I've had friends from camp as blog contributors and podcast interviewees before, and every time, it makes me so happy. My first year at Camp Seafarer was back in 2005 and since then, I've made amazing friends and connections that obviously come back in the best ways. I've loved reconnecting with Mackenzie this way, and I know you will love reading her honest + very vulnerable story.
The classic rock song called The Gambler by Kenny Rogers largely sums up my debut into Charlotte’s legal market. For those of you who haven’t heard it the chorus goes:
You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
After taking the bar exam, COVID 19 threatened the housing market and the economy. No one knew the course the then-novel virus would take. Despite it all, a small, real estate firm composed of sexagenarian men and one young eager male partner offered me a job.
The partners promised everything and the moon – loads of money, great clients, and one day in the near future – partnership.
I took the job! Who wouldn’t? If I say now that I should have known better, I would be lying. As a young, freshly minted attorney, promised partnership, I knew I needed to hold that hand.
After my term at the Firm began and I started to understand the job more, my honor began whispering to me “walk away.” On a daily basis, I observed sloppy work and shoddy ethics. The Firm treated clients like cash cows willing to make money at any cost or threat to their licenses to practice law. Willingness to lie, cheat and steal alerted me to a deep cultural conflict that ran contrary to my character. In addition to the ethical concerns, I experienced blatant sexism.
Maybe to console myself or maybe to build a case, I kept a note on my iPhone about my experiences. Some of the notes are as subtle as “comments on my red dress” while others are as obtuse as “we’re so impressed you haven’t cried yet.”*
But, and there is always a big but in business: I liked what I did for work. The economy continued to be tumultuous as the pandemic persisted. I relied on the job for income. As a novice in the field, my lack of confidence prohibited me from leaving. I made a lackadaisical effort to explore other job opportunities through the experience, but always told myself that I would stick it out.
I resolved to wait it out until the partners retired and then I could be in charge! I worked to be so good at what I did, the Firm’s offenses would not bother me. Despite my resolve, the circumstances did not improve. With two back-to-back insulting experiences, my conscience screamed just as Kenny Rogers croons: know when to run.
I quit the first thing on a Monday morning. The Firm offered to negotiate and make things right. I did not have a job offer. I did not have a plan. I was The Gambler.
Sure enough, the gamble paid off. I entertained four job offers within seven days of putting in my notice. I accomplished the goal of getting so good at what I did that the Firm’s offenses would not bother me.
*For the risk of sounding cliche, I admit that this story has been told so many times. My version of this experience sounds acutely similar to thousands of women who have come before me and unfortunately are in my position now. Naive young, sparsely skilled woman employed by native Charlottean men ‘from a different generation’ motivated to make money at any cost. However, the narrative gets told by choirs of women not to fall on deaf ears, but hopefully to form a noise so loud that it gets heard!
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