I recently served as a guest speaker for Jaclyn Belczyk’s law school class, “Lawyering in Real Time” at Pitt. My focus was the use of social media. Jaclyn left it up to me to decide what aspects of social media I wanted to address. At first I thought I would use my typical lecture on both legal and ethical issues in social media. But as I thought about it, I realized a better use of my time would be to talk about how law students should, and should not use social media as part of looking for a job.
The market is rough right now, I didn’t need to tell the students that, and they were clearly interested in the concept of using social media to help them find a job. At one point they seemed a bit quiet and downcast, at least as far as I could tell. (I was teaching via Skype.) And so I asked Jaclyn, “what’s up?” She responded, “they were afraid you would tell them not to use social media.” I said, “oh no, quite the contrary.”
In the past the common wisdom was to shut down your Facebook account so no one could see it during a job search. I’m not sure if this is the right advice any more. Sure, if you have posted embarrassing stuff, then you will want to close your account down, or at least make it very private. But to my mind, you are better off turning your social media presence into a place where you can tell the story of who you are; what interests you, and what you can bring to the table as a new lawyer/employee.
Responding to ads and sending out resumes is a way to find a job, absolutely. But a better and less frustrating way to find a job is to use your connections to network your way to an interview. Social media expands your network and might well give you access to people you never would have had a chance to talk to in the normal course of life.
LinkedIn is a valuable business site. Every law student should fill out a completed and detailed LinkedIn profile. But a robust Facebook account with a lot of friends, showing your ability to network; your wisdom in what you do (and do not post,) as well as your interests, and information about your life in general could impress the right person to get you in for an interview. In addition, the fact that you are conversant in the use of social media is a selling point in and of itself.
Don’t be afraid to use social media to network your way to a job. Take advantage of the power of the tools before you. Anything that can help you stand out in this difficult market is something worth spending time on. Just make sure that what you post reflects well on you. And remove any past items that show you in a bad or inappropriate light.