This post has been a long time coming. I’ve kinda delayed writing it on the pretext that I wanted to tell my close friends in person rather than compel them to read a lengthy story. I realise now on hindsight the silliness of that excuse! To my friends who I have not yet been able to meet in person to convey this story, I apologise for both my unavailability, as well as for this unwarranted delay.
This is the story of how I got a job offer from Linklaters in London, one of the top law firms in the UK and (dare I say it?) the world. But unlike most success stories, the protagonist in this one did not succeed on his own strength or merit. In fact, I vehemently oppose anyone who tries to convince me that I ‘achieved’ this by my own ability. Rather, I give all the glory to my heavenly Father. This is a story of how God worked His sovereign plan, often behind the scenes, in several events culminating in the “happy ending” of the job offer. All glory to him!
Some of you might know that I flew up to London from 10-19th September 2011 for a series of job interviews with a number of solicitor’s firms. I had Slaughter & May scheduled for the 12th (Monday), Freshfields for the 14th (Wednesday), and Linklaters for the 16th (Friday). After I had completed all the interviews and visited all three firms, I decided that I liked Links the best. Unfortunately however, my interview with Links went the worst out of the three – in fact it was so bad that I was resigned to never hearing from them again after I left their offices. So you could imagine my surprise when the HR lady from Links called me up the following Monday to say that the firm was offering me a training contract! As I look back, there are just so many things to thank God for. So let me begin!
(1) The night before my interview with Links I was terribly tired and jaded, and had given up preparing for it. By way of background, a typical interview with a solicitor’s firm spans about 4 hours – usually it comprises a written test, a general interview (“what drives you?”, “why do you want to be a lawyer?”), and a technical interview. Understandably, each interview thus warrants a sizeable degree of preparation – reading up on recent deals concluded by the firm, the expertise & strategy of the firm, and general current commercial awareness. By Thursday night I was exhausted, having completed two gruelling interviews. I couldn’t bring myself to prepare for the 3rd, so I, quite literally, gave up, hoping that the knowledge I had acquired while preparing for the first two interviews would leave me in good stead.
Now prior to this I had been in contact with one of my seniors from University, WY, who was already at the firm (Links). He had been giving me advice on the preceding applications process, and we had been trading messages on FB. My final message to him read something like: “Hey I’ll be at the firm for my interview on the 16th, will you be there?” WY failed to respond, and I left it as that. But for some reason God prompted him that very night, on the eve of my interview, to remember our exchange. He called me up immediately, just after I had decided to forgo further interview preparations. We chatted for about an hour and he imparted loads of invaluable tips on what to say when they asked certain questions. Most companies, Links included, love to hear why they’re so great and better than their competitors, and it really helped to have the views of someone on the inside, someone very well-inculcated with the firm’s values. I can say with utmost confidence that if not for this phone conversation, I would have died a far worse death than I already did at my interview – so thank God! (and thank you WY!)
(2) In the course of the conversation, WY asked me if I knew how to make my way to the firm. I had already researched my route on tfl.gov.uk and so I told him I’d be taking the tube from X to Y and walking from there. “You know, you can actually take to Z and walk from there,” came the response. I thanked him but in my mind I had already plotted out my route and I planned to follow it.
The next morning, I headed to the tube station and horror of horrors, the line from X to Y had broken down! I remember it vividly: the train was in the platform, the doors were open, passengers were inside the train, but the train was not moving. I initially boarded the train, waiting for it to move off, only realising that something was amiss when it didn’t, and even more so when passengers began milling off the train to alternative routes. Providentially, armed with the knowledge of the alternative route via Z, I was able to get to my interview with time to spare (I actually managed to grab a quick coffee before it!) Had I not known that I could walk to the firm from Z, I would have been in a right mess (to put it euphemistically). At worst, I would not have made it to my interview, and at best, I would have arrived late, flustered, and in no state to perform. So, yet another thing to thank God for!
(3) As briefly alluded to above, my interview with Links went horrifically. To be specific, this was the “technical” interview, where I had to prepare for a case study and brief one of the partners. The guy who administered this technical interview (let’s call him Q) gave me a really difficult time. To be fair, I made a number of mistakes. But what exacerbated the situation was that Q responded to everything I said with a sceptical / doubtful reaction. (I now wonder if he was doing this deliberately to try to unsettle me, but during the interview itself I genuinely thought I was being destroyed.) My confidence waned with every question, and by the end I was spouting gibberish. (I exaggerate.) I even apologised to Q for my “incompetence”, as I put it. Q politely insisted that there was none such incompetence, but I could tell that the damage was done.
Now, prior to the interview, the HR team mentioned that my original interviewer was held back at the last minute and was unable to conduct the interview; Q was his replacement. Which is why after the interview with Links I felt especially resigned to my fate: I thought since God had arranged for Q to take over (and destroy me), that was Him closing the door.
But the funny thing is God works in mysterious ways. When the HR lady called me up the following Monday to convey the good news, I mentioned my shock at the result as I thought my interviews went disastrously. To my (pleasant) surprise, she recounted how she had just sat down with both my interviewers (including Q) and both of them mentioned that they were impressed with my performance. “You must have done something right,” she said. Well, who knew that this divine appointment of a different interviewer would actually work out? (God knew, of course.)
(4) I now arrive at the 4th thing I want to give thanks for, which I personally feel is a miracle in itself. I had been deliberating for quite a while about whether to fly up to the UK or not for the interviews. As I wanted to spend more time back home, I was reluctant to fly up and stay for a month before school term commenced. I was thus looking for a cheap return flight (i.e. both ways). Each firm I was interviewing was willing to provide a small reimbursement for travel expenses (GBP150 each), leaving me with about GBP450 to play with. But flights during that period were ridiculously expensive, going in the region of GBP1,300. (Yes, even Air Asia!) Dismayed, I sought the Lord in prayer and asked Him to provide. After some more research and recalibration, I found a return flight, on a decent airline, Lufthansa, for the mind-bogglingly low price of GBP446. That is a ridiculously miraculous fare. What else can I say but all glory to God, again, for His provision!
The best part was that I made a net profit too. Heh.
(5) What makes the story of this job offer all the more providential is that I nearly forgot to apply for jobs to begin with. I had a busy summer, returning back home in mid/end-July. I spent about a week helping the family move back into our house which had previously been emptied due to the renovation work being conducted. It was sometime during this week where I was on Skype chatting with my friend, E, from Cambridge. I was having a good rant about how “tired and busy I was from moving house”, which she could relate to as she was “tired and busy from doing all the job applications.” Wait. Job applications? Yes, the deadline is on 1st August. Aw crap. At this point I only had about a week to complete all the online job applications for law firms in London; tedious online forms comprising questions like “what are your greatest weaknesses?”, “name an experience where you exhibited leadership qualities”, and other similarly irksome questions. By the grace of God, I completed about 6 or 7 sets of these forms within the space of a week. And anyone who has completed forms like these (or applied to US universities) will know that such applications are mind-numbingly arduous. But nothing is impossible with God.
(6) Throughout this summer, as I went through the process of applying for jobs and thinking about what to do post-graduation, I kept asking God for His clear direction. At crucial junctures in my life in the past, God has never failed to show me, clearly, where / what He was calling me to. Which high school to go to, which university to go to, etc. It was the same this time around. As the episode of this summer gradually unfolded, through the little things, He was revealing His sovereign plan and direction to me. Funnily enough, though I felt that my interviews with the first two firms went quite well, they rejected me, leaving just one door open. Yet again, He faithfully answered my prayer for clear direction.
(7) And finally, my last point. This summer, I was attending a Bible Study course at my church on the book of Esther. (If you haven’t read the story of Esther, I strongly recommend it!) One of the unique features of this book is that God is not mentioned at all in the narrative. Not once. But if one were to read the story carefully, he would be able to see God working behind the scenes, unfolding his sovereign plan through often unexpected agents, to ultimately deliver His people from what was effectively genocide.
Similarly, this story that I’ve shared in the preceding 1,883 words could equally be told without mentioning God at all. You could even attribute all these coincidences to ‘Fate’, or some idea of karma; or perhaps the more “scientific” of you might christen it randomness. But I respectfully disagree. (And this is my blog.) Rather, I believe that God was working through all these little things in my life, not least because He was encouraging me over the whole summer through the story of Esther – a similar story of His sovereignty and grace working behind the scenes.
In conclusion, I would like to encourage you, friend, wherever you are in your journey of life. Trust in God’s sovereign plan for you. He takes an interest in who you are. This is not mere “fate” or “destiny”. Unless by “fate” you mean a Person, who came down to earth as a man, to give Himself up for us that we may have life to the full. (John 10:10)
Soli Deo Gloria.