At the start of my third year of law school, I landed a brief work experience stint with a judge at the South Australian Supreme Court. Ecstatic about the three weeks which would surely save me from a desperate life of unemployment and give me a wide new perspective, I started preparing. I bought a brand new power suit, a few blouses so conservative my high-school self would have considered them turtlenecks and found a bus into the CBD which would get me to work seven minutes early. I rehashed all my legal researching skills, practiced my handshake and bought a tiny notebook; some article in my law student association’s Careers Guide advised an intern to always be prepared for note taking.
I arrived at the courthouse at 8:53 a.m., met the judge and his PA, and settled into a leather-backed chair to wait for the judge’s associate who would show me my new ropes and act as my supervisor. So far, everything was going smoothly. I had garnered an approving chuckle from the judge for a lightly amusing (and completely pre-prepared) story, I earned a compliment for my blouse (which was cutting off my flow of air) and I had made it into the chambers. I was winning.
Then disaster struck. My new supervisor had arrived for work. He was in his mid-twenties and a recent graduate who had just started his associateship at the court. We introduced ourselves, shook hands and prepared to leave the room for a tour of the courthouse. I walked behind him, saying ‘thank you’ too loudly every time I walked through a door he was holding open, making small rodent-like noises indicating agreement with his presented information, and sporadically emitting a gentle squawk intended as a laugh whenever he made a joke. My mind was racing; why couldn’t I handle an informal encounter with an unintimidating co-worker? In all of my preparation I had forgotten to revise making friends.
There are countless “how to” manuals for writing cover letters, acing interviews, dressing in corporate wear and completing your delegated tasks with adequate efficiency. With all of these essentials racing through our minds on the stressful first day of a new placement or job, it can be easy to forget the importance of being yourself and letting your personality shine through. As cheesy as that sounds, few people can enjoy a job that doesn’t satisfy their need to be social, and even fewer people can be successful at a job they don’t enjoy. So avoid that risk. Don’t underestimate the importance of letting your nerves go and enjoying your first day. Take a break from memorising names, play an office prank, go out for drinks on Friday afternoon instead of working overtime. And if you’re at the South Australian Supreme Court, join in the daily lunch-time table tennis tournament, but prepare to lose.
This week's Beyond Law Guest Blog is written by Hanna Daych. She is currently studying law at Flinders University. Interested in writing a piece for Beyond Law? Get in touch.