Legal Cuts: Law office + barbershop = community


Barbers on the job at Legal Cuts.
Not pictured: the lawyer working in the back.
(Photo via Legal Cuts on Facebook)

“Traditional law offices can be intimidating, but folks are comfortable sharing their problems with a barber,” says Donald Howard, the 32-year-old attorney-coiffeur who opened a combination barber shop and law office in New Britain, Connecticut this past spring.

“I thought it was the perfect marriage,” he continues. “People could feel comfortable in this environment and feel they can trust the lawyer. I want to make sure legal services are available to these people,” who he believes may be intimidated by walking into a traditional law office.


Legal Cuts price list
(Photo via Legal Cuts on Facebook)

The tough job market many recent law school grads are facing prompted Howard to think outside the norm and become the entrepreneur of a “hybrid business.” (Legal Grind, a combo law office and coffee house in Santa Monica, was considered the first when it opened in 2009.)

In Howard’s case, the impetus to start was two-fold: he needed a job, and he wanted to help his neighbors.

“I believe the barbershop is the epicenter of the community,” he says. “People can come in here and play checkers or chess and get to know their surroundings. … It’s gimmicky, but I want people to know that it’s a gimmicky thing that could work and it can help them out.”

Read more about the events that inspired Howard to open Legal Cuts in this Connecticut Law Tribune story.

Do you know of other hybrid businesses that are creating jobs while aiming to better serve a community? Educate us in the comments below.

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Ask Ero: Answers for confused and baffled Idealists

Ero is Thoughtful Adjusted Cropped3In this series of blog posts, I’ll try to answer all your questions (regardless of how ridiculously unqualified I am to answer them.) Consider me sort of a tech-literate, bearded, Ann Landers, or a work-safe Dan Savage.

In the last installment of this series, I answered questions about editing for brevity, solving big problems, and listening to music. How were my answers? I hope you’ll tell me. Now, on with this installment’s question!

After recently losing a job, I’ve almost given up hope. I’m not getting call-backs, and it might be due to my age- I’m not fresh out of college anymore. When I do get calls, they’re for entry-level jobs. I’m also an artist, and appreciate a flexible schedule, so how do I know if I should be looking for freelance work or a full-time job? -Margo

This is such a great question that it deserves an entire post all by itself, so here goes!

First of all, why limit yourself to one kind of work or another? You may not want the commitment of a full-time job. But keep your eyes open for that anyhow, and apply for what sounds appealing. You can even go to an interview, get a job offer, then decide to turn it down.

But you won’t know what’s out there unless you’re looking for it. Your dream job might be just where you least expect it. It’s not unheard of, after all, to work part-time or contract gigs, and have a low-key small business on the side. Unorthodox work is pretty common for artists of all kinds, so I’d advise looking for everything at once. Your solution may be a combination!

Now, keeping your morale up is hard, especially after losing a job. It gets even more frustrating when you’re highly skilled and experienced, and the only call-backs that you do get are ridiculously low-paid. Low compensation can be a problem in the nonprofit sector (though compensation is a complex issue). But although you may not be seeing them now, well-compensated jobs exist. Keep up the search and don’t get discouraged.

As for age discrimination, this can be a serious problem, but usually there’s not much you can do about it unless you see it happen. When first applying for a job you can’t affect the behavior of people who read your resume– but you can adjust how you present yourself. Make sure your cover letter and resume really represent what you have to offer specifically for the job you’re applying to, instead of just showing years of experience.

Discrimination happens, but you may also be missing opportunities because you don’t seem like you really want a position. This is not at all to say that you should hide your age. But you want to be sure you’re presenting your strengths properly.

After all, what you really want is to find work that values you for what you are: skilled, experienced, and not at all entry-level. Plenty of other folks out there are in the same boat: it’s an aging workforce, and some will see you as a talented youngster who’ll liven up the workplace with your crazy youthful enthusiasm.

There’s also a truth that isn’t often expressed, which is that the jobs ecosystem is not a bag of rice, it’s a bag of extra-chunky granola.

Every single job is a different size and shape.  Some are startlingly well-paid, some poorly paid. Some need decades of experience and advanced degrees, some want someone with strange new ideas. Some want specific odd types of experience, or unique individual skills.

During the course of my work day I see a lot of job listings – has 10,470 right at this moment! – and almost all of them are surprising in one way or another. They vary a lot! 

You’re the obviously-just-right candidate for at least one of them. As a jobseeker your task is to find that opportunity, and then make sure to make your obvious-just-right-ness clear.

After all, you’re looking, not to succeed with all jobs…just ones that are right for you.The right work for you will come along if you keep looking, and keep putting yourself out there. (You can find lots of useful tips on our blog).

I believe in you. You can do it.

Have questions about anything I’ve said? Or about anything else (and I do mean anything)? Ask me.

Ask Ero anything (anything anything anything) at

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Help Lisa help job seekers find new careers

An ongoing experiment: can our community’s collective brainpower help an idea become reality?

Meet Lisa

For Lisa Melendez, “local” means much more than where she buys her groceries or sees a movie. It’s a way of life, a way of connecting with others, a way of giving back.

“I’m a community activist at heart, and a person who can find and identify opportunities where a lot of people don’t,” she says. “I love bringing people together. I love making conversations happen. I love convening.”Lisa

Lisa was born and raised in East Harlem, NY and has a wide range of experience working on community initiatives. She’s done everything from lobbying local government to change welfare laws to coordinating an international HIV/AIDS panel to matching prospective board members with nonprofits to working in administration at a hospital.

A mother of two, Lisa is now living in upstate NY as a stay-at-home mom. When she’s not taking her kids to extracurricular activities or attending school events, she spends her spare time developing a new organization geared towards matching early childcare providers with local families.

She’s ready to jump back into the workforce, this time with a different focus. Tech companies seeking to improve the quality of life are appealing to her, but she lacks the skillset required for most positions. Still, she’s hopeful and has been applying nonetheless.

“I’m not afraid of first times. Just because I’ve never done this before doesn’t mean I am not capable or shouldn’t do it,” she says.

The idea

Given her experience looking for jobs, and the experience of many in the U.S., Lisa would like to connect prospective job seekers looking to switch industries with the right resources to give them the best chance of success.

Starting with her home state, New York, her target audience is middle-aged, male and female displaced workers.

“We have no real choice here but to begin embracing the notion that your career can begin in one place and end up in another,” Lisa says. “I see it everywhere. People are reinventing themselves all the time.”

She envisions three components:

  1. On-line product/community that includes a search engine, services clearinghouse, emerging industry profiles, career paths, industry-specific skill profiles, and more.
  2. Live tour for candidates who want to meet an actual person and learn about a particular industry from an insider.  This would also be a chance to identify shadowing, returnship, and matching opportunities.
  3. Matching of non-traditional, prospective job seekers for shadowing of established employees in area of interest.

“In a time where so many of us feel as if we are submitting our resumes into the great abyss, we are having to become innovative in how we present ourselves to potential employers,” she says. “Many are asking the question, “How can I get employers to see I can do this job?”



Career paths can be long and winding, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. (Photo via allison.hare on Flickr’s Creative Commons.)

This is the first time Lisa has shared her idea. Here are the challenges she currently faces:

  1. She doesn’t know where to start.
  2. It’s been hard for her to anticipate the resources – human, financial, and otherwise – she needs to move it forward.

How you can help

  • Besides VocationVacations, which Lisa finds pricey, does this idea exist somewhere else?
  • Has there been any thinking around this issue, and if so, what kind of progress has been made?
  • Who are the key players and organizations she should tap into?
  • Where can she find more information on career transitions?
  • What kinds of expertise would be most helpful in the technical development? Are there low-cost or pro-bono services?
  • For the live tour component, how can she best identify experts who’d be willing to share insider information?
  • Given job competitiveness, would folks even be interested in having somebody shadow them? Why or why not?
  • Regardless of which industry you work in, would people be interested in participating?
  • Would you be interested in talking about or helping out with this idea?

Leave a comment below or send her a message through Idealist and if the project progresses, we’ll keep you posted!

Are you a practical dreamer with an idea that’s just starting to take shape? If you’d like to be part of this series, or know someone who would be a good fit, email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.

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Start the year with these professional development opportunities

Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360, Creative Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360, Creative Commons/Flickr

Yes, it’s cliche, but January is the perfect time for resolutions, goal-setting, and making plans to better yourself throughout the year. Here are some events, webinars, and other activities of note to help you with your professional development this month.

Job-Hunting Help. If you’re on the hunt for a new job, and one-third of employees are, look for online resources to help you make the most of social media and learn more about potential future careers.

  • Learn how to leverage the new LinkedIn profiles in a paid webinar from Jason Alba, the author of I’m on LinkedIn—Now What??? on January 17.
  • Join #JobHuntChat on Twitter, Monday evenings from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. EST.
  • @HFChat (Hire Friday Chat) also hosts #HFChat with career experts on Fridays at 12:00 p.m. EST.
  • NY Creative Interns hosts Creative Q&A virtual events, and on January 16 at 8:00 p.m. EST, Tina Yip, community manager for R/GA will talk about getting into and advancing in the social media industry.

Local Events. If you live in one of these cities below, check out the interesting workshops and panels taking place during January.

Free Online Events and Resources. No matter where you are located, you can easily attend several free webinars in January related to nonprofit management and operations.

Conferences. Do you have the time and money to attend a conference that’s not in your zip code? Plan ahead with a couple conferences set for early February.

Fellowship and Mentorship Programs. If you’re looking for something a little more in-depth and long term, there are several fellowships and internships in public service, government, and more that have January deadlines.

Management Training. Even if you are a bit farther along in your career or more set at your organization, there are still ways you can grow and learn.

And don’t forget to volunteer. Volunteering during your free time is definitely be one ongoing way you can boost your career, especially when the career is in nonprofits. Martin Luther King, Jr. day is Monday, January 21, and there are many volunteer opportunities available on Idealist and elsewhere for that three-day weekend.

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Opportunity Spotlight: Back-to-School Edition

Welcome back! Is it time to explore a career in education? (Photo Credit: Charlottes Photo Gallery, Creative Commons/Flickr)

Hope you’ve been sharpening up your pencils and writing your name inside your textbooks, because it’s back-to-school season!

Okay, so most of us aren’t students anymore (though if you’re thinking about it, check out our Graduate School Fairs!), but there are still lots of ways to get back to school this September.

Roseville Community Charter School in Newark, New Jersey is looking for a First Grade Teacher. This kindergarten through second grade charter school focuses on college prep and their ideal candidate possesses an “unyielding belief in all students’ ability to achieve at high levels, demonstrated success in yielding high results, and experience teaching in urban school environments.” If that sounds like you, check out this great opportunity.

Being in front of the classroom isn’t the only way to help students. The DC Public School system’s Office of Human Capital is at the center of a series of reforms focused on having exceptionally effective teachers in every DC public school classroom. They’re seeking a Coordinator of Teacher Effectiveness Strategy, who will work on a range of innovative initiatives spanning teacher recruitment, selection, compensation, evaluation, recognition, and retention. Washington, DC is working hard to create the best educator force in the nation, and this is an awesome chance to join them.

If you’re just looking to get started in your education career, Harlem Village Academies, one of the highest performing urban school networks in the country and a national leader in the education reform movement, is seeking a Development Intern to support their development, fundraising, and administrative work. You’ll gain experience in urban education while making a valuable contribution to education reform. The internship is paid and offers school credit.

The Friends of PS169 in New York, are looking for tutors for special education students in grades 1 through 8. An educational background isn’t a requirement, but patience is. You’ll work one on one with students who who are on the autism spectrum, have significant cognitive delays, are severely emotionally challenged, sensory impaired or multiply disabled to close the achievement gap. The school year’s getting started, and they’re still in need of passionate tutors, so sign up soon!

Whether you’re working in a classroom, supporting people who do, or giving students that extra push outside of class, there are lots of ways to get some school spirit. Are you working in education? Tell us about it!

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Would you accept a job at an organization that went against your morals?


It's your move. What would you do? (Photo credit: Cristian V., Creative Commons/Flickr)

You found a job you love and think you are close to getting it. In the process, you learn some things about the organization that make you uncomfortable. What do you do? A community member shares her experience:

I recently had the experience of interviewing with an organization for a position I was very excited about. I got offered and attended a second interview, being one of two candidates up for consideration. I thought, finally, it’s happening! But then I found out about a few policies that simply do not jive with my personal morals. If I had known beforehand, I wouldn’t have applied. Thankfully, I had read something in the news recently that brought it to light (the info wasn’t exactly obvious on their website!).

So I was stuck with a difficult decision. Do I continue on, possibly get offered a job that would be great experience (after nearly a year of searching)? Or follow my morals and hope something better comes up? Ultimately I decided to retract my application.

I’m curious if others have experienced a similar situation. Would you have done the same thing? Does the job market affect how you would make that decision?

What do you think?

Have a career question you’d like to ask the community? Send it to me allison [at] idealist [dot] org.

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Five ways volunteering can help your career

Many of us volunteer to help solve a pressing problem in our communities. But did you know that the time you give to an organization can also be a great professional development experience?


Volunteering not only helps people in your community; it also helps your career. (Photo Credit: RISD Museum, Creative Commons/Flickr)

If you’re eager to advance your career, consider the following benefits of volunteering:

  • Develop new skills: Volunteering is a great way to develop a skill you may not use often in your day-to-day work.
  • Apply the skills you already have in new contexts: Sometimes we need new challenges to keep our skills sharp. Volunteering your time and talent to help an organization outside of work will allow you to leverage your skills in a new way.
  • Expand your network: People who are already involved in your target field are likely to know of new opportunities and can recommend organizations and people for you to get to know.
  • Explore new career paths: Volunteering can provide an entry-point to a new career. By volunteering, you can expose yourself to different kinds of organizations, roles, causes, and more.
  • Demonstrate passion to hiring managers: We know that hiring managers like to see genuine interest and understanding of the work their organization does, so it never hurts to have hands-on experience in the field you’d like to enter.

To ensure your volunteering experience helps you move your career forward, we’ve put together a few questions you should ask before taking on a new volunteer opportunity:

  • What are your personal and professional talents?
  • What skills would you like to apply in new ways? Keep sharp?
  • What skills or knowledge would you like to gain or learn from your volunteer experience?
  • Are you interested in contributing skills related to your career? Or would you prefer to do something entirely different?
  • Who do you want to work with, get to know, learn from?
  • Are there particular roles, careers, or organization types that you’ve been wanting to explore?

Has volunteering helped your career? Share your thoughts and experiences below!

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What I learned from Michelle Obama about success

Last week I had the opportunity to listen to Michelle Obama speak at Oregon State University’s commencement ceremony. Her message, though simple, emphasized a lesson many of us strive to learn: we must define success on our own terms.

During her speech, Michelle shared that while earlier in life she and her brother — who is the head of Oregon State’s men’s basketball team — pursued corporate careers, they weren’t happy, “We still had all the traditional markers of success with a fat paycheck, the fancy office, the impressive lines on our resumes. But the truth is, neither of us was all that fulfilled. I was living the dream, but it wasn’t my dream.”

Following our dreams?


Makenzie (far right) with her family at her brother's graduation.

I see this same sort of tension in my family. Before heading to OSU’s graduation ceremony, I attended my brother’s graduation at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism. I was so proud of him as I watched him walk across the stage to receive his much deserved degree. Fortunately, he has an awesome internship for the summer as a photographer for a newspaper in Oregon. However, like many others, he is already worried about the next steps after his internship: will he be able to find work he loves and be “successful?”

His experience has shown me how challenging it can be to answer this question. On the one hand, focusing on the future can be exciting as you think of potential opportunities to explore. At the same time, this can also be scary; as much as we might like to plan, the road ahead is often very unclear, and, well, life doesn’t always go according to plans.

Recipe for success

Michelle addressed this uncertainty in her speech by encouraging us to figure out what we value, what we love, and to let those things guide us. So whether you’re like my brother in a transitional phase of life, looking for your first social change gig, or thinking of launching a social venture, I think there are lessons you can learn from her speech:

1. Focus on what you have.

“No matter what struggles or setbacks you face in your life, focus on what you have, not on what you’re missing. Graduates, more than anything else, that will be the true measure of your success. Not how well you do when you’re healthy and happy and everything is going according to plan, but what do you do when life knocks you to the ground and all your plans go right out the window. In those darkest moments, you will have a choice: do you dwell on everything you’ve lost, or do you focus on what you still have, and find a way to move forward with passion, with determination, and with joy?”

2. Define success on your own terms.

“Success isn’t about how your life looks to others, it’s about how it feels to you. We realized that being successful isn’t about being impressive, it’s about being inspired. And that’s what it means to be your true self. It means looking inside yourself and being honest about what you truly enjoy doing, because graduates, I can promise you that you will never be happy plodding through someone else’s idea of success. Success is only meaningful and enjoyable if it feels like your own.”

3. Don’t leave behind unfinished business with the people you love.

“What makes life truly rich are the people you share it with. If you’re in a fight with someone, make up. If you’re holding a grudge, let it go. If you hurt someone, apologize. If you love someone, let them know. And don’t just tell people that you love them–show them. And that means showing up. It means being truly present in the lives of the people you care about.”

I think we all can use a good reminder to enjoy the richness of our own lives.

Do you have a message to share with the class of 2012 about being successful? Share it below. Or join us on Facebook and Twitter to continue the conversation.

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Asking Santa for a new job? Read this.


Santa or no Santa, some reflection might be in order. (From Bart Fields via Flickr/Creative Commons.)

Today Josh Sanburn of TIME Moneyland points out that since a lot of other folks are checking out for the coming week or two, this might be a good time to buckle down and focus on your job search if you have some spare time. Here at Idealist, our site traffic does slow very predictably at between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. But as of this writing, there are still more than 6,400 jobs listed on our site.

Whether you’re planning to rest and reflect or squeeze in some job applications before the end of 2011, here are a few links that might help. All can be found in the Idealist Career Center.

  • The Five Lens Framework: Developed by the Office of Career Services at NYU’s Wagner School, this exercise helps you identify the primary frame you look through when viewing your own career path: Organization, Role, System, Issue, or Population.
  • Help with networking: If “networking” makes you cringe, think of it as “community engagement.” You might even walk into those holiday parties with a slightly different outlook.

What are your plans? Is late December a stretch when it’s critical to rest and recharge? Is that a necessity this year or a luxury?

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Conflicts at work? Trouble saying no? Hone your "harder skills."

Our own Amy Potthast was published in the latest issue of OnlyUp, a bimonthly online journal about issues facing young nonprofit employees.

Her article, Seven “Harder” Skills That Will Help You Grow as a Leader, begins:

In a recent Opinionator blog post from the New York Times, Gerald Chertavian—founder of Year Up, a fellowship program in the business sector—distinguishes between hard skills and “harder skills.”

“The merely hard skills are things that many training programs cover—for IT, it might be using software applications or installing hardware. The harder skills are more nuanced. They involve questions like: Do you know how to communicate in a team?…If you don’t have enough work, do you know to be proactive and ask for more?”

I agree. The nuanced people skills are so much harder—some take courage (like asserting yourself or effectively handling conflict); others take wisdom (like saying no gracefully, and leading others). All of them are essential for developing yourself as a leader—and will help your employer see you as a leader.

Here are seven valuable “harder skills” to pay attention to:

For the seven skills and how to hone ’em, visit


Find tons of articles about social change leadership at

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