It’s More Than Presents and Overeating: How to Make Winter Break Work You

It’s More Than Presents and Overeating: How to Make Winter Break Work YouPlease welcome back Mark Livingston, guest writer and 3L, to talk about some strategies for making the most of your job search during winter break.

As we approach the pain of finals and the euphoria of the end of the semester, it’s time to think about the big picture. Of course, you have earned some R & R (rest & relaxation) after a challenging semester, but don’t miss the opportunity to make some invaluable connections and start positioning yourself for work during and after law school. It’s time to push away from that sticky-figgy pudding and start networking over the winter break.

Take a Breath

Of course, it is important to take some time at the end of the semester for yourself, your friends, and the other people that care about you. Burnout is a real problem, and the break between fall and spring semesters is critical to help law students regain their sanity. Take a few days or even a week to just relax, go out with friends, spoil yourself and your significant other, or just camp out in front of the T.V. and consume copious quantities of your favorite nibbles and adult beverages. Letting your hair down after a long semester can really help you recharge, take an affirmative step out of last semester, and get ready for next semester.

Start Making Connections

As important as it is to relax a bit over winter break, it is also important that you do not lose sight of the big picture. What’s the big picture? In no particular order:

The key to all of the above objectives is reaching out to professionals working within the legal profession and start making connections. Getting leads on these connections might be easier than you think.

Take Advantage of the Resources at Your School

When the time comes to start developing and cultivating your professional network, a great place to begin is your school’s offices of career planning and alumni relations. Both offices have volumes of information about legal professionals who got their start at your school. In almost every case, these alumni are ecstatic to provide a helping hand to soon-to-be attorneys from their law school. All you have to do is ask. These offices can generally provide up-to-date information for all recent (going back at least ten years) graduates including:

  • Telephone
  • Email
  • Address
  • Firm name
  • Graduation year
  • Areas of practice

Initially, this might seem like an overwhelming body of information to wade through, but focus your search on the areas of law in which you are most interested in practicing after law school, areas of law you want to “try out” before graduation, and/or internships or externships that you think might bolster the quality of your legal resume. Once you have narrowed the voluminous list of alumni you want to talk with, it’s time to take some action steps to get some face time.

“Cold-Calling” is Painful but Necessary

Organization is important when networking. You have a good chunk of time (four to six weeks, perhaps) over break, and it’s important to be efficient. After all, you also want to enjoy your time off. Additionally, the secret key to effective networking is the follow-up. Knowing who you contacted and spoke with, and when, is critical. Pick your preferred method of communication and start reaching out. Emails are nice. Email allows you to keep track of sent messages and received replies, gives everyone opportunities to consider their availability and willingness to meet before responding, and can help you remember things about your contacts that you can use to leverage a later follow-up meeting, coffee, or meal. Sending an email that expresses an interest in an informational interview, with no expectation of a job offer at the end, can be a great way to open the door.

For the most part, you will find, if you are flexible and make it clear that you have no expectations (other than to get to know them and learn about their practice or journey), people will be happy to meet with you over break. They understand that you have limited time out of school and appreciate what you are trying to accomplish. Remember, he or she was once in your shoes.

How Many is Plenty?

That depends…what an awful answer. The truth is, the more people you connect with, the more improved your chances for leveraging one of those connections into a future internship, mentorship, or job. That being said, remember that a lot of people take time off this time of year. If you can secure three to seven informational interviews over the break, you will find it will pay dividends later. The key is to employ all of the other great networking strategies during and after your informational interview is over (e.g., follow-up communication immediately after, circling back a month or two later, setting up a second and third meeting, etc.). Also bear in mind that not every informational interview will result in a job (most won’t) but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value.

Be Proactive

Winter break is a great time to recharge before spring semester, but it is also a fantastic time to make meaningful connections with alumni and expand your professional legal network. At worst, you’ll meet some new people and have some nice conversations with others passionate about the law. At best, these interviews could result in great opportunities to bolster your legal resume during and after law school. Be proactive, be the master or your fate. You can do this.


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About Mark Livingston

Mark earned a B.Sc. in Criminology and Sociology from Ball State University, a M.Sc. in Criminology from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and a Master of Philosophy in Russia, Central, and Eastern European Studies from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. He is earning his JD at the University of Valparaiso School of Law. Mark worked for more than 10 years in state and local government in the areas of emergency management, law enforcement, and probation. Mark is a veteran of the United States Army Reserve.

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