hearts, and allowing them to feel seen and valued. I also love law. I love the problem-solving and intellectually-stimulating aspects of it. Of course, I have other ancillary passions, such as music and politics. I scribbled those down too.

Talent. The first thing that came to my mind was my way with words. I love using my words to empower others and to convey ideas. The second thing that popped in my head was my people skills. I love building relationships. This was tightly linked to my other talent of words. It’s my way with words that enables me to connect easily with people, and my easy connection with people that highlights my way with words.

Finally, lifestyle. This was a surprising one. It was only when I thought about how much I enjoyed my alone time, church time, gym time, time making music, and time with people I love, when I realised how I did not desire the lifestyle of a lawyer in a traditional commercial law firm. I deeply admire and respect the people who enjoy long hours and flourish in highly demanding work spaces. But it’s just not the lifestyle I desire for myself.

After reflecting on the bigger picture, I found that my dream job would be working as a lawyer with vulnerable or broken clients. This fulfills my passion and talent, while also providing me with a satisfactory lifestyle.

Something that I hear many people say is, ‘Well, I don’t know if it’s not for me if I haven’t even tried it yet. I don’t know if commercial law is not for me because I haven’t clerked yet.’ You make a fair point. However, there are many boutique to mid-tier commercial firms out there that are happy to take in paralegals or short-term interns to give you a good flavour. I’ve certainly done a few stints myself and, looking back, I didn’t enjoy the work. Or, you could reach out to lawyers in that line of work and ask them for their honest feedback. Or, you could take my advice and mind-map your passions, talents and desired lifestyle. You never know- your answers may surprise you.

Last year, the clerkship process broke my heart but I went on to live my best life in a foreign country.

This year, I applied again and grad rejections didn’t crush me. I went on to discover my true passion and dream. And this is how clerkship rejections were the best thing that happened to me.


Carol Shi (Contributor)

Carol Shi is a fresh graduate from Monash Law. In her spare time, she enjoys a meaningful conversation over coffee, jamming to a good Hilary Duff banger in her car, and colouring her bible. She will be starting her Practical Legal Training in January 2019. Albeit less active on social media, you can discover her one song on Spotify

Interview with Sarah Holloway: Founder of Matcha Mylkbar & Monash Alumni

As we attempt to get through the 5+ years at Uni, many of us may wrestle with thoughts about whether or not to practice as a lawyer after Uni, and where else a law degree may be useful.

We understand the struggle, so we decided to chat with Monash Arts/Law Alumni, and co-founder of Matcha Maiden, Sarah Holloway! This lawyer turned ‘funtreprenuer’ has definitely thrived in both the Law and Business life after she left her job as an M&A lawyer at King & Wood Mallesons to turn her amazing health food side-hustle into a full-blown global business!

This feature is for anyone who has struggled with juggling the Work-Uni life, those who have doubts about their degree, and inspiration that you can be a lawyer and fulfill your  creative aspirations as well!


TBWA_SH-2
Image Credit: Supplied

Hey Sarah, thanks for catching up with us! Could you share a little bit about your journey going into Law School?

All through my school life, I was interested in a little bit of everything and never really had my eye on one single career. I have always loved keeping a jam-packed extracurricular schedule, so I indulged a very broad range of interests in music, sport, dance, and the arts. By the time I finished high school, I still hadn’t narrowed down my career focus and wanted to keep as many doors open as possible, so I chose law because it seemed to be a very versatile degree with many different pathways that would teach you skills you could use no matter where you ended up. I also figured that if I never had a big career epiphany, being a lawyer was still a secure and respectable option that in itself could lead to many different areas of law, lifestyles, countries, and contexts.

I also paired law with an Arts degree to be able to keep up with my languages and to mix up the heavier law subjects with some creative humanities units. This also gave me a reason to head off on multiple exchanges during my uni studies as travel is one of my great loves! While there were definitely parts of my degree that I enjoyed more or less than others, I never really doubted the utility of studying law particularly because you get more and more exposure to the different things you can do with it. I also noticed that my critical thinking, time management, and other valuable life skills developed as a result of the intensive study. I also didn’t really become any clearer on what I wanted to do, so it made sense to continue with something sensible while I figured it out.

As you know, Uni can be an incredibly stressful time and can lead to many students experiencing depression and anxiety. What is your advice for anyone struggling with this while going through Uni?

Especially in this day and age, depression and anxiety are surprisingly common and thankfully it’s becoming more socially acceptable to talk about. We live in such an information-dense, high-pressure time and it’s natural for students (particularly A type, OCD, perfectionist students like most law students) to feel the effects of that physically and psychologically.

Anxiety, in particular, is absolutely something I have and still struggle with, but it’s very manageable if you do your research and stay in tune with yourself. I think the most important thing is to talk to trusted people around you about it for support and care. A problem shared is a problem halved and it’s so important to have good people around you. Do some research too on the many resources that are around these days for young people. I do a lot of yoga, meditate twice daily and walk at least 30 minutes every day, all of which are known to help anxiety symptoms.

There is no shame in accepting things can get really tough, it’s just how you go about it dealing with the symptoms when they do.

What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t know what they want to do with their law degree?

That most people don’t and it doesn’t matter one bit. I still don’t really know exactly what I want to do and that’s just part of the journey! It’s better to be doing something than nothing, and gaining experience in the workforce (whether or not it’s in your relevant area) is going to teach you about yourself, the world and what does and doesn’t suit you-you can’t know until you start! So just because you’re not sure you want to be a lawyer, doesn’t mean you’re not exactly where you should be. If I’d started a business when I first graduated, I wouldn’t have had any of the skills or experience I needed to keep it afloat. I would have been too immature and without practical experience or professional resilience.

There’s pretty much nowhere in the world that a law degree isn’t recognised and appreciated for teaching you certain skills and self-management, so it will NEVER be irrelevant. Just keep at it and learn as much as you can, because you never know how much it will be useful to you later on. I’d also highly recommend talking to as many people as you can to see the paths they’ve ended up on and learn about the pathways that are even possible.

Many of us start off thinking it’s just lawyer or non-lawyer but there’s a HUGE gray area in between!

You are a successful entrepreneur and co-founder of an amazing health food business!  How did you take that leap from being a full-time corporate lawyer to running your very own business?

Very much by accident actually! Which is why I’m a huge supporter of the idea that you don’t have to know where you going or plan everything 5 years in advance, you sometimes just have to go with the flow and equip yourself as best you can until the next adventure lands on your doorstep. I came back from a charity expedition to Rwanda with a parasite and got quite sick so was banned from coffee as it was too harsh on my adrenals. At the time I was in M&A at King & Wood Mallesons and was a 10 cups a day kind of girl! Luckily I got sent to the firm’s headquarters in Hong Kong where matcha was much more readily available and I discovered it was a much healthier form of caffeination that still gave me energy but without any jitters or crash of coffee.

When I came home, I couldn’t really find it anywhere so decided to get some online – like many businesses, it literally all began on Google! We could only get 10kg which was way too much, so the idea came up for my partner Nic and I to sell some as a creative side project just as an experiment. We sold out in a week completely unexpectedly, so it’s been matcha madness since then! I left my job six months later when Urban Outfitters in the US found us through Instagram and ordered a huge amount of matcha that we couldn’t fulfill without someone going full time. It was definitely a big, scary life decision but also an easy one – while Law would always be there, the matcha rush might not be.

Sometimes you have to take a risk and see what happens!

It was actually an even bigger decision because at the time I had secured a Judge’s Associateship with Justice Kiefel (now the Chief Justice) of the High Court to start a few months later. So it really was a matter of a fork in the road where the two options were mutually exclusive. Self-doubt nearly overcame me many a time but my favourite quote got me through – doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.

I always feel like if a dream doesn’t work out it has to be because you tried, not because you were too scared to. You have to give yourself the chance to succeed rather than always assuming you’ll fail. Because often you’ll prove yourself wrong! We’re all capable of more than we know, we’re just very happy in comfort zones (but that’s not where the magic happens!)

TBWA_SH-3
Image Credit: Supplied

Law students are known to be Type A personalities who attempt to heap tons of work experience and extracurriculars on their plate. How do you deal with the stress and pressure in your work life- back when you were a lawyer, and now as a business woman?

Interestingly, I found it easier at the firm in hindsight than I do now. Even with the long hours and occasional weekends, employment comes with boundaries and structure that actually helps the body be able to know when it needs to be on and when it can rest.

After a year of experimenting, I got into a good routine in the second and third year of making sure I fitted in some exercise at lunchtimes, got outside everyday even just to walk around the block and made time for meditation. Once I left the firm, however, I thought “oh yay, I’m moving into wellness and can do yoga all day, everyday – I’ll be the picture of health!” The irony of running a wellness business though is that you’re so passionate about it that your own wellness takes a back seat. There’s no difference between weekends and weekdays, there’s no sick leave or public holidays or hierarchy or rules to help you tell the difference between work, rest and play. Working with your partner too means there’s even more of a smoosh together of your personal and business worlds. So it’s taken a while to adjust to that new environment and MANY a lesson have been learned along the way.

It’s still a balancing act that I’m not exactly on top of, but putting in some basic boundaries again has helped a lot. Sundays are no phone days, we try to switch off after 9pm, we don’t work from home all day every day and we make sure to exercise throughout the week. We take little weekend trips to get out of town where we can and I still meditate regularly which is one of my greatest tools. Again, we get it wrong often and I burn out every now and then, but it’s all a work in progress!

On that same note, what do you believe are the first signs of burnout and how have you tried to avoid it?

I think that’s the big step – we all need to learn what our thresholds are as they’re different for everyone. The problem is the signs are there, but there’s so much noise in our worlds these days that we ignore them. My big lesson has been becoming more in tune with my body and mind so that I can react quicker before it’s too late. My tell-tale signs are my glands going up, I sometimes get a mouth ulcer or two, and my anxiety flares up again.

The key in those moments is not to think “oh I’ll just push through a few more days”, but to react immediately as your body is FAR smarter than you are.

So now, I’ll move back meetings or skip the gym, up my water, sleep earlier and try to knock it over the first time. It’s a constant battle in my mind between progress-driven crazy business woman versus sleepy yogi who loves resting!

What is one wellness tip you really advocate?

Meditation! It can be frustrating, takes time, and often won’t feel “worth it” but over time it has become my most valuable skill. My mind goes far too fast for my body and meditation forces me to stop to let everything catch up. It’s that gap that causes the burn out and the world moves way too fast for what our bodies are built for. Meditation really helps me resist the “glorification of busy” and the need for urgency when nothing, really, is urgent if you’re not a paramedic or a surgeon!

The other thing is pampering – it seems indulgent but really, it can be a HUGE health-promoting exercise that really enhances productivity and wellness. I do regular facials, massage and baths and they keep me on track. It’s hard to “wind down” and if you can find something like a massage that fast-tracks your relaxation, embrace it!

TBWA_SH-1
Image Credit: Supplied

Favourite podcast?

Serial! I’m a sucker for crime!

Favourite brunch spot?

Matcha Mylkbar

Books you’re currently reading?

I haven’t been! I’ve been Netflix binging instead!

Thanks for your time and words of wisdom Sarah! We can’t wait to see what else you do in the Matcha world!

Check out more of Sarah’s journey on her website SPOONFUL OF SARAH   and her personal Instagram 

Find out more about her business baby MATCHA MAIDEN and visit her most Insta-worthy brunch cafe MATCHA MYLKBAR

Interview conducted by Ashley Chow (Co-founder)

Interview with Francis Qi: International Student and Graduate at Hunt & Hunt

This exciting interview series was conducted by one of our co-founders Yan, and takes us through how Francis Qi recently received his graduate offer from Hunt & Hunt. Over the next three videos, Francis shares his personal experience in integration, seeking employment and further advice for international students.

Part I: Integration & Motivation

Inspired by the BBC tv series “Silk”, Francis talked about his motives for a career in law. After moving to Melbourne, he realised that the biggest problem for himself was to speak English precisely and eloquently. To tackle this, he shared his personal tips on mastering the language and how to speak with confidence. He believed the best way of integration is to participate in various competitions and seminars and work closely with other students.

Part II: Employability & Succeeding in the Law

To gain relevant work experience and figure out his interesting fields of law, Francis started in Castan Centre of Human Rights and then moved to work as a legal assistant in a suburban law practice. He also gave us some tips on improving employability and standing out in the recruitment process. Besides work, he has been volunteering in various occasions, including Monash Open Day, mooting competition and Victoria Bar events. Finally, he offered his guidance on succeeding in mooting competitions.

Part III: Advice for Exams & Assessment

Understanding the difficulty in maintaining strong academic performance, Francis shares his own way dealing with pressure from study and exams. Also, he recommended a few interesting law electives, followed by his final advice for international students.

Interview conducted by Priya and Yan (Co-founders)