Bar exam results come out in less than a month. Some examinees are nervously counting down the days until they find out if the $3,000+ spent on bar prep was worth it. Others have blocked out the bar exam experience entirely. And many of them (and people who have already taken and passed the bar) are now facing the pressure of finding the elusive full-time, permanent legal job.
The good news is that there are jobs out there. The bad news is that there are hundreds of applicants for posted positions. I know those observations are not breaking any new ground, but I hope the remainder of this post will offer something useful. I started a new job as an associate at a firm in Minneapolis over the summer and I have three tips to share with new graduates looking for their first legal job.
1. You are not as special as you think.
I received a lot of rejection letters. I was told during multiple interviews that there were more than 200 applicants for the position I wanted. It took a while to sink in, but eventually I learned an important lesson. My GPA, class rank, and extra curriculars simply did not matter very much. There is a lot talent out there right now looking for work. For example, if you graduated in the top 20 of your class in May, there were 79 other people just like you in Minnesota. Thus, my first tip is for job seekers to avoid the “but I did everything right” attitude and focus on finding ways to stand out in a very employer-friendly market.
2. Ask for help.
This one is hard for many people in this part of the country, including myself. However, most people are willing to help out if you ask. Before I ended up in my current position, I was working on a temporary appointment as an Assistant County Attorney in Ramsey County. Whenever I got a lead on a job or was thinking about responding to a posting, I asked for input from the attorneys in my office. I asked the attorneys I worked with closely to call or write potential employers and give me a recommendation at the same time that I applied or immediately after I found out I scored an interview. I also asked for their input on the reputation of various firms and government agencies.
I also think it is important to note that you need to know the benefits and limitations of your school’s career services office. Career services will not get you a job. Instead, realize that career services is a resource you can consult for general advice about searching for jobs. At the end of the day, you are going to have to take the initiative to ask for help from attorneys and other professionals.
3. Ask for feedback and stay on good terms with interviewers.
Although I ultimately ended up at a firm that fits my background and interests, I had a few crushing blows in my job search. I was in the top three for a position I ultimately was not offered at least three times. After a while, I started to ask people who interviewed me for feedback. It was hard to swallow my pride and talk to someone who essentially determined someone else was better for the job than I was, but I gathered solid information in the process. I gained more insight into what not to say in interviews and learned quite a bit about how to improve myself as a candidate.
Again, I found that most people wanted to help and were happy to offer a few thoughts. I made sure to stay on good terms with employers after interviews because I wanted to make sure I did not burn any bridges if another position opened up in the future. In fact, I unsuccessfully applied for a position at my current firm when I was studying for the bar exam. Things worked out nicely the second time around.
Good luck to those who are looking for jobs right now. For some, these three tips may be useful. For others, other strategies will pay off. The key is to find what works for you, stay positive and remember that you’ll be fine in the long run.