A Guide to Surviving OCI (and Any Job Search) Without Losing Your Humanity

What follows is a virtual conversation between me and my friend Meg Green ’21 about our experience with OCI. We actually met during OCI callbacks at a Boston firm last year.

That was a dramatic title. What do you mean about humanity?

T: What I mean is that despite this On-Campus Interviewing (OCI) process seeming (for many) like the defining moment of your career, in which you either succeed heroically or fall tragically like an ancient empire, it’s just a job placement process, likely the first (or second or twentieth) over the course of your long and exciting career. Approach it with the correct perspective. Is it scary? Yes. Is it awkward? 100%. If you strike out will you fail at anything and everything else you attempt for the rest of your life? Of course not. That’s absurd. That’s all I am getting at. Stress can bring out the worst in people.  So just go through this process humanely and humbly and know that keeping your cool and being nice to people is never the wrong approach.

M: Speaking of being nice to people — Tatiana and I wanted to have this conversation because we met for the first time at a firm reception for students who had received a callback invitation. We were literally competing with each other for a job. But instead of ignoring each other or attempting to dominate a conversation with a partner, we began a friendship.

Now that I am on the other side of OCI and a summer program, I realize that attorneys want to hire the colleagues they want to work with. There is very little riding on a perfect answer to an interview question. My best advice for any job interview is to be a person that other people want to work with. Showing that you are a real person with opinions and feelings and humor will take you so much further than you think. So, not only is approaching the process by being a considerate and humble person never the wrong approach, I think it is actually to your competitive advantage

Are there any benefits to OCI held in the middle of 2L? Any benefits to virtual? 

M: Absolutely! For starters, I can’t tell you how many times an interviewer asked me “What was your favorite 1L class?” Maybe some of you are passionate about Contracts or Torts but, for me, 1L were the dues that had to be paid. Having another semester’s worth of courses, that you chose, will hopefully add to the wealth of interests you can bring up in interviews.

And look on the bright side, at least you don’t have to schlep it back-and-forth downtown…in August…wearing a blazer…and heels…on the Green Line. 

T: I can fully endorse that not running around like a chicken with your head cut off downtown in the humidity of a Boston August is a blessing. And on that virtual note, I am not suggesting that you should wear pajamas under your blazer… but you could. And no one would stop you. I think there’s a lot of power in that. 

On a more serious note, if you’re engaging in OCI this coming January, some of your benefits are already conferred. You’ve got the flexibility and know-how to navigate being a law student during arguably the most off the rails time to be a law student in living memory. That means you’ve got grit. And that is a fantastic asset for interviewing. 

Any advice on dealing with the stress during OCI? 

T: How did you deal with stress during 1L? How do you continue to manage now? You’ve made it this far and likely developed some safe and effective ways to handle your stress. This process is substantially shorter and much more definitive than 1L. It’s rapid fire, so the stress is pretty compact which is both a good and bad thing. Sort of like ripping off a bandaid, OCI happens in the blink of an eye and then it’s over. Engage in self care in whatever way is meaningful to you. I made sure during OCI to treat myself with fancy lattes before my interviews. That was mostly a good idea (I will elaborate on that later on in this blog).  In addition, I merely reiterate what I said already but in different terms: being stressed does not give you license to be unkind. 

How can I celebrate my success gracefully?

M: This all comes down to kindness and empathy. Please be kind to your classmates. When I showed up to OCI last year, several students were excitedly talking about the offers they had already received. They didn’t mean any harm, but my imposter syndrome kicked into the highest possible gear and I hid on the fourth floor of the library for the rest of the week. It is important to realize that everyone goes through the hiring process at a different pace. 

You definitely can celebrate your success — and you should! But as always, be mindful of those around you.

T: Speaking of celebrating, we all know everyone loves to share exciting news on social media. It’s just the era in which we live when admissions offers, graduations, relationship advancements, new puppies, and successful sourdough starters dominate our feeds. So it makes sense that you’d want to celebrate in those mediums as well. 

About that: Meg and I both strongly urge you to resist the temptation to celebrate an offer or acceptance on social media. Seriously. We are begging you not to do it. But Tatiana, it’s a huge deal — I am proud and I want to celebrate!! And as Meg already said, you should! But do it in a way that doesn’t make other people feel bad if they haven gotten there quite yet. 

Others will disagree, but we believe that there is a grace and humility in celebrating without the publicity. It allows you to own your accomplishment privately with those in your inner circle, knowing that full well once you update your LinkedIn everyone will know anyway, but it does it in a way that doesn’t have the unintentional gloating effect of appearing to rub it in your peers’ faces.

Wait, what!? People get early offers?? Does that mean I’m behind??

M: We know a lot of you are worried about “precruiting.” Believe it or not, we worried too. For us, it was the urban legend of the person who got a job offer over 1L winter break. So, we interrupt this blog for a useful note from the administration: 

“The CSO confirms that “precruiting” has occurred over the past few years and that this season there does not seem to be any more activity than usual. It may be more “visible” this year given that these activities are happening during the semester instead of during the summer. Employers continue to register for OCI, the NY Job Fair, the MLSC Government & Public Interest Job fair and are eager to meet BC Law students in January.”

There you have it: you are not behind! Please do not let anyone else’s journey make you question that. From our experience, the vast majority of students end up going through the OCI process to land a firm job. And many, many more receive offers after OCI. I actually think it is much better to go through the OCI process, where you can get to know more attorneys and feel out the culture across different firms. This is especially true this year when you have not had the opportunity to network in person.

How did you recover from setbacks in your job search? 

M: I have always struggled to cope with rejection or criticism. Someone once explained to me that for some people, every time they receive a compliment, they add some sand to their “self-worth pile.” When criticized, they take a little sand away. For others, instead of a sandpile, they measure their self-worth with a balloon. Every compliment fills it up with a little air, but criticism comes in like a needle and pops the balloon. I am a balloon person desperately working to become a sandpile person.

For me, having a support network filled both with people going through a job search– along with people who had no idea what I was talking about–was key. Every time I complained, my husband was quick to remind me just how lucky I was to have the opportunity to participate in a process that is designed to get you a job.

T: I try, and often fail, to take setbacks in stride. I have a support system that consistently reinforces that if something didn’t work out for me, it wasn’t meant to be. And I didn’t look at OCI any differently. It was just another hurdle where I had to do my best, and I just kept reminding myself that was all I could do. The cards would fall where they will and my job was simply to show up and present what I had to offer. I directly applied to dozens of firms. Most of them never even sent me a rejection email. And that’s not a dis on those firms, it’s just a fact of the process. They receive thousands of applications, and it’s logistically complex to corral interviewees and reply to those in the rejection pile. Was I salty? 100%. Did my being salty change the fact that those firms were not interviewing me? No. It just put a chip on my shoulder, which motivated me to try even harder in the interviews I was granted.

Okay, but did anything really terrible happen? 

M: My most cringe-worthy moment happened at a reception (Side note: I place the lack of receptions squarely in the “virtual-world bonus” category). An attorney approached me and seemed to recognize me. I gently suggested that he had me confused with someone else. Then he said, “No, remember, we spoke at the Boston College Meet the Employers Event.” The memory came flooding back and I was sure I was going to puke right there. But wait. It gets better. Turns out he was the *hiring partner*. I did my best to recover but I basically crossed that firm off my list. No way was I going to get an offer. But I did. And looking back with a little more perspective, it is actually pretty hilarious. 

Just like with any stressful situation, there are definitely going to be moments where you panic and think all is lost. But I promise you it is not. 

T: Really terrible? Well no, because I am still here breathing and writing this blog post. But I was learning how to properly utilize eyebrow makeup during OCI, so that still haunts my dreams every now and again. On the first day of callbacks I treated myself to that iced latte I referenced above and ended up covered in caramel cloud iced macchiato because the lid had popped off my drink while racing to the T. I had to get off the train, hide in the Starbucks bathroom to try and blot my clothes, and then hope that the stench of warming milk didn’t radiate off my suit. Seeing as interviews are virtual this year, I don’t imagine radiating smells of any kind to be a problem! 

I also have an anecdote about a friend: She spilled her glass of red wine on a partner’s blouse while we all chatted during a firm reception. It was wild to watch. And ya know what? She got a job. As for me and my milk stench and frighteningly dark and disproportionately oversized eyebrows? I also made it out alive. And for those who are concerned, I’ve severely toned down my use of eyebrow makeup, don’t worry.

M: For the record, I did not notice Tatiana’s disproportionately oversized eyebrows. So this is a good reminder: you are always your own worst critic. Something awful might happen during this process — your Zoom will crash, your roommate will be engaged in a heated conference call, your cat will vomit right next to you during your interview — but no one is going to judge you for those things. And if they do, you probably don’t want to work with them anyway. 

Now that you’re on the other side of OCI, and so much wiser, do you think about anything differently?

M: Two things. First, when I began the process, I was singularly obsessed with getting a job. The whole point was for me to convince a firm to hire me, right? Nope. Firms are also competing with each other for you. So I would urge you to worry a little bit less about getting an offer and spend some more time considering whether a given place is a good fit for you. No matter where you end up, you are going to work long hours. So make sure you are spending that time with attorneys who value, challenge, and inspire you. And hopefully also make you laugh. 

Second, you are actively building your network not just for OCI, but through OCI. Like we mentioned, Tatiana and I actually met during the process. There are a number of attorneys, usually BC Law alumni, who you will meet during interviews. There are a million reasons you might not get an offer for a particular firm, but the relationships you forge with their attorneys are still valuable.

T: I don’t think I regret any part of OCI except my overuse of brow makeup. But actually, I don’t regret the process because I didn’t do anything I wish I had changed. OCI is, for the most part, about you finding a firm that works for you and the firms finding people they have a feeling would add to the culture of their offices. We are ALL smart. We ALL work hard. We ALL have endless talents to offer. So a lot of it is luck and circumstance. But going through the process, I didn’t stop being me. I didn’t pretend to have a different sense of humor or suggest I liked music I don’t actually listen to. Your mom was right when she sent you to your first day of school: be yourself and you’ll make friends. And you may even come out of this process with a job. 

Tatiana-Rose Becker is third-year student and close friends with Meg Green, who she met at OCI (thanks OCI! Thanks Meg!). You can reach her at beckerta@bc.edu.

One thought on “A Guide to Surviving OCI (and Any Job Search) Without Losing Your Humanity

  1. Pingback: BC Law’s Impact Blog Semester Highlights | BC Law: Impact

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s