Archive for Career Resources

You Need A Montage: Informational Meetings Scene III (Following Through and Following Up)

Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow 2014 – 2015
Christina Jackson, Director of Public Interest Initiatives and Fellowships
(with thanks to the professional development teams at UC Berkeley, Washington and Lee, and Seattle University Law Schools)

Okay, grasshoppers. Last month, I confessed my job search skills are weak and committed to questing with you to learn from PSJD’s resident career development guru Christina Jackson. Since then, we’ve re-made our resumes and cover letters. This week, we’ve begun the real work, for to master the art of informational meetings we must remake ourselves.

Creating a Strategy for Informational Meetings (Tip 5)

It’s been a busy week, on Monday, we covered the first step in our strategy—identifying contacts. Wednesday, we talked about reaching out to request a meeting. If you haven’t worked through those posts already, go back and make sure you’re up to speed before starting on this one.

Ready? Okay. You’ve identified your network of meeting candidates and you’ve made your initial contacts. Now, we need to talk about what it takes to get good insights from a meeting, make a successful connection with the person you speak with, and make that connection stick. (I’ve done many informational meetings, but I haven’t had the benefit of trying it with a game plan like this, so I don’t have examples for you. We’ll just have to go through this process together.) After reading this post, you should be able to prepare a strategy for the informational meetings you’re planning with your contacts and for following up with those contacts after your meeting happens.

NB: Don’t forget to check out the Google Drive spreadsheet tool I’m using to organize my own informational meeting efforts. I’m planning to log meetings in the “Log Interactions” sheet. The final sheet, “Long-Time, No-See” is to help me keep track of when I need to follow up with my contacts.

Part III: Following Through and Following Up

  1. HOW TO PREPARE:
    1. More research! Your contacts don’t want to tell you things you could have learned from their website. Although you looked into your contact’s background before reaching out, you’ll need to be even more prepared when the two of you speak. Once a person agrees to meet with you, begin by refreshing your research on that person and that person’s organization. Also include any relevant information you may have learned during other informational meetings–are other people in your network connected to the person you plan to interview.  This research is helpful because it will ensure that you’re able to…
    2. Plan specific questions. Your contact will expect you to set the agenda and use his or her time effectively. You have the primary burden to keep the conversation going. Make sure you know what information you’re hoping to learn so you can ask appropriate questions. (Christina and her network of career development professionals have prepared a list of sample questions for us to tailor to specific circumstances.) Good research should make the conversation easier to direct and control, but allow for the possibility of a surprise. You should be ready to go off-book if you hear something interesting and unexpected.
  2. HOW TO FOLLOW THROUGH:
    1. Follow job interview etiquette. Arrive 5-10 minutes early, wear business attire, and turn off your cell phone.
    2. Act like an interviewer. Remember, an informational meeting is like a job interview in reverse. That means that you get to be the one who shows up with research notes, and the one who takes notes during the meeting.
    3. Keep the focus (mostly) on your contact. Again, in this situation you’re the interviewer. The meeting should be directed by your information needs, but the subject should be your contact and the work he or she does. Still, your contact will implicitly understand that you would probably be open to positions he or she knows of, so be sure to introduce yourself and your credentials in a way that leaves the contact with a good memory of you. You should also always bring a copy of your resume, but don’t hand it over unless your contact asks, or unless you think their experience could help you improve the document.
    4. Be aware of time. Don’t take more time than you asked for, unless the contact expressly offers to let the conversation run over. Also, make the most of your time–stay engaged and professional even if you determine before the interview is over that the field you’re discussing isn’t for you.
    5. Network. Your last question should always ask whom you might speak with to learn more.
  3. HOW TO FOLLOW UP:
    1. SAME DAY/NEXT DAY: Write (thank you) notes for them, and (regular) notes for yourself. Send a thank you note (letter or email) to your contact, and also to anyone else who helped you set up the meeting. Also take the time to analyze your meetings. Reevaluate your interest in the career you discussed, based on what you learned. (Your career development office can help you make sense of your thoughts at this point.)
    2. NEAR FUTURE: Follow up on leads you received from the meeting–reach out to any contacts the person suggested and check out any resources the person mentioned.
    3. ONGOING: Keep contacts apprised of your career development activities. This is the part that most unsettles me. I’m terrible at keeping in touch with people. But, ideally, the people I’ve been meeting with are going to become my colleagues. Making a good impression is only significant if it’s also a lasting one. This is where the spreadsheet tool will hopefully keep me on track. I’m not certain exactly how frequently I want to check in with people (Christina says that within reason it’s a matter of personal preference), so the tool will let me set an interval of months and show me which contacts haven’t heard from me in awhile.

That’s all I have for now. With the pace of this series, I haven’t been able to run ahead this time and try out a meeting for you all before writing this post. So good luck to you as we all leap into this together.

Wax on, wax off,
-Sam

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You Need A Montage: Informational Meetings Scene II (Making Contact)

Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow 2014 – 2015
Christina Jackson, Director of Public Interest Initiatives and Fellowships
(with thanks to the professional development teams at UC Berkeley, Washington and Lee, and Seattle University Law Schools)

Okay, grasshoppers. Last month, I confessed my job search skills are weak and committed to questing with you to learn from PSJD’s resident career development guru Christina Jackson. Since then, we’ve re-made our resumes and cover letters. This week, we’ve begun the real work, for to master the art of informational meetings we must remake ourselves.

Creating a Strategy for Informational Meetings (Tip 5)

On Monday, I wrote about the first step in our strategy—identifying contacts. If you haven’t worked through that blog post already, go back and make sure you’re up to speed before starting on this one.

Ready? Okay. Today, we’re focusing on crafting our initial meeting requests. After reading this post, you should be able to draft a few emails making initial contact with the people on your list (see part one) that you decided you should reach out to first.

NB: Don’t forget to check out the Google Drive spreadsheet tool I’m using to organize my own informational meeting efforts. For contacts I’ve already spoken with, I started by recording our most recent exchange (email, etc.) in the “Log Interactions” sheet. I also used this sheet to log the new emails I sent today during this exercise.

Part II: Making Contact

Send an email or (if time permits) write a cover letter. (You can call, but if you do be prepared to have your meeting on the spot if a person answers the phone and expresses willingness to speak with you right there and then.)

This week, I worked up several emails for a few of my first-run candidates, including both people I know and people I don’t. (To avoid calling possibly-unwanted attention to my contacts, I’m not sharing these messages in their entireties.) As with job applications, you’ll want your emails to be well-written and to demonstrate your background research. Still, keep in mind that the stakes here are lower than with communications related to job applications: People are usually much happier to receive requests for information and advice than requests for a job, and answering questions is less intense than evaluating candidates for a position. You shouldn’t have to work quite as hard to land an informational meeting as you will for a job interview. (My informational meeting requests all took between 100 and 200 words.)

    1. WHAT TO SAY: When you contact a person to ask for an informational interview, your messages should establish three things:
      1. Who you are. Once the person can picture who you are, they can start to imagine what sort of advice you might need. You’ll always want to briefly explain your background. (E.g., “I’m a recent graduate from Georgetown University Law Center with a background in economic justice and human rights.”) (Editor’s Note: We’re going to discuss the art of boiling your life down to a sentence or two later this month, when we cover how to rehearse your “pitch.”) One thing I’m trying right now (I don’t know if it will help) is including a link to my LinkedIn profile in the postscript; I’ve learned that some people check me out there any way before our meetings. (E.g. “I didn’t want to throw a resume at you, but if you’re curious you can find me at [link].”)
      2. Who they are (to you). Busy people are more likely to arrange an informational meeting with you if they can tell you’ve chosen whom to contact carefully. An easy way to establish your familiarity is to mention any professional connections you might already have. If you got the person’s name from someone else, be sure to mention the name of the person who referred you.  (E.g., “Christina Jackson at NALP mentioned you might be a good person for me to speak with.”) If you took a professor’s class, remind her of that fact. (E.g., “I was in your comparative rights seminar in 2012.”) Even if you don’t have an existing link, you can always try to connect with a person’s work. (E.g., “I’ve been particularly inspired reading about your organization’s Community Development Project and its Safety Net Project.”)
      3. How their work relates to your goals. You may also want to tell recipients why you believe they would be good for you to speak with. You don’t have to write out a list of questions you plan on asking, but it helps to give people an idea of where the conversation might go. It’ll help them figure out if they have meaningful advice or insights to share with you. (E.g., “I’m interested in the path you took to Pro Bono Net and how your previous experiences with New York legal aid organizations inform your current work.”)
    2. WHAT NOT TO SAY: Make it clear you’re not asking about a job or for a job. You don’t have to say this explicitly. (I generally don’t.) Just make sure there’s no doubt.
    3. WHAT TO ASK FOR:Be specific about how much time you’d like each person to give you, and try not to ask for more than fifteen (or twenty) minutes. Ideally, you want to meet in person. However, make it clear that you’re available to speak over the phone if an in-person meeting isn’t possible. Keeping with our holiday job search theme, you’ll probably find yourself letting people know when you’re in town for the break, proposing that they tell you whether they have time for you on any of those days.
    4. WHAT TO DO NEXT:Be ready to go the distance. Don’t write to someone if you can’t commit to doing everything you can to get an interview. This means you have to make a follow-up call if you don’t hear back. Many of the attorneys you contact are very busy; in many cases, if you email but then never call to follow up, you may as well not have bothered writing in the first place. Follow up with a call about a week or ten days after you send the email or cover letter. If you reach your contact, you’ll want to be prepared with a spoken version of your email: introduce yourself, confirm your email got through, ask for a meeting (no more than 20 minutes), and stress that you’re willing to meet at a time and place convenient for that person.As before, don’t call until you’re prepared for the meeting itself—your contact may ask you to do the informational meeting on the spot after picking up the phone.
    5. DEALING WITH REJECTION: If you get turned down, always politely thank each person for his or her time. If you still have the confidence, think about asking whether the contact might recommend someone else they think would be useful for you to meet with. If you don’t hear anything after emailing and calling to follow up, use your judgment. Typically, the third email or call is the limit; if you still don’t hear back you need to move on. It’s useful to keep track of each email and call and to note their results (this is where the spreadsheet tool comes in).

 

I hope this advice helps you get your first few meeting requests out to your contacts. I’m aware this week’s posts are less soul-baring than previous ones in this series, though. If anyone of you feel we’re missing out by not posting a clear example, please write and let us know. I’ll look harder for a solution.

Wax on, wax off,

-Sam

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You Need a Montage: Informational Meetings Scene I (Identifying Candidates)

Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow 2014 – 2015
Christina Jackson, Director of Public Interest Initiatives and Fellowships
(with thanks to the professional development teams at UC Berkeley, Washington and Lee, and Seattle University Law Schools)

Okay, grasshoppers. Last month, I confessed my job search skills are weak and committed to questing with you to learn from PSJD’s resident career development guru Christina Jackson. Since then, we’ve re-made our resumes and cover letters. But now, the real work begins, for to master the art of informational meetings we must remake ourselves.

Creating a Strategy for Informational Meetings (Tip 5)

The goal of an informational meeting is twofold: First, it allows you to gather information and advice. Second, it helps you develop professional relationships. A master of these meetings has power far beyond one who can research and write application documents quickly and with confidence.

Resumes and cover letters are documents you send out during your job search. Planning for and following through with informational meetings involves putting your self out there, all the time. Although these meetings aren’t job interviews, how you present yourself and your credentials matters. They may reveal otherwise hidden opportunities. At PSJD, we do our best publicize positions, but often job opening info travels by word of mouth. Attorneys upon whom you make a good impression will remember you when they have openings or even recommend you to friends for positions for which they believe you’re qualified. Also, these meetings aren’t just for the beginning of your job search. While extremely helpful for beginners, they’re critical at later stages as well, helping to narrow practice areas or geographic locations—even to choose particular offices. This means you’ll always want to be reaching out to other lawyers and maintaining contact with practitioners already in your network, whether or not you’re looking for work.

If this idea sounds daunting, I agree. Christina’s ramping us into this task over three posts.  First, we have to learn how to identify candidates for these meetings and how to decide whom to contact first. Next, we’ll practice crafting our initial meeting requests. At the end of the week, we’ll discuss how to follow through with a meeting and follow up on one. After reading this post, you should be able to create a list of candidates for informational meetings and decide to which people you’ll reach out first.

NB: I’ve created a little spreadsheet tool in Google Drive to help myself. I’m sure there are more sophisticated programs out there, but this one was easy to make, and makes sense to me based on Christina’s advice. If it helps you, feel free to download it for yourself. What we discuss today involves filling in the first sheet of the tool (“Add/Edit Contacts”). (I marked down which people I wanted to contact in the first group (and so on) in the “Notes” section of the sheet.)

Part I: Identifying Candidates

Informational meetings are like job interviews in reverse. You initiate the contact, and you ask the questions. People who enjoy their work are happy to talk about what they do and are usually willing to help. In return, though, you must be prepared to use their time effectively. As a first step, this means you need to make sure you’re reaching out to the right people.

  1. Set parameters for your search. Contacting people takes time and energy; you need to focus your efforts. (Also, when you begin meeting with people, they’ll want to know why you were interested in talking to them in particular.) To begin developing a list of candidates for your informational interviews, you should first identify your areas of interest. Think about classes you’ve enjoyed, areas of practice you thought about before law school, or things that simply sound cool. Talk to classmates, read professional articles, and attend extracurricular events, noting what piques your interest. (The PSJD Resource Center’s “Practice Area Guides”—as well as your friendly neighborhood Career Office—are also a good place to start.)

    Next, limit your geographic preferences. It’s both prudent to use these meetings to connect to the legal market in areas where you’d like to practice and impractical to talk to practitioners in many different locations. Get a particular perspective on one or perhaps two geographic regions where you’d like to set your law career. (Remember, for the holidays it may be most efficient to focus on the geographic area where you’ll be spending winter break.)

    After some brainstorming, my list included 4 categories and 2 geographic regions. In general, my areas of interest were pretty broad for someone who’s already graduated. But, Christina noted that the breadth of your list can often depend on what you’re choosing to focus on. For example, if your interest is criminal defense, you’re aiming for a tightly-bound world of work. My interest (Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) doesn’t have an official place in the US legal pantheon. As a result, I’m still searching through several different fields that touch on ESC rights. Bottom line: your list will look different depending on where you are in your career and what you’re hoping to do. But always ask yourself whether you could be more focused in your search, and whether you’re ready to articulate your career goals more clearly.

  2. List the people you know best and work outward. Make a list of people you already know that have or might have connections to your areas of interest within your geographic range. Don’t just look for people with your “dream job”; also find people with information or experience that might help you clarify your job search or achieve your intermediate goals. Start with your professional and social groups, including:
    • Classmates & Alumni (Law school & undergrad)
    • Law School Faculty and Staff
    • Family (nuclear & extended)
    • Friends & Neighbors
    • Colleagues & Supervisors (present & former)
    • Volunteer organizations
    • Religious groups
    • Professional contacts (from conferences, CLEs, etc.)

    Once you’ve worked through these possibilities, if your list feels thin in certain areas then think about who you might want to cold call, looking at names from:

    • Local trade & professional associations (i.e. your local state bar association)
    • Trade magazines and journals
    • Newspapers
    • CLE faculty rosters

    I’ve had a variety of legal work experiences, so I was able to come up with a decent list drawing mostly from people I know directly. My list wasn’t complete, though. According to Christina, your initial list should always include: (1) supervisors from all your legal jobs, (2) all professors you studied your areas of interest with, and (3) all classmates (law and undergrad) doing work in your areas of interest. I had to backtrack and add professors I hadn’t developed close relationships with, as well as classmates with whom I haven’t spoken in a while.

  3. Set contact priorities. Start with the people you know best, and to whom you feel safest reaching out. In particular, your Career Development Office is probably sitting on a wealth of contacts and has the expertise to help you figure out who your best bets are. Another advantage of your CDO is that you know you aren’t imposing on them for help—helping you with this stuff is their job. Personally, I worry hugely about bothering busy people. Christina stressed how important it is not to worry about imposing on your contacts, especially in this early stage of planning:

    “If people don’t want to be bothered, they just won’t write back. If they do write back, they’ve made a conscious decision to help. Take them up on it. You may not feel as though you have anything to offer them, but most people probably received help themselves at some point; they want to pay the favors they received forward.”

I can’t think of better words to leave you with than those. Good luck building your lists; we’ll talk about what to do with them on Wednesday. Until then…

Wax on, wax off,
-Sam

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You Need a Montage: Cover Letter Makeover Scene

Sam Halpert, 2014 – 2015 PSJD Fellow

So last week I confessed to you all that in my own job search, I’m figuratively far from a master. However I work a mere foot away from one. Christina Jackson, NALP’s Director of Public Service Initiatives and Fellowships, will be putting me through my paces for your benefit from now until next semester so you can see how PSJD’s 10-Step Program for keeping your job search warm over the holidays works in practice.

This week, I tackled the second half of Tip 1 (writing a cover letter). Specifically, I tried to express my interest in the Pro Bono Coordinator position I noticed last week on PSJD. I hate writing cover letters, but I felt a little more confident this time than I have in the past–mostly because I tried to keep in mind Christina’s advice from the resume makeover. I’ve repeated her first point from the first makeover post below; I tried to meet the goal she set out for us last week. In fact, all of last week’s advice carries over well; read the resume makeover post before continuing with this one.

* * *

Ready? Okay. I showed her the resulting cover letter, and it turns out I did alright. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have to rework significant portions of it, though. (Feel free to compare the letter before and after she critiqued it.) As with the resume makeover, I’ve summarized her strategy for each portion of the letter below, illustrating it where necessary with examples from my own efforts:

  1. YOUR GOAL (Redux): Speak the employer’s language. Your resume and cover letter are a one-two combination aimed to land you an interview. (To see the resume that would accompany this letter, check out the resume makeover post.) Between them, you need to fit as many of the position’s advertised responsibilities, duties, and qualifications as you can. Reorganize, rephrase, and rewrite your experiences so the employer sees you describe yourself in the terms they would use. Each cover letter will be different, but you may be able to recycle within categories of positions, based on the method of work you’d like to employ, the clients you’re seeking to serve, and the area of law you’d like to apply.In my first attempt,  I failed to fit in as much as I could:
Responsibilities: “Participate in program funding activities, including analyzing data and assisting with grant reporting.”

Before:  

[crickets]

After:  

“I’ve also developed internal data analysis tools to increase my accountability for…performance.”
  1. THE SALUTATION: Always be personal, even if you have to dig for a name. The job post I was working from asked me to send a letter to a catch-all institutional email. I wrote “To Whom it May Concern”–a HUGE mistake. You may have to do some research, but you should always be able to put a name at the top of your cover letter. For me, it was pretty simple. The post included the title of the person the Coordinator reports to; I just had to go to the employer’s website and find out who holds that title. If you’re stumped identifying your supervisor, try to find the most senior person in the department you’d work for. If the organization is smaller, you can write to the Executive Director. If you have no other option, you can use a person’s title for the salutation. But whatever you do, don’t use “To Whom it May Concern.”
  2. PARAGRAPH ONE: (1) Who you are and (2) why you’re writing them. I did okay with the first part, where I tried to describe myself using key nouns and verbs from the job post (see item #1). I was too implicit with the second part, though. Employers want you to tell them what they do, even though they already know. They don’t need to learn their mission from you, but they do need to see that you understand what it is:
Description: “Pro Bono Net…us[es] innovative technology to increase legal assistance for low-income and vulnerable individuals.”

Before:  

“Professionally, I am passionate about improving social outcomes for low-income and vulnerable individuals. Personally, I care about helping people better understand technology. I would love this job.”

After:  

“Professionally, I am passionate about improving social outcomes for low-income and vulnerable individuals. Personally, I care about helping people better understand technology. Pro Bono Net combines both my passions, deploying technology to help close the justice gap. I would love this job.”
  1. PARAGRAPH TWO+:

(a) DO tie your specific skillset(s) to the employer’s job description. As with the resume makeover (see item #3), Provide concrete examples of the kinds of work you’ve done in your various experiences–but be careful of clients’ confidentiality. Try to make sure your cover letter augments the information in your resume. For instance, for one position my resume describes what I did; my cover letter describes why I did it:

Description: “Liaise with national, regional, and local stakeholders…”
Qualifications: “…ability to make technology understandable to people without technical skills.”

Resume:  

“Interviewed students… Met with teaching staff…”

Cover Letter:  

“[M]y work…required me to explain…technological solutions to two disparate groups…”

(b)  DON’T include extraneous information. (If you’re curious what that looks like, check out the entire third paragraph of my original attempt.)

  1. LAST PARAGRAPH: Close simply and directly.
  2. A FEW NOTES ON GENERAL STYLE:
    • Research the employer to hit the right tone. Don’t treat my example as a general rule for what kind of language is acceptable. I played pretty close to the line for informal language in this cover letter, but I think I can get away with it based on the tone of the employer’s website. (For instance: “Passionate about public interest law? Love using the web? Consider joining our team!”) If the organization you want to work for (or you) are more straight-laced, find more professional ways to say the same thing:
Desired Message: “I am interested in working for you.”

Informal:  

“I would love this job.”

Formal:  

“This position is directly in line with my career goals.”
    • Avoid overstating your enthusiasm for entry-level work. I’m an effusive guy. I got away with “love,” but Christina drew the line at “thrilled.” (Avoid superlatives as well.)
    • Never run over a single page. (Oops.)

I’m not quite ready to hit send yet. When you think you’re done, wait until the next day whenever you can and look at the letter with fresh eyes. I’ll let you know how this resume-cover letter combo turns out. In the meantime, I’ll be working on a list of contacts for informational meetings (the next montage post).

Wax on, wax off.
-Sam

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You Need a Montage: the Resume Makeover Scene

Sam Halpert, 2014 – 2015 PSJD Fellow

So yesterday I confessed to you all that in my own job search, I’m far from I’m figuratively far from a master. However I work a mere foot away from one. Christina Jackson, NALP’s Director of Public Service Initiatives and Fellowships, will be putting me through my paces for your benefit from now until next semester so you can see how PSJD’s 10-Step Program for keeping your job search warm over the holidays works in practice.

Since then, I’ve been hard at work on Tip 1 (reviewing my resume and cover letter). I shared the most recent version of my resume with Christina, along with a couple of job posts that came up on PJSD that caught my eye (a Pro Bono Coordinator and a Housing Advocate, PDF’d here for posterity).

Christina had solid advice for restructuring and refining my resume. I’ve summarized her strategy below, illustrating it with examples from my two new resumes (you can see all the changes I made in the full versions — ”Coordinator“ and “Advocate“):

  1. YOUR GOAL: Speak the employer’s language. Your resume and cover letter are a one-two combination aimed to land you an interview. Between them, you need to fit as many of the position’s advertised responsibilities, duties, and qualifications as you can. Reorganize, rephrase, and rewrite your experiences so the employer sees you describe yourself in the terms they would use.
    This means each resume will be different, depending on what kind of employer you’re speaking to. Make categories based on the method of work you’d like to employ, the clients you’re seeking to serve, and the area of law you’d like to apply. Within these categories employers are likely to use similar language and have similar expectations. Write resumes for each one, and you won’t have to do a custom job for each application you send off.

    Pro Bono Coordinator Example

    Housing Advocate Example

    Responsibilities: “Coordinate and support the development of…the probono.net platform.” Responsibilities: “Engaging community coalitions, advocates, and public officials.”
    New Resume: “Coordinating with PSJD Advisory Group to develop new resources & features…” New Resume: “[Executed human rights fact-finding mission] by engaging community groups to convince individuals to participate.”
  2. WHAT TO CUT: Look for sections that don’t say something meaningful or new. For example, research has been a component of several of my jobs so Christina downgraded my Research Assistant position to an “activity.” When she didn’t see how my summer program spoke to the “Coordinator” position, she cut it entirely. (I added it back for the “Advocate” resume; my activities that summer demonstrate experience with community advocacy.)
  3. WHAT TO INCLUDE: Be specific — or as specific as you can. Provide concrete examples of the kinds of work you’ve done in your various experiences. For one position on my old resume, I’d “co-authored pre-mission documents” and “conducted interviews.” Christina wanted to know more: What kind of information did the documents include? How many interviews did your team conduct?
    This gets tricky when your work is confidential: Focus on processes, not issues, and remember you may need help. If you’re a student or a recent grad struggling to describe your experience without giving anything away, consider showing your proposed language to your supervisor. They can help you find words that will let employers picture your work without learning confidential details of your clients’ affairs.
  4. WHAT TO EXPECT: Be prepared to be uncomfortable. You’re editing your life for someone else. According to Christina, as a law graduate it’s time for me to retire my GPA from my resume. With the exception of positions that specifically mention “strong academic credentials” or request a transcript, in most graduates’ applications a GPA just takes up space. This was difficult for me to accept. I worked hard for that number. Apparently, though, it means a lot to me but not to most employers. And without it I have more space to say other things and present a package with fewer extraneous details distracting employers from my message. So I took a deep breath, and held down backspace.
  5. TWO NOTES ON LARGE-SCALE ORGANIZATION:
    • For students and recent grads, “education” comes first. But generally, two years after graduation “experience” officially trumps. If you’re closer to your fifth reunion than your 1L year, consider moving your “education” section below “experience” unless you’re applying to a job where your education ties you to the institution you’d work for or the location you’d move to.
    • “Experience” typically matters more than “publications” — unless you’re going for a particularly writing-intensive job (e.g., judicial clerk) or your publications speak to your relationship with a particular client group, method of work, or area of law. For example, I moved my “publications” section forward on my “Advocate” resume because one of the reports I co-authored specifically involved housing issues.

I have more work to do on both of these documents. These versions have gone a little overboard, which can happen when you find a position where a lot of your experience is on point. I need to cut each one back a bit, but hopefully these five tips and examples are enough to get you started on your own resume makeovers this weekend. I’ll be chugging along ahead, working on matching cover letters to share with Christina (and you) next week.

Wax on, wax off.
-Sam

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You Need a Montage: PSJD Career Search Tips in Practice

Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow 2014 – 2015

Man in "Karate Kid" Silhouette Photo: Nicolò Bonazzi – CC License

As regular readers already know, between now and the end of the semester we will be blogging about how to make the most of the winter holidays to upgrade your job search tools and hone your job search skills. It’ll be a collaborative effort, but each of us will be in a separate role. When it comes to career development, Christina’s the coach, the drill sergeant, the Mr. Miyagi—choose your favorite metaphor. I won’t be providing knowledge, but raw material. In my own job search efforts, I’m the struggling player, the fresh-faced recruit, the Karate Kid—again, take your pick. (Just so long as you picture Ralph Macchio and not Jayden Smith.) And Christina’s winter goal is to get me—and you—into fighting form.

But wait! (You may very well say.) Sam, what are you doing at PSJD.org if you aren’t a job search guru? Truth is, I bring a fair amount to the PSJD Fellowship: my past experiences have made me an adept web developer, a proficient public speaker, and a comfortable manager. But I’m not adept, proficient, or even comfortable when it comes to looking for work myself. In the last thirty words, I think I’ve already eclipsed the cover letter I wrote last Spring to get this job. I’m comfortable speaking and writing, but not about my own accomplishments. I can advocate for causes I believe in, but I feel awkward asking people I respect to take time away from their important work to help me out with an informational meeting or a job recommendation. I worry so much about whether my materials are perfect that I often run the risk that they won’t be timely-submitted.

In short, if you’re reading PSJDblog to figure out how to improve your job search results, you and I are probably more alike than you think. I believe I’m fairly qualified for my chosen career, but many qualified people are struggling to find work in public interest law right now. If you’re looking for a job next year, so am I—and if you’ve had as much trouble meeting your job search goals this Fall as I have, you have my sympathy.

This is where Christina comes in. Between now and the end of finals, I’ll be putting myself where PSJD’s mouth is. Starting with a resume makeover later this week, I’m going to be trying out each of the ten tips we suggested for our readers; Christina will be critiquing my efforts. We’ll share the results with you here on PSJDblog. I’ll talk about which changes feel most significant, which feel non-intuitive, and how easy or difficult each tip is to put into practice.

Until next time: wax on, wax off.

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PSJD’s 10-Step Program to Keep Your Job Search Warm This Winter

Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships

Thank you to American University Washington College of Law Office of Career and Professional Development for contributing these tips.

Penguins on an Interview
Whether you’re looking forward to finishing your first semester of law school or looking forward to starting your last one, the best holiday spirit is the one that puts you in the mood for career planning. We here at PSJD hope you’re able to take a well-deserved rest from classes, but you can’t afford to let your job search efforts freeze over. To help your job search stay warm through winter without burning you out, we’ve come up with ten concrete activities you can take on between now and New Year’s to be ready to impress your future employers in 2015.

The gist of our ten-step program is below, but stay tuned: We’ll be covering each of these tips in greater detail in upcoming installments of PSJDblog over the weeks between now and the end of the semester.

Tip 1: Review Your Resume & Cover Letter

Perhaps the most important task you can do, especially with limited time. All too often, strong candidates undermine their own candidacy with resumes and cover letters that contain typos and/or are simply not compelling. Review your materials carefully before they are sent, ask a friend to proofread them, and, of course, meet with an OCPD career counselor to review your documents.

Tip 2: Take Advantage of Holiday Gatherings and Festivities

Holiday mixers are an opportunity to let people know:

  1. Who you are;
  2. The kinds of employers and opportunities you are targeting; and
  3. What you are looking to accomplish in your legal career.

This is especially true if you’re job searching in a geographic area different than your law school. You need to get out into the legal community and meet people so that when you’re applying for internships or postgraduate positions, you have some connection to the market. Additionally, many firms and non-profits have their end of the year celebrations. This is a great time to talk with people in a more informal (read less stressful) way. But remember, you’re trying to make professional connections, so act accordingly.

Tip 3: Craft Your Pitch

Speaking of making connections, you need to have your “pitch” created so that you don’t look like a deer caught in the headlights when someone asks you: “So, what do you want to do?” No matter which legal sector you target, being able to quickly and convincingly articulate your skills, interests, and accomplishments is key to presenting yourself in a compelling and focused manner. We will be discussing how to craft your pitch in an upcoming installment of the Holiday Job Search Tips series.

Tip 4: Take Time to Review Your Online Presence

Consider what you are viewing, downloading or linking to on your social media. Be mindful of your connections and public image — As you know, the Internet has a long memory and footprints can be indelible.

Tip 5: Set Up Informational Meetings

We used to call these informational interviews. The point is, you ask the questions to gather information and make connections. Since people may have more time during the holidays, request informational meetings with college and law school alumni who practice in the areas you wish to pursue. Make sure you have clear and cogent questions, and express thanks for their time with a prompt thank you note follow up. You will find this practice especially important if you wish to expand your job search beyond the geographic confines of your law school or home town. Once you’ve had these meetings, make sure you record the information you’ve gathered and periodically follow up with relevant contacts as you continue job searching and beyond.

Tip 6: Visit the Courthouse

Consider observing a judicial proceeding overseen by a judge or in a court you are targeting for a clerkship or internship. Not only will this provide a compelling opener to your cover letter, but it could possibly create an opportunity to speak with the Judge’s law clerk about your interest. While you’re at it, reach out to any lawyers you observe arguing a case of interest to you.

Tip 7: Offer Seasonal Help to a Local Legal Aid Office, or…

another public sector employer who might welcome a lending hand with some legal research or project-based work. Volunteering is always an excellent way to gain experience and demonstrate interest in a particular organization or client base.

Tip 8: Write an Article, or at least…

consider a topic that might be interesting to you. We’re not talking law review here; there are many professional associations, bar organizations, periodicals and trade publications that are content-starved. Publishing opportunities abound and are relatively easy to leverage. For instance, PSJDblog is always looking for guest bloggers. Consider getting yourself out there early and establishing yourself as knowledgeable in a particular area.

Tip 9: Join a Relevant Bar Organization

Many students get scholarships, summer funding, awards, and recognition from national and local bar associations. In addition, full- and part-time job opportunities may arise though meaningful bar association contacts and involvement. Attending their CLE programs is another great way to make contacts and gain valuable resume experience.

Tip 10: Update your Professional References

Too many times to count, I’ve checked references with someone who had no idea what job the candidate was applying to and even that they were being used as a reference. The end of the year is a great time to check back in with the people who’ve offered to be your reference in the past. Let them know what you’re up to and at least give them a general sense of where your job search is taking you now. Also, evaluate your references. Are they still relevant for the types of legal positions you’re now seeking? If not, determine who else could potentially be a reference and make that connection.

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Building Networks and Expertise: PSJD helps keep you up-to-date on legal conferences in your area.

by Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow (2014 – 2015)

PSJD is about legal careers. And legal careers are about networking. (I know you know, but if you’re at all like me you need frequent reminders.) For that reason, we changed one of our key resources last May.

PSJD’s “Public Interest Career Fair Calendar” is now PSJD’s Public Interest Career Fair and Events Calendar. Traditionally, this resource was for helping students find traditional career fairs in their area, such as (for example) the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair happening next month in Bethesda, Maryland (register by October 10th!). Now, the calendar also includes events covering substantive issues in public interest and government law that are open to the general public, such as the Emory Public Interest Committee’s 11th Annual Public Interest Conference happening in Atlanta, Georgia this Saturday, September 27th (the topic is “Legal Issues in Fostering & Adopting”). In the future, we hope to migrate the calendar to a more expected calendar layout. For the time being, at least, we’ll also promote these events through the PSJD Facebook page shortly before they occur.

Unlike our previous system, this means that not every event in the calendar may be meaningful to you. While career fairs often appeal to a wide slice of the public interest pie, these substantive events are narrower. However, we hope you’ll find this shift helpful. Remember: You can’t just look for work by answering job postings and attending career fairs. You need to meet the people in your field and familiarize yourself with their attitudes and issues. Become knowledgeable. Become known. Substantive conferences—especially ones that happen off your campus or outside your city—can help with that. And PSJD, with the help of its law school subscribers, can help you hear about them.

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TWO New Government Careers Resources on PSJD!

2 New Resources

in the Government Careers Section of PSJD’s Resource Center!

The 2014-2015 Federal Legal Employment Opportunities Guide (FLEOG) is now available for download on PSJD!  FLEOG offers a broad-based review of different career opportunities and paths to employment for law students and graduates who are interested in federal legal careers.  A big thank you to our Publications Coordinator, John Bain, for all his hard work on this very valuable resource.

The 2014 Public Defender Handbook is now available. This publication is ideal for students looking for public defender internships and postgraduate jobs.  The Handbook is divided into three main sections, (1) Frequently Asked Questions about public defender careers (2) a listing and brief descriptions of the major public defender offices that regularly hire post-graduate attorneys and (3) a listing of capital defense offices that hire entry-level attorney. The Handbook also includes an appendix with very specific examples of hypothetical interview questions and interviews with leaders at public defender agencies.

Thanks to our friends at NYU, and especially Rachel Peckerman, Esq., Associate Director, Public Interest Law Center, NYU School of Law. for sharing the Defender Handbook.

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Disability hiring in the federal government.

Even with unemployment still running high, the Federal Government is having difficulty hiring qualified employees.  In particular, the Federal Government is actively recruiting and hiring persons with disabilities.  If  you are such a person seeking federal employment, here is some specific guidance.

The Federal Government has a special (excepted) hiring authority for persons with disabilities called Schedule A.  You are eligible for Schedule A if you are a person with severe physical disability, a psychiatric disability or an intellectual disability.  You can find out more, including sample Schedule A letters and a training video on applying for Schedule A jobs, on OPM’s website.

Additionally, most Federal agencies have a Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SPPC) who helps management recruit, hire and accommodate people with disabilities. SPPC’s have many roles and responsibilities, including helping people with disabilities get information about current job opportunities, types of jobs in the agency and how these jobs are filled, and reasonable accommodation.  There is a nationwide SPPC Directory to help you get started.  Also, check out the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s LEAD (Leadership for the Employment of Americans with Disabilities) initiative to address the declining number of employees with targeted disabilities in the federal workforce. The goal for this initiative is to significantly increase the population of individuals with severe disabilities employed by the federal government.

The Federal Government has made hiring candidates with disabilities a priority.  If you are eligible, take advantage of their recruiting resources.  Federal agencies can be a great place to work.

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