Think Outside the Box: Navigating a New Job During COVID-19

Post Authored by Tiffani Mims

The company Indeed recently came out with a commercial titled “The Box.” Aptly named, the commercial features a  gentleman carrying a box of office supplies, presumably from his desk.  He exits the elevator and begins to walk down a dark, deserted hallway. The commercial leads viewers to think that the man’s hard work was not rewarded and that he was recently fired. However, at the end of the hallway, he opens the door, and walks into his new office, ready to work. Every law student imagines and dreams about the latter moment.

My hallway journey started this past February when I took the Illinois bar exam. I was tense because the stakes were obviously high. But one simple word added an extra dollop of tension to the testing room: Corona.  Every sneeze and cough felt deafening during the exam and only made the stress in an already difficult situation more palpable.

I started working as a law clerk the next week and tried to put Corona aside.  But then I began to hear and read more about COVID-19. It then began to dominate the topic of any conversation. As a result, a once simple commute to work became increasingly stressful.  By mid-March, my hands were shaking when I locked my door before leaving for work.  However, I couldn’t stay at home.  I needed to work.

As I settled into my law clerk job, more and more workplaces were affected by COVID-19.  Yet I still didn’t have an offer. As companies began closing, I had no idea what to do.

However, much to my surprise, I received a job offer the next week.  I even had a start date.

As the extent of this crisis emerged, employers began making hard decisions that often resulted in pushed-back start dates or, even worse, canceled opportunities.  My new role was no exception; my start date was pushed back several times.

During this time, my employer was great and assured me that I would start.  “What do I do now?” and “what if that moment never comes?” were my most frequent thoughts during that time.  The tension was almost unbearable. Luckily, almost one month after my original start date, I finally began the new chapter of my life.

On my first day, I carefully selected my attire.  I carried pens, notepads and other administrative materials.  I was so nervous that my hands were shaking when I sat down at the desk. All in all, I was feeling the typical first-day jitters.

I finally checked my appearance to make sure I looked my best for my new co-workers one last time.  There’s only one chance to make a first impression.

I took a deep breath.

And then, I clicked on the Zoom link.  I met my supervisors and my journey as an attorney pending the swearing-in ceremony began.

Life for the Law Class of 2020 is paradoxical.  We are confined to the boxes of our homes, yet starting our careers outside the box.

Even in these tumultuous times, we are precisely built for this moment.  The tools we need to succeed as a young attorney are there, whether we are wearing heels, wingtips or even our favorite marvel comics slippers.  This is our opportunity to show our colleagues that we can adjust to any situation and that our work ethic and commitment will never waver.

The hallway that each one of us will walk may not be filled with partners’ photos or courtroom assignments, but the end destination remains the same.  The same light at the end of the tunnel you have worked so hard for is here. At the very least, the snacks are a little better at home!

No matter what, you are going to do the same thing you would have pre-COVID 19: show your employer and new co-workers why you are the best person for the job.

About the Author:

tiffani

Tiffani E. Mims is a recent DePaul College of Law Graduate. She is now a Bar Taker-ASA with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Her first activity when it’s safe to go outside: Enjoy the skyline from Shedd Aquarium again.  

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