Job Hunting for 3Ls and Recent Law Grads: Who Do You Know?

Pick up the phoneIn part three of our job-hunting series for 3Ls and recent law grads, Katie Slater of Career Infusion Coaching provides tactical advice on getting a job, starting with one critical question: Who do you know?

Job Hunting Advice for 3Ls and Recent Law Grads

The second level is of your job search plan is tactical: What concrete steps do you need to take to achieve the ultimate goal of getting a job?

Tactical Step #1: Identify Who You Want to Talk To

One major step to take is identifying who you need to talk to.

Dr. Helen Harkness, a career consultant based in Dallas who has been helping people with their careers since 1978, has all of her clients draw up a list of people they know. I would take it a step further:

Create a list of everyone you know and then organize the list into separate categories based on what type of information or opportunities you may need from them.

An example would be having categories of people that you’ll rely upon for:

  1. Informational interviewing
  2. Sources for potential jobs
  3. Providing you with thoughts about yourself and your abilities
  4. Finally, a category for people who know of opportunities (more broadly conceived)

There of course may be overlap, but the categories will help you focus on people in each category and give you a specific reason to connect with them.

Think About Your Law School Contacts

One way to start developing your list is to write down the people you have encountered in your time in law school, particularly those who know lots of other people. Your list might include the following types of people:

  • Professors you have enjoyed or worked for
  • Judges
  • Working law clerks
  • Directors of any clinics you have taken
  • People you have worked with during your summers (regardless of the type of job)
  • Alums of the law school

In addition, include people you know outside of law/law school; people from undergraduate and your life and work generally. Also, do not forget to include friends and family.

And do not think everyone needs to be lawyers or work in firms or even in the legal industry — it is always good to talk to other people to understand what the market in your geographical area is like and what sectors are doing well generally.

It can be at times more heartening to get non-law perspectives and it will probably provide you with a broader view of your local economy.

Tactical Step #2: Make a Plan

Now that you have the list, you need to come up with your tactical approach.

This may take different forms, depending on what you find works best for you, but I will suggest a couple of approaches here:

Consider a Tiered Approach
Betsy Pereira, a 2009 graduate of the University of Houston, found that a tiered approach worked well for her in an extremely difficult job environment. She suggests coming up with:

  • a) what you want to try first (based on what excites you or what would be the ideal)
  • b) what comes next (considering fields or jobs you would like)
  • c) what won’t make you miserable and what your last ditch effort will be

Betsy’s last ditch effort was going to be calling everyone she knew, but — given her hard work in pursuing a) and b) — she did not end up having to do that! By doing the level one big-picture work, you should have some idea of what excites you and would be ideal, as well as other areas you might like or at least could tolerate.

Consider a “Step-plan”
Another approach, and one I often recommend that clients follow is to come up with a step-plan. To do this, you list the step you want to take, and identify:

  • a) why that step is important
  • b) what you want to learn or get from that step
  • c) what you learned after taking the step
  • d) what the next step is leading from that experience

To even figure out what the first step is, you have to use some of the self-analysis of the first level and parameters that resulted from that process.

For example, the first step might be to call three people in your informational interviewing list and ask if you can buy them coffee.

Part of that step should then include developing a list of questions to ask each of them about X field, or Y firm.

In this example, the step might be important because you do not know much about the firm, or you need more information about the field to understand how to approach a job opportunity.

You may then learn during your various coffee conversations that the firm is changing their focus or has had some success in a new practice area, which fits with your interests. Or, the field is looking for these types of people or has Z opportunities.

The next step then might be to ask your contact for a referral to someone who might know about opportunities in that field or at Y firm or is willing to talk to you more specifically about what Y firm is looking for or what other opportunities are in X field.

Or, the next step might be to build certain skills looked for in that field by taking a CLE class or reading a book. And so on.

Develop a Way to Write and Speak Comfortably About Your Strengths and Skills

Part of your step-plan should include making sure you have a way to write and speak about your strengths and skills.

Create a clear, easy to say, comfortable description of yourself and the concrete ways you are going to help a future employer.

Practice this — both in writing, and speaking.

As well, make sure you have the basics covered — develop an accurate and clear résumé, with no spelling mistakes or typos. Make sure all dates are correct. Have a friend or family member read it — and take it to your career services office for their input. You are paying for them and they do know what legal employers look for in résumés, cover letters, and writing samples. Use their services.

Tactical Step #3: Start Taking Action

Put your people list into action and start connecting based on the categories you have. You will need to develop informational interview questions — I won’t go into that here, as there is an excellent series you should read and follow on this website.

Pick people’s brains for their ideas and get thoughts on new directions to go in from the information you pick up from your interviewees (said and unsaid).

Don’t hesitate to ask the scary question — What advice would you give me?

— – —

Next time we’ll take about some creative ways to put your action plan into place, and generate new leads and opportunities. Here it is!

If you missed the other parts of this series, catch up now:

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