Lessons Learned at the NIU Health Advocacy Clinic

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Lesson 1: Expect the Unexpected

At the end of August, I had my first client interview scheduled. Prior to the interview, we received a referral that explained a little about the client’s legal issue. I was pretty confident going into the meeting. I felt that I had done my research, had my questions, and was prepared for his answers. When our client arrived for our meeting, I asked him to tell me what brought him in. It turned out that his problem was entirely different than I anticipated. When he started to talk, I initially got a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach. I then started to feel anxious and frustrated. When it turned out that the legal issue was different than I expected, I kind of felt like I was drowning. I did not think that any of my questions were relevant, and I did not know what to do or say next. I did not know how I was going to conduct this interview when I did not know anything about the area of law to which the client needed help with, and I was not prepared. I was kicking myself for not conducting more general research and preparing more general questions.

I have always been the person that is overly-prepared for everything. When going into a job interview, I practically memorize the website and mottos of the place where I’m interviewing and prepare many questions. I have always had a fear of failure and disappointing people. I have almost always had success when I am prepared and organized, which probably leads to my over confidence.

In the end, I was able to quickly regain my composure and go through some of the general interview questions that I had prepared. For not knowing the legal issue before hand, I was still able to gain valuable information about my client and begin helping him. This situation made me realize that I can’t prepare for everything. In fact, in situations similar to client interviews, no matter how much I prepare, things can and will surprise me. I need to learn to expect the unexpected and roll with the punches. In working with clients in the future, I will try not to be so upset when things don’t go the way I think they will. Instead, I will try to quickly bounce back and conduct the interview the best that I can.

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