Congratulations to members of this year's law school graduating class! Many of you are anxious about graduating without having secured post-graduation employment. And you are not seeing entry-level job postings, so you wonder, "Who will hire me?"
As someone who has counseled many 3Ls and recent law school graduates throughout the years, I have seen both positive and negative behavioral patterns that can influence the job searcher's quest to find employment. You likely know about the value of bar associations and attending CLE programming. Thus, some of the tips below are intended to be creative and a little off the beaten path to help you gain some traction in this market before, during and after the bar.
BEFORE BAR STUDY
1. Ensure Your Resume Is Market Ready: In 5 seconds does your resume tell an employer what is your focus and why they should interview you? Ensure that your resume is market ready before the bar, in case a contact asks for it during your bar study time. Have someone in your career services office, or a trusted mentor, review your resume before circulating.
2. Know Thyself: Take 10 seconds now to articulate out loud what you are seeking -- Your Soundbite. Even while studying for the bar exam, you will find yourself sharing your story to someone else who could assist you. People cannot help, and often won't help you, if you cannot intelligently share your career path interests.
3. Negative? Who? Me?: Attitude matters, so take inventory of how you present to the world. People will take notice if you have a negative tone. Despite what the coffee table books tell you, what other people think of you is your business, especially if you are seeking a referral or a positive reference from someone. Ask someone who will be honest with you how you come across when you speak about your career path interests and your job search.
DURING BAR STUDY
4. Study, Study, Study: When it comes to the bar exam, do it once and do it right! Many recent graduates will work for small and mid-size firms, which will count on you passing the bar exam the first time.
5. Carry Your Conviser: When commuting on the subway or standing in line for your morning Starbucks coffee, carry your Conviser (and take out your iPod earbuds). During your months of studying, at least one attorney will approach you when they spot your Conviser, especially if you are not listening to music.
6. 5-Minute Networking: When engaging in a brief conversation with an attorney while studying for the bar, request the attorney's business card and ask if you could reconnect with the attorney after the bar exam. Then, send the attorney a quick email thanking them for sharing their business card and reiterating that you look forward to seeing if they are available for an informational meeting sometime in August.
SOON AFTER THE BAR EXAM
7. Post-Bar Tune-Up: Now that the bar exam is over, you might find yourself wondering how to fill your time. You no longer have the routine of law school classes or the bar exam to fill your day planner. Call your law school career services office to schedule an appointment with a career adviser who will help you put together a comprehensive job search plan.
8. Throw a Post-Bar Party: Plan a social with friends and family where you kindly request that each attendee gives you the name of one business or personal contact for you to reach out to for an informational meeting.
9. Join a Running Group: You've likely been advised to join bar associations, which is a terrific idea. You should also consider joining a social group, such as a running group, basketball league or yoga class, which will allow you to network while losing your bar study bulge.
10. Have a Theme Song: Many of us do not enjoy networking. To assist you with your networking fears, think about what theme song you would want to play to accompany you as you enter a room. Henceforth, when you attend a networking event, think about your theme song to help give you confidence and to motivate you. Think "Eye of the Tiger," "It's My Life," or "Gonna Fly Now."
11. Breadcrumbs Can Lead to a Sandwich: If a full-time, entry-level position is not available, sprinkle your career path with breadcrumbs that could lead you back to your goal. For instance, when a law firm attorney tells you that they are not hiring, see if the attorney would be willing to take you on as a Graduate Law Clerk (i.e., an intern who has graduated). Sometimes opportunities such as this can lead to you securing a permanent seat at the table. Remember, you have to start somewhere to get somewhere.
12. Scrub Your 3D Presence: To ensure that you are firing on all cylinders with your job search, make sure that your "In Person," "On Paper," and "Online" presentment are polished and professional. In this market, your 3D presence will be evaluated:
In Person (e.g., in an interview, at a networking social, on the train)
On Paper (e.g., cover letter, resume, writing sample, email text)
Online (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs)
When it comes to your job search, hop into the driver's seat to ensure that you control where you are headed. Many law students and recent graduates relinquish control because they believe that job postings represent the extent of opportunities available to them, when, in reality, most recent graduates will not secure their position through a job posting.
The sooner you embrace the extent to which your positive attitude and motivation will determine your job search outcome, the sooner you will secure post-law school employment. Good luck with your search. Stay tuned for Part II of this article, which will include details about going on my Networking Diet.
Courtney Fitzgibbons is the Associate Director, Office of Career Services, New York Law School -- Spring 2012.