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Advice for job searching — and beyond

As a recent law school graduate, I am acutely aware of the state of the job market: I’m forced to compete for scarce jobs in a highly volatile market. When I graduated in May 2011, I narrowly escaped being consumed by this employment albatross when I landed a clerkship.

But the clerkship was only for a year term. And now, a year later, with my clerkship quickly approaching its end, I am again haunted by the prospect of my impending unemployment. I need a job.

In February, I began my job search in earnest. And I’d like to share some of the information and advice I’ve found particularly fruitful along my path to finding a job.

1. Create opportunities for unsolicited contact. I read somewhere that most attorneys get jobs through “unsolicited contact” with potential employers. You might call this Golden Rule of Attorney Recruitment, which requires a level of involvement. Join and participate in bar associations, attend receptions and happy hours and volunteer your time in the community. Not only are these activities fun and socially engaging, but they also give you unfettered access and an opportunity to impress future employers. I like think of it as networking with a purpose.

2. Take advantage of the informational interview. I value my time and I don’t like chasing waterfalls or even feeling like I am. So the idea of meeting with someone without any serious expectation that a job offer would come out of it was difficult for me to comprehend. But the informational interview is valuable in and of itself for at least two reasons: First, it gives you an opportunity to gain a mentor, someone who has already achieved many of the same goals you have and who can help guide your career path. Second, it expands your network. And the more relationships you build, the better positioned you are to take advantage of the Golden Rule.

3. Develop your personal business plan. This is the most sage advice I’ve gotten during my job search. And any recent graduate can create a business plan regardless of the type of law you practice or whether or not you actually practice. Begin by asking two questions: First, where do I want to be professionally in five (or ten) years? Second, what will I need to do to see this vision through? Developing a business plan forces you to think critically not only about your personal career objectives but also how your ambitions align with or contribute to a larger firm or organization. It is this level of preparation and thought (and an ability to articulate it, of course) that will separate you from the pack when you do apply and interview with potential employers.

These tips are by no means a panacea for the arduous process that is job searching in the current legal market. But for me, implementing these suggestions has been helpful beyond the immediate benefit of finding a job. I am active in the community. I know the direction I want my career to take while continuing to remain flexible and open-minded. And I have established meaningful mentors/protege relationships with fellow attorneys.

Happy job searching.