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Last week, I publicly declared that I was a writer.

And guess what? The world didn’t end. I wasn’t ridiculed. No one said I was arrogant or pompous or simply mistaken.

In fact, I received a lot of supportive emails. I received a lot of emails from attorneys saying they felt like they were writers too. I received a lot of emails from our community telling me that they were many things other than a lawyer.

Looking back, while I veered away from doing my creative writing while in law school, it was actually during law school that I came across a fantastic magazine that at least kept my love for creative writing alive: The Sun.

This isn’t the UK tabloid newspaper. The Sun is an independent, monthly, magazine full of personal essays, short stories, interviews, poetry, and photographs. And each issue has a whole section dedicated to short writings from its readers. They describe themselves asan independent, ad-free magazine that for more than forty years has used words and photographs to evoke the splendor and heartache of being human.”

And the Sun is now hiring. They are looking for a Business Manager and an Associate Editor.

The Business Manager’s role is to oversee accounting, payroll, and benefits — “a job that requires a head for numbers and a heart for all that The Sun represents.”

They also have an opening for an Associate Editor, whose responsibilities include “substantial, hands-on, roll-up-the-sleeves editing as well as soliciting work from writers.”

Both jobs are full time and based in the Sun’s Chapel Hill, North Carolina office.

 

What you need to do before applying for the job at the end of this post, or for that matter, any job

You may be saying This job is perfect for me. Great, see below.

But if you are saying I don’t want to move to North Carolina or Sounds interesting, but I’m sure it doesn’t pay what I want and what I need, that’s not the point. The point is to use this as an exercise to prepare ourselves to one day, actually apply to a non-law job.

And the first step is to not even think about the job itself.

But before we email our resume to The Sun, there are four things we should do first:

1. We need to not even think about the job and instead explore our Unique Genius.

First and foremost, we need to take the time to explore our strengths, skills and enjoyments (our Unique Genius) … so we can then see if our skill set is even a fit for this job.

Let’s feel confident about what we are good at, and also be honest about what we don’t really excel at. We must understand where we add value, and be honest about where we add less to the conversation. We must really highlight what we enjoy doing and be honest about those things that we find boring or frustrating.

We want to find a job that aligns with us. We don’t want to find a job just for stature or security or money.

Patience. Confidence. Alignment.

So let’s begin to find our Unique Genius by asking our friends and family to do one thing: Compliment us. Ask them …

  • What am I good at?
  • What have I always excelled at?
  • What am I known for?
  • What do I enjoy doing?

Let’s poll our network (5 to 10 people, across various stages and phases of our life) to get a feel as to what we are really, really, really good at.

Go high level, or get really detailed, get obvious, get corny, get sappy, whatever.

Have our network email us their answers to these questions as these traits. Let’s just get them down on paper.

Then organize all of these traits and sub-traits into a manageable 3-5 buckets, with main trait strengths (for example, “Insightful”, “Artistic”, “Dependable” or whatever themes we can parse out from what our network has sent us) and also sub trait strengths for each (“Creative problem solver” and “Very good listener” and “Meets deadlines”).

These buckets and sub-buckets create a manageable structure of our skills and strengths, that we can then use as a narrative to inform our resume and the non-law jobs we pursue.

2. See if the responsibilities of this job align with our Unique Genius.

Instead of applying to a job and hoping they like us and pick us, let’s flip this dynamic on its head. Instead of us trying to fit ourselves to a job, let’s be patient and confident and let the right job align itself to us.

So, once we have a good idea of the traits, skills and strengths that make up our Unique Genius, then let’s reconcile it to the Sun’s description below.

  • Does working for a “purpose driven organization” appeal to me?
  • For the Business Manager role, what Traits of mine line up with the requirements of this job? Let’s read it carefully: Do I enjoy numbers? Do I excel in a leadership role? Am I organized? Do I communicate well? Am I detailed oriented? Am I interested in overseeing things like employee benefits?
  • For the Associate Editor role, what Traits of mine line up with the requirements of this job? Let’s read it carefully: Do I like to read? Do I enjoy editing? Am I good at editing? Do I have attention to detail? Do I have “Impeccable writing and editing skills”? Am I interpersonal enough to manage and liaise with writers and publishers? Do I have a “sales” bone in my body that will enable me to source new content for the magazine? Do I understand the current literary landscape? Can I learn quickly?

Let’s apply to this job because there is no reason not to. Let’s apply to this job because not doing so would be to miss a solid opportunity. Let’s apply to this job because it is in close to perfect alignment with our skills and strengths. Let’s apply to this job because the requirements of the job are essentially begging us to apply to it. Otherwise … let’s not apply.

3. Reposition our resume.

If we see a fit between our skills and strengths and either of these job descriptions, then let’s make sure our resume reflects this.

Really probe as to what this job is looking for. I see the words “roll-up-the-sleeves” and “clear communicator” and “engaged” and “respectfully” and “collaborative” and “impeccable” and “eye for detail” and “compassion” sprinkled throughout the description.

I sense the themes of “adult in the room” and “entrepreneurism” and “accurate” and “just-get-things-done” throughout the description.

Let’s spend the time to position our resume so our current skill set and experience speaks to what this job requires and really needs. We of course may want to talk about how we’ve managed the firm’s finances or the huge amount of focused writing we have done or the mentoring of younger attorneys we have led or the deposition strategy we utilize, or the extensive research we have completed for a case.

And let’s also get creative. We may also want to show how we think quickly on our feet. We may want to show how we get-things-done. We may want to show how we bring in new business. We may want to show how we meet deadlines. We may want to stress the pro-bono work we have done. We may also want to show how we are trusted.

4. Practice our narrative.

We all have a story. We all have an arc to our life. We all are actors in our own movie.

Let’s return to our narrative. Let’s tell our story. Let’s be proud of our story. Let’s be authentic with our story. For The Sun as well as other non-law companies, they want to ensure the people they hire have the required skills and experience.

But they also want to hire people who are confident, relatable, authentic, trustworthy and dependable.

And we need to believe our story and who we are before anyone can believe in us.

At first, to build momentum and just to see how it sounds, maybe we say to ourselves (just to ourselves) that I am a closet writer or editor or accountant stuck in an attorney’s body and so my first step to “show up” and create a new reality for myself is to explore and apply to jobs like this one that enable me to utilize my legal trained skills to (non-law) responsibilities that I feel very confident I could be proficient at with the right amount of training and exposure.

Our narrative could then continue with something like I don’t want to practice law because after three years of law school, after a number of years practicing as a lawyer, and after a thorough and patient and dedicated and fairly comprehensive exercise exploring my professional skills and strengths and identifying what I’m really good at, I feel very confident that my skill set is not in alignment with what is called for to practice law. To put it simply, the job description of being a lawyer is just not a fit for me. I feel very confident in saying this.

And then to go even further, to anticipate sitting in the chair across from that hiring manager at The Sun (or any future law-law job), we could then elaborate on our narrative, feeling so confident in all of the work we have done to get to this point, feeling so authentic in who we are and what we want, feeling so empowered in our tool kit of skills and strengths, that maybe we could go on with a narrative something like But in life, it is often times as valuable to find out what you don’t want as much as it is to find out what you do want. In that spirit, my assessment has empowered me to feel very confident that what is a fit for me is this potential opportunity at The Sun. Let me tell you why. While at first glance my resume may not place me as the most conventional pick for this role, I have done a solid audit of my strengths, I have comprehensively detailed a large number of skills I posses that are transferable and a real good fit for this role, I have met over coffee with a large number of people in this space and picked their brain, learned about their day-to-day, understood their best practices and have gained a deep understanding of what this job requires. Through all of this personal auditing and industry research, I feel very confident in not continuing to practice the law and rather pursuing this role at The Sun as a next step in my career.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

 

BUSINESS MANAGER

Posted on: February 24, 2015

We need a Business Manager to oversee accounting, payroll, and benefits at The Sun, a nonprofit, ad-free magazine in its forty-second year of publication. We’re looking for someone who has a head for numbers and a heart for all that The Sun represents. This full-time position is in our editorial office in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Oversees the financial stability, business operations, and infrastructure of The Sun Publishing Company.
  • Maintains complete, accurate financial records in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.
  • Oversees employee payroll, benefits, scheduling, job descriptions, and policies.
  • Supervises and mentors the Office Manager.
  • Consults on investments and major expenditures. Develops long-term operational plans for The Sun. 

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Excellent accounting skills. Experience with nonprofit accounting and administering payroll and benefits is preferred.
  • Impeccable organizational skills and an exacting eye for detail. Because the duties are substantial, fast, accurate work is essential.
  • Demonstrated aptitude for managing people and situations with skill and compassion. At least three years of personnel-management experience is preferred.
  • Clear communicator who listens respectfully to others and can work effectively and gracefully in a collaborative, deadline-driven environment.
  • At least three years of experience in a financial capacity for a nonprofit organization, magazine, book publisher, newspaper, or equivalent environment.

The ideal candidate is engaged by the tone and spirit of our publication and understands that The Sun is more than just another magazine and that this is more than just another job.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

We offer competitive compensation and excellent benefits, including paid vacation and personal days; fully paid medical insurance, dental insurance, disability insurance; and a retirement-savings plan.

Our office environment is informal; there’s no dress code, no corporate veneer — just a group of people who take pride in their work and in the magazine. Although the atmosphere is friendly, the responsibilities each staff member carries are considerable.

Being able to work quickly, efficiently, and accurately is essential.

The Sun is an equal-opportunity employer. We recognize the value of diversity in the organization, and we strongly encourage all people to apply.

HOW TO APPLY

If you can make at least a five-year commitment, please send a letter of interest and a résumé. (Do not send a curriculum vitae or additional materials.) We’re looking for thoughtful, personal cover letters that tell us something about your qualifications and the way you think. Applicants who are unfamiliar with The Sun are urged to read the magazine before writing.

Click here to apply online, or mail your materials to:

Sy Safransky

Re: Business-Manager Position

The Sun

107 North Roberson Street

Chapel Hill, NC 27516

No e-mails, phone calls, faxes, or surprise visits, please. Also, please don’t contact us to inquire about the status of your application. We have a small staff and much to do. You’ll hear from us after we’ve reviewed your application.

We appreciate your interest and patience.

 

ASSOCIATE EDITOR

We need an Associate Editor at The Sun, a nonprofit, ad-free magazine in its forty-second year of publication. This full-time position is based in our editorial office in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The Associate Editor actively solicits new writing for the magazine and works closely with authors on revising and editing their work for publication. The Associate Editor also reads and evaluates submissions and helps shape the long-term editorial direction of the magazine.

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Solicits writing from new authors and previous contributors.
  • Works closely with authors to develop and revise their writing, often through multiple drafts.
  • Edits text for publication.
  • Reads and evaluates manuscript submissions.
  • Cultivates and maintains good relationships with publishers, agents, literary organizations, and other potential sources of magazine content. 

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Impeccable writing and editing skills. Because we sometimes edit prose quite heavily, we’re looking for a hands-on, roll-up-the-sleeves editor who is not afraid to cut, clarify, or otherwise improve a piece of writing. We want someone who does not make arbitrary or hasty changes but who also doesn’t hold back out of deference to the author. (All changes are subject to the author’s approval, of course.) Fast, accurate work is essential.
  • At least five years of editorial experience at a magazine, book publisher, or newspaper, or in an equivalent environment.
  • Familiarity with the type of writing published in The Sun and the ability to cultivate writers who are well-aligned with the magazine’s sensibilities.
  • A keen awareness of the literary landscape.
  • Clear communicator who listens respectfully to others and can work effectively in a collaborative environment.

The ideal candidate is engaged by the tone and spirit of our publication and understands that The Sun is more than just another magazine and that this is more than just another job.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

We offer competitive compensation and excellent benefits, including paid vacation and personal days; fully paid medical insurance, dental insurance, and disability insurance; and a retirement-savings plan.

Our office environment is informal; there’s no dress code, no corporate veneer — just a group of people who take pride in their work and in the magazine. Although the atmosphere is friendly, the responsibilities each staff member carries are substantial.

Being able to work quickly, efficiently, and accurately is essential.

The Sun is an equal-opportunity employer. We recognize the value of diversity in the organization, and we strongly encourage all people to apply.

HOW TO APPLY

If you can make at least a five-year commitment, please send a letter of interest and a résumé. (Do not send a curriculum vitae or additional materials, such as books or writing samples, at this point.) We’re looking for thoughtful, personal cover letters that tell us something about your qualifications and the way you think. Applicants who are unfamiliar with The Sun are urged to read the magazine before writing.

Click here to apply online, or mail your materials to:

Sy Safransky

Re: Associate Editor Position

The Sun

107 North Roberson Street

Chapel Hill, NC 27516

In your letter, let us know how you heard about the job.

No e-mails, phone calls, faxes, or surprise visits, please. Also, don’t contact us to inquire about the status of your application. We have a small staff and much to do. You’ll hear from us after we’ve reviewed your materials.

We appreciate your interest and patience.

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It was in the garage on a recent Saturday that I was reminded of what I want to be in life.

As my wife and I tried to package items to give away or throw away, and as our kids scoured the shelves and bins for old toys they had forgotten but now wanted to (all of sudden desperately) play with again, my daughter came across a box full of papers.

The box held school work and essays and projects I had completed in grade school, that my parents had saved (and given to me when they recently cleaned out their garage!)

One essay was from fifth grade. 1985. The assignment was to write a script for a radio show in which an historical figure is interviewed. We students had to set the stage, create the characters for the show and weave in the narrative of the historical figure’s life.

I chose Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant. I got an A. It was pretty good (even if my handwriting was pretty bad).

My eight year old daughter picked up the report, turned the pages, read a bit of it and looked up at me and said Daddy, you were a pretty good writer.

 

I am a writer. What are you?

Like many of us attorneys, I became a lawyer because it was safe and secure and respected and lucrative. And just what you do.

But I have always wanted to be something else. I have always wanted to do my own “art”. The stuff I enjoy and am good at and add value to people.

I personally have always wanted to be a “writer”. I have those short stories in me. I have that novel in me. I have those articles in me. I have that thought leadership in me.

But somewhere along the line, writing became less fun, and these dreams became less attainable. In law school, my writing became less creative and more formulaic. As a lawyer, my writing simply became “work”.

But most of all, I was not accountable for my lack of creative writing. I just didn’t do it. I claimed I was tired, burnt out, had writer’s block, or had nothing interesting to say. So I didn’t write.

 

My public declaration of who I am and who I want to be

No longer. I’ve been writing this blog for almost 6 years and it resonates with and helps many in our community. And I write a lot in my other professional pursuits. It feels weird to say this, but I’m going to say it. I’m going to publicly declare it: I am a writer.

I am a writer.

I am a writer.

I am no longer a lawyer who wants to write but just doesn’t write. I am a writer. It’s of course not all I am. But it is a critical part of what I am.

By saying this, I celebrate what I have done so far and I make myself accountable to write more in the future.

Of course, by publicly declaring anything we risk ridicule. And mistakes. People will say I’m not the best writer or not the most creative writer. People will say I’m being presumptuous or arrogant.

That’s the irony of the world we live in. We are simultaneously encouraged to find what we’re good at and enjoy … and then beaten down when we do and make it known.

Don’t get beaten down. Do make it known.

What are you? What is your art? How do you add value? What you are you not pursuing that you know you want to pursue?

What would you like to declare? If you could call yourself anything right now, what would it be? A writer, a communicator, a listener, a public speaker, an empathetic person, organized, detailed oriented, a singer, a deadline meeter, a …

What is your art?

Not sure? Where can you look for guidance? Or inspiration? What old boxes are around somewhere?

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How some leave the law and others do not

June 24, 2015

I was talking with an unhappy and dissatisfied attorney who so badly wants to leave the law but is having difficulty dealing with the pain and shame she regularly feels when she looks back on her time in law school and at the firm. She feels it’s been a waste of time. She feels it’s […]

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Leaving the law is first about arriving back with our self

June 2, 2015

This past Saturday night I wrote. The family was asleep. Asleep. Asleep and quiet. We have a new dog, this great, young, big bundle of energy and the dog was asleep. The house was quiet. I was quiet. Very quiet. And for the first time in what had been a busy week I was really […]

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The key to happiness (and leaving the law) is in helping others

May 23, 2015

“If you want happiness for an hour—take a nap. If you want happiness for a day—go fishing. If you want happiness for a month—get married. If you want happiness for a year—inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime—help others.” – Chinese proverb I received an email from a reader last week. The […]

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Why our law degree won’t be considered a waste even if we leave the law

May 9, 2015

Annie Little, a blogger and writer at Attorney at Work, asked me and a number of other lawyers and bloggers to write about numerous topics on the law and alternative careers to the law. Annie had me focus on the question  “How valuable is your law degree“. For the most part, the value of a law […]

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My 21 step guide on how to leave the law and begin anew

April 23, 2015

The issue many of us run into when attempting leave the law is we have no idea where to begin. By its nature, leaving the law is kind of a formless, unstructured exercise. Sure, there is precedent of some kind in that other lawyers have left the law and we can read their stories. But even […]

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What you find out when you let go of your life plan

April 14, 2015

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. – Joseph Campbell   I have let go of and changed my life plan a few times. Sometimes the circumstances around me forced me to change my plan. And sometimes I […]

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What bungee jumping and leaving the law have in common (and how I did both)

March 26, 2015

The following post was written by Leave Law Behind reader, Chris Jones, formerly of Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft and now VP of Content for AppointmentCore, a scheduling automation software company. Take it away Chris … Every year, I try to do something that scares me. In 2011, that meant jumping off the world’s highest bungee bridge in […]

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Three ways to overcome the main problem we have in leaving the law

March 19, 2015

I love reading the submissions I receive from Leave Law Behind readers through the confidential survey we have on the site. It is a great way for readers to send me anonymous thoughts and ideas and feedback and to flat out vent. And I find it an extremely valuable insight as to what the community […]

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