Q. My wife was laid off from a good job in August. She is an MSW and has worked successfully for about 15 years in human service administration. She is also almost half way through a four-year part time program in law school. She is applying for the same kind of human service administration jobs she had before, but I was wondering if employers see her as a lame duck in this field since she is going to law school. She has had a few interviews and she has not made it to the second round. In the past, she has found work quite readily, even in lean economic times. An option could be to omit mention of law school on the resume, but could that be viewed as a form of deception and misrepresentation? Another option would be for her to pursue paralegal jobs, but she has found that this kind of work, if available, does not pay much. I would appreciate your thoughts.
A. Job seekers get into trouble when they claim to have a degree that they don’t have, rather than the other way around. In your wife’s case, she doesn’t have the law degree yet; she is simply going to school part-time. If she chooses to omit mention of law school on her resume, I don’t think that an employer would view this as deception or misrepresentation.
It’s impossible to know why your wife is not getting job offers or even second interviews. This may or may not have anything to do with her mention of law school. It could simply be a function of the economy and the fact that employers have the luxury of choosing among many highly qualified candidates.
Your wife could try asking for feedback from interviewers to find out why she was not invited back for a second interview and/or to learn more about the qualifications of the person that was hired. Although many employers are reluctant to give this information, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Another consideration for your wife is whether she wants to keep her law school attendance on the resume, as a way to help explain what she has been doing since August.
If the social work jobs your wife is applying for do not require a legal background, then she could consider omitting mention of law school. On the other hand, for some social work administrative and supervisory positions, it could be valuable to hire an individual who has some understanding of certain aspects of law such as employment law or nonprofit law.
As to whether or not your wife should be applying instead for paralegal jobs, I think that depends on what her own longer-term goals are. If she wants to work in the legal field, then she may want to gain some experience as a paralegal. She could also consider participating in a related legal clinic or internship offered through her school while she continues job hunting. If she is interested in the law degree to augment her social work, then she should continue to look for jobs in that field.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
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