From time to time I post on the q&a site Quora. I like the site, but I am only inclined to visit it on occasion. How many sites can we post on after all?
At any rate, someone asked an excellent question that is on a lot of minds lately. He wanted to know what a recent grad should do to find a job in a new city. My recommendations really work for any city. My Quora post is here. I’ve added substantially to my original post below. I hope you find it helpful.
Create a home base
Begin by creating a home base for yourself on the web. Law firms are impressed by someone who shows marketing ability. Many law firms are just starting to get their toes wet as far as social media goes. Show what you know by creating a presence for yourself. You don’t even need to spend money on a domain, make yourself a website on wordpress.com for free. Consider writing a blog, it can be on any subject as long as it looks professional. Write about your job search, your hobby, your life, interesting legal topics, a mix of options. Experienced lawyers and judges often complain that young lawyers can’t write. Show that you can.
Update your resume, and put it on the web as well. You can also use your LinkedIn profile as your resume. Just make sure you adjust the privacy settings so potential employers can see the entirety of your profile even if they aren’t connections. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete. Ask for people to write recommendations on LinkedIn so you can send people right to that site to find out about you.
Get yourself some business cards. Include your website/LinkedIn profile on the cards. (Make a tinyurl for your LinkedIn profile if that is what you will be using.)
Don’t forget to clean behind your ears
Of course, you want to clean up your social media presence. The old thinking was you should lock your online presence down. The new thinking is you should use it to help you find a job. I like the new thinking. Just make sure your Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, whatever, accounts reflect the image you want to convey. If you have an account with drinking photos all over the place, I strongly recommend you take those down. Ask your friends to take any such images down as well. I am glad you had fun in college. But that sort of fun is for private consumption now.
Google yourself. Make sure you don’t find any problems. If you do, see about getting them removed. Another positive thing about blogging is that the more you put out there, the more you can bury negative items, if you happen to have any.
Who are you?
This isn’t a philosophy class. Think about who you are, what you bring to the table, what is unique about you. When you are looking for a job if all you can say is I went to X school (unless that school is in the top of the ranking) you will just look like everyone else. How can you pay your way after you join the firm? Yes, grades are important, yes school is important, yes law review, moot court, work experience, a lot of those things are important, but what have you done and how does it apply to what the law firm needs you to do? Think it through and come up with an elevator speech about who you are and what you offer.
Think of it this way. When you take a law school exam who gets the A? The person who not only knows the law, but who can actually apply it to the hypothetical. A job interview is like a law school exam. Figure out the needs of the law firm (i.e., issue spotting) and show how you can apply your experience and skills to those needs.
What do you want?
Yes, you want a job. But what job? Any job? I understand desperation, but it comes through. Even though a lot of people cannot find jobs, even though you owe over 100k in student loans, even though it is understandable that you are desperate, if you act desperate no one will hire you. It isn’t fair, but that’s life. So try to think about what you want to do so you can explain it with some passion and honesty. And try to hide the desperation.
Finding a job is work. So set a specific amount of time aside each day when you will do the work of finding a job. Don’t spend all day on it though. Do other stuff. Volunteer, go for a run, do something else. But work every day on finding a job.
Set aside a place to work. Keep yourself organized so you know where you applied. Keep track of any responses and the names of people with whom you communicated. Follow up.
Get business cards. If you created a website, put it on the card. If you just have a LinkedIn profile or a resume online, put that on your card. You can get cards for cheap at VistaPrint.
Now that you are prepared it is time to start networking.
Contact anyone and everyone and find out who knows lawyers and business people in the geographical locations where you want to practice. Let people off and online know you are looking for a job. Don’t be ashamed to admit you don’t have a job, a lot of people don’t have jobs right now.
Get on the web and search for firms in the right practice and geographical areas. Expand your search to whatever physical distance is reasonable to you. Look on LinkedIn and see if you are connected with or able to connect to people at those firms. Perform as much research as you can. Identify the firms that interest you.
Write up an email that focuses on the particular needs of the firm. Explain how you can help the firm. Don’t just explain your background, be specific about what you can add. You already know who you are and what you can offer because you worked this out before you got started.
If you have a contact at the firm, no matter how tenuous, try to use that contact to connect to the firm. Let the person you contact know who sent you. If you don’t have a contact, then send the email to the person in charge of the department you desire to work in, or the hiring attorney.
In either case, ask if you can take the person out to lunch, or coffee, or whatever. After you send the email, wait a few days and then call to follow up. If you aren’t near the firm try to set up a telephone or video call.
If the response is, we don’t have anything, then say that is ok, but you would appreciate the opportunity to pick their brains for advice on starting out your career. If they will meet with you great, if not, see what information you can get over the phone. Don’t forget to follow up with a thank you. Don’t be afraid to ask if they can send you to another firm that might be looking.
A lot of bar associations offer free membership to new law school graduates. Check and see if your state and local bars do so. Even if they don’t, you might be welcome to attend some events as a guest. Every hand you shake, every person you meet is someone else who might send you to someone else who can hire you.
I know, a lot of us really hate shaking hands and talking about ourselves. I am still shy and it isn’t my favorite thing. But since I have to do it for my work, I do it. You need to do it to get a job, so you’ll do it. If you have a good elevator speech about who you are and what you are seeking you will find people interested in what you have to say. Having the elevator speech will also make you feel more comfortable. You won’t be stumbling over your words. While the people you meet might not have a job to offer you, they might have suggestions, or they might know someone, or they might mention you to someone else. You never know.
Don’t just paper the legal world with resumes and emails and wait for a response. Make a proactive effort to focus in on the firms that are a good match for you and pursue the work by engaging the people and networking your way to a position. That is the best way to find a job in a good economy, and close to the only way to find a job in a bad one.
I know what it is like to have trouble finding a job. The market wasn’t great in 1998 and I didn’t go to a top law school. But I have managed to develop a pretty darn good career despite the challenges I faced. You will too. I wish every one of you good luck. I know it is hard out there. Like everyone else, I hope it gets better soon.