Many of you attended Professor Wren’s Professional Development Program last week on conducting a job search, and I wanted to highlight one specific aspect of the presentation for you.
We interact with students all the time who either don’t know what they want to do, or perhaps they know but they don’t want to pigeon hole themselves into one area when conducting their job search. Professor Wren was right on last week when he said you need to pick an area of focus when networking and talking with employers. But let’s talk about the why behind that.
You want to make it as easy as possible for someone to help you. Attorneys are incredibly busy and often in stressful situations their clients have presented to them. They don’t need more stress or challenges in their lives. So just by asking for their help you are potentially doing just that. However, many attorneys are happy to help students and young lawyers get a good start into the profession, and don’t see helping you as a burden at all. In fact they see it as their obligation or even a joy.
However, you get to decide whether you are a fun and easy student to help, or if it’s going to be miserable and hard. And sharing with the attorney what you want to do and where makes it way easier for them to help you. For one, it’s not overwhelming. More important though is the ability to tell a compelling story to a potential employer about why they should consider you.
Let’s take two examples: imagine Jim is open to anything. He just wants a job and he doesn’t care where or what it is. That seems to give him an advantage of Jill, who wants to do family law in Austin. However, the attorney is going to have a much easier time thinking through who he might be able to call or connect Jill with because the list is much smaller and more defined.
Not to mention the fact that if someone Jim and Jill have networked with hears of a family law opportunity in Austin, they are very likely to present that opportunity to Jill rather than Jim. And you know what else? Jill is also likely to get the referral of ANY job in Austin over Jim, and for ANY family law opportunity regardless of location. Why? Because Jill said that’s what she wanted to do!
Here’s how it might go: Attorney: “Jill, I know you said you wanted to do family law in Austin. I just heard from a friend of mine in Houston who is looking for a new family lawyer. Would you be interested?” Now Jill may or may not be interested. The point is, the attorney is taking that opportunity to Jill before Jim.
Finally, the odds are much better of you actually getting the job if you able to authentically articulate to an employer why you want that particular job, not just that you want A job.
Now, if you don’t know for sure what you want to do, that’s okay. What I’m saying (and I think Professor Wren is too), is that you need to choose something specific to go with for your marketing/networking/elevator pitch, even if you might be pursuing other opportunities by other means at the same time. So don’t feel like you’re committing to this area and can never change your mind or continue to look more broadly. You can do both!
Choosing a practice area and geographic location is an important part of an effective job search, and empowering others to advocate on your behalf. Trust this process and you’ll be satisfied with the results!