Make us your home page
Career Q&A | By Marie G. McIntyre, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

Don't quit, but seek help learning the ropes

Q: I'm afraid that I might be fired from my first professional job. Four months ago, after finishing law school, I was hired by a very large firm that has no orientation or training program. My boss keeps saying "just figure it out" and gets angry if I ask other attorneys for help.

Unfortunately, my boss and I also seem to have a terrible communication problem. Whenever I ask a question, she gives me a long answer that I don't understand, which is very frustrating. She must be frustrated as well, because she has started rolling her eyes and sighing when I walk into her office.

I have considered quitting my job to avoid being fired for poor performance. However, I hate to give up so quickly. Is there any way out of this dilemma?

A: Feeling like a failure in your first job is a horrible experience, but don't be too hard on yourself. This law firm apparently has a sink-or-swim culture, in which new hires are largely left to fend for themselves. In such environments, the underlying management philosophy seems to be survival of the fittest, so training, coaching and peer support are virtually nonexistent.

Under normal circumstances, your immediate manager would be expected to help you conquer the learning curve, but since discussions with her are unproductive, you will need to find another suitable mentor. Fortunately, most large law firms have a human resources manager or a partner responsible for new associates, either of whom should be able to help.

Without criticizing your boss or the firm, explain the challenges you are facing and ask how other beginners have managed to learn the ropes. If it seems appropriate, consider asking your new ally to facilitate a performance-planning discussion with your manager. Having a "translator" available might help to reduce the communication barriers.

But if your adjustment continues to be difficult, don't despair. This big, impersonal organization may simply not be a good fit for you. Many attorneys who struggle in a large firm find that they thrive in a smaller, more supportive practice.

Bad credit history can hurt job hunts

Q: I'm afraid that bad credit may interfere with my getting a better job. Although I'm working with a debt settlement attorney to resolve earlier financial problems, my credit report does not look good. The attorney has offered to provide a letter explaining my circumstances to potential employers.

I'm not sure what kind of job I should be looking for or how much of an obstacle my credit score may be. My background includes positions in real estate and accounts payable, as well as general clerical work. Do you have any advice?

A: With a history of recent money problems, you are unlikely to be considered for any position involving financial transactions, since employers will worry that personal pressures might cause you to succumb to temptation. Nonfinancial administrative jobs, however, should be much easier to obtain.

Fortunately, you will know when employers are running a credit check, because federal law requires them to get your written permission. When this occurs, you should provide a heads-up about your checkered fiscal past, because you never want to surprise an interviewer with unpleasant facts.

Without going into detail, explain that recent financial troubles have affected your credit report. Indicate that you are now resolving these problems and provide a copy of the attorney's letter. But save this explanation for the end of the interview, since you want to make a positive impression before sharing negative information.

Don't quit, but seek help learning the ropes 09/15/12 [Last modified: Saturday, September 15, 2012 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code


    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  2. Trigaux: On new Forbes 400 list of U.S. billionaires, 35 now call Florida their home

    Personal Finance

    The latest Forbes 400 richest people in America was unveiled Tuesday, with 35 billionaires on that list calling Florida home. That's actually down from 40 Florida billionaires listed last year when a full 10 percent listed declared they were Floridians by residence.

    Edward DeBartolo, Jr., shopping center developer and  former San Francisco 49ers Owner, posed with his bronze bust last year during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio. DeBartolo remains the wealthiest person in Tampa Bay according to the Forbes 400 list released Tuesday. 
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]
  3. Clearwater attorney accused of condo foreclosure trickery fights back

    Real Estate

    The Clearwater lawyer accused of tricking a bidder into paying $458,100 for a gulf-front condo now plans to contest a judge's order tossing out the sale.

    John Houde, left, looks in the direction of Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, foreground, in August during a hearing Sixth Judicial Circuit court Judge Jack St. Arnold at the Pinellas County Courthouse. The judge agreed with Houde's allegation that he was duped by Skelton in thinking he bought a Redington Beach condo for $458,100 out of a foreclosure auction. Now Skelton is fighting back. 
  4. How a group of Florida tomato growers could help derail NAFTA


    Tony DiMare, a third-generation Florida tomato grower, has spent two decades contending with cheap Mexican imports, watching his neighbors abandon crops in their fields and sell off their farms when they couldn't match the price of incoming produce.

    Workers fill a trailer with tomatoes as they harvest them in the fields of DiMare Farms in Florida City. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images(2013)]
  5. Pinellas deputies go door-to-door at dawn to arrest unlicensed contractors


    Pinellas deputies began pounding on doors at 5 a.m. Tuesday, part of a widespread roundup of contractors accused of working without licences and workers compensation.

    Pinellas Sheriff deputies J. Short, left, and T. Festa, right, arrest suspect Randy Ronchi, center, in Largo early Tuesday, as part of a joint roundup of unlicensed contractors. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]