My dad, the editor of the Sentinel, sees a news angle in everything. So when I began looking for a job he instructed to me to take good notes. “Someday you can write about it.”
It was just a year ago — my senior year in law school — that I prepared to enter a crowded job market.
I began by putting my resume together. When you’re going for the big time you need a professional looking resume. I had mine printed on water-marked bond paper and hoped no one would not that most of my experience was on newspapers — including the Sentinel.
Armed with 200 resumes and matching stationary, I headed for the job board outside Hamline University’s placement office and wrote down the addresses of some of the nation’s most prestigious law firms.
The response was overwhelming. Each day my mailbox was filled with engraved envelopes from Chicago, Dallas, Washington, New York and Boston. At first, I tore open each envelope with anticipation. Then, as the weeks wore on, I nonchalantly strolled into my bedroom to read in private: “We are not hiring at this time…” and “We are sorry that we are unable to interview all candidates…”
Or, patronizingly, “We congratulate you on your fine record, and we are sure you will find suitable employment…”
But not with us.
Those jokes about wallpapering a room with rejection letters are no exaggeration
Then I got a break. One day opened a letter from Haynes and Boone of Dallas. As I started to file it along with rejections from five other top Dallas law firms I read, “If you are in the Dallas area in the near future … happy to interview…”
While at home on Christmas break I prepared for the interview like candidates prepare for the presidential debates. I read the placement office handouts and poured over job search articles in Student Lawyer. I even watched the Cotton Bowl.
My grandmother bought me a new three-piece suit. (It turned out to be pretty expensive at $50 an interview.) Mom and Dad bought me a businessman’s trench coat like the Borg-Warner executives wear, and I bought a new pair of shoes.
When I walked out to the Allegheny Commuter I looked like a man headed of success — until the hook on my borrowed suit carrier caught on the pulldown stairway.
My hotel in Dallas was first class, so I decided to treat myself to room service, leaving my order outside my door as I went to bed. I fully expected that my morning coffee would be on the table when I got out of the shower.
Instead, the phone was ringing.
“Mr. Owen, this is the kitchen. We just dropped your breakfast.”
After the breakfast delay, I hurried across the street to the Republic Bank. On the bank directory I found the names of the five firms which had rejected me but not Haynes and Boone. Their offices were in the InterFirst Tower six blocks away — just enough for my new shoes to rub blisters on both heels.
I stepped off the elevator on the 44th floor and in my best business tone announced that I was here to see the recruiting coordinator. As I was led down a paneled hallway I realized that no one had offered to hang up my coat.
There was no need to . The interview was a catastrophe.
“What areas of law are you interested in?”
“Labor,” I responded.
“We don’t need anyone in that area right now.”
Mercifully, I’ve blocked the rest of the interview out of my mind. They soon showed me the door and I spent the rest of the day taking pictures of the Texas School Book Depository.
After the Dallas fiasco I decided to explore media law. My dad suggested that I apply to Arthur Hanson of Hanson, O’Brien, Birney and Butler of Washington, D.C.
Hanson wrote back that he had no openings but would be glad to talk with me if I was in the area.
I showed up in his office, wearing my coat, the day he returned from 10 days out of the country. While he signed out his mail I described my qualifications When I said I had majored in journalism, he interrupted with a tirade on irresponsible journalists.
Next, he asked, “What does your father do?”
“He’s a newspaper editor.”
Hanson received a transatlantic conference call on his intercom and I began eyeing my escape route.
Back at school I received a response from Goodwin and Goodwin in Charleston. This time I correctly remembered the address and the receptionist took my coat. Things were looking up.
Tom Goodwin asked me why they should hire me out of 100 other applicants. I talked about journalism and law. He said that Charleston was the place to practice law in West Virginia.
Tom stepped out of the office and I met Steve Goodwin, who asked me why I wanted to practice law in Charleston. I said, “It’s the place to practice law in West Virginia.” (I didn’t repeat the refrain when I met Joe Bob Goodwin.)
Tom returned and said, “I called you references. Any kook can put on a three-piece suit and come in here with a resume.”
He offered me a job. I panicked. The job search articles don’t go that far. Unsure of what to say I stalled. Then I said i would take the offer “under consideration.” As if I had anything else to consider.
As it turned out, my luck had changed. After 50 rejection letters, I received three consecutive job offers. I took the best offer!
“Someday You Can Write About It” was first published in The Parkersburg Sentinel on October 13, 1984.