By: Maria Hibbard
Last year, a law school professor of mine used the phrase “in the weeds” so often that it became his trademark – we all knew that we were “getting into the weeds” whenever we were talking through a difficult or laborious issue to understand. As I look forward to the next few months of job searching for my 2L year and next summer, I’m trying to create a plan to avoid getting overwhelmed – with a tough job market, limited opportunities, and the pressure to figure out what to do with my whole life – I know I need to create a roadmap to navigate through “the weeds.” Here’s a list of some things to think through:
- Dream the ideal. What is your dream job? At what organization? Where? Dreaming up “the ideal” and then pursuing opportunities that show some similarity to that ideal position is not settling – it’s taking steps in the right direction. I’ve become acutely aware of the way in which location plays into the legal job search – if the ultimate goal is to work in Los Angeles, for example, then taking a job in LA that might not be ideal can show interest and commitment to staying there. Harvard has a great self-assessment guide that can help in figuring out what that ideal may look like.
- Think through the deadlines.Like me, you may be at a law school that is starting the beginning of the on-campus recruiting process – and the pressure to find your next summer job or clerkship has begun to mount. If you want to apply broadly to a number of types of employers, it may be best to think about the different stages of applications in chunks based on general recruiting schedules. If you can, front-loading your semester with job searching can get the most time-consuming part out of the way before finals come up in November and December. For example:
- July-early/mid August: focus on OCI applications as per your school’s deadlines
- August: research opportunities at large federal and state agencies and organizations, some of which have application deadlines in early September.
- September: focus on networking with and researching smaller organizations and agencies in your target location
- October: invest time in following up on applications and networking contacts
- Think long term. Knowing where you want to be and what you want to do long term can help give direction to your 2L job search – but you don’t have to have it all figured out yet. For example, if you’re committed to a certain issue and thinking about applying for a sponsored fellowship after graduation, you could target your internship applications toward organizations that advocate for that cause. Interning during your second summer could allow a potential sponsoring organization to get to know you and your work, and could give you the opportunity to develop specific fellowship project ideas.
- Create short term goals. Once the school year starts over again, we’re all going to be balancing new coursework with the job hunt – but it doesn’t mean that you need to be sucked into a vortex of class/schoolwork/job searching/sleep/eat/repeat. If you can create short term goals for yourself, just like school assignments – like “I will write two cover letters tonight after I read the cases for criminal procedure,” you’ll make slow and steady progress on the job hunt without spending days on end aimlessly looking for jobs.
Obviously, I’m a novice at all of this myself, but hopefully planning ahead and thinking intentionally about my 2L job search will help me -and you- avoid “going into the weeds.” As you think through your job search, check out PSLawNet’s Career Central section, as well as the site’s continually updated public service job postings!