The Job Search Over Winter Break

Winter break is an excellent time to implement aspects of your job search that you were unable to focus on or accomplish due to your demanding schedule during the fall semester. Below are some key job search techniques you can employ.

Conduct Self-Assessment

Use the break to assess your skills and interests. Conduct self-assessment by exploring the many career options available and evaluate the kind of work environments, clients, and lifestyle which will bring you job satisfaction.

  • Set up an appointment with a counselor in the career services office to discuss your ideas and questions. The Career Services Office is open over winter break and we can set up telephone appointments as well as in-office, or we can answer quick questions via email.
  • Read through the general career planning guides and reference materials available in the career services library. For example, see Lisa Abram's The Official Guide to Legal Specialties and/ or Deborah Arron's What Can You Do with a Law Degree?
  • Read all of the job postings on Symplicity, the listings in the Federal Government Honors & Internship Handbook (in the Document Library of Symplicity), and in other on-line resources, to give yourself a wider view of what you can do with a law degree.
  • Set up informational interviews. Contact alumni or other people working in an area of law that interests you and meet them for coffee to talk about what they do. For more information on informational interviewing, see our Guide to Informational Interviewing.

Update Application Materials

Many things may have changed with regard to your skills, experiences and credentials over the course of the prior semester. Review all of your application materials, update them as necessary and consider how you might enhance them. You can also ask your Career Adviser to take a look at your documents and give you feedback.

Resume

  • Update your academic information, any new jobs or new responsibilities at your existing job, new community activities, etc.
  • If you have determined a focus for your job search, e.g. employment law, consider emphasizing that in your resume by listing out pertinent classes you have taken, or if your GPA in relevant classes is more impressive than your overall GPA, listing a separate GPA for those classes. Point out the responsibilities at your past jobs that fit your chosen specialty the best.
  • Enhance your resume by getting involved in new activities over break. Volunteer (lawstudents.illinoisprobono.org is a great place to start ). Join a committee at one of the local bar associations. Attend a CLE course in a related area of law. Do research for a professor. All of these things will demonstrate your dedication to that practice area.

Cover Letter

  • Examine your cover letter critically. Does it still talk about your most pertinent and significant achievements? Does it correctly emphasize your interests and goals?
  • Consider making different versions of your cover letter if you are approaching different markets (even if it is simply the urban versus the suburban market), or if you are pursuing different practice areas or settings (government, firm, etc.)

Transcript

  • Even if you do not have your grades yet, add in your class information, including the number of credit hours and professors' names so it will be ready to go once grades are received.

Writing Sample

  • If you have not made any additional edits to your writing sample since you first wrote it, go back and review it. With the benefit of time and additional experience think about whether it needs editing for content or style.
  • If your writing sample is over 6 months old, check the case law to make sure that it has not been superseded. Update if necessary.

References

  • If your references still date back to over a year ago, it is time to consider updating them.
  • For new references, make sure to ask their permission. For continuing references, let them know they are still on your reference list if it has been more than a year since you last asked them.
  • Send your updated resume to your references so they know more about what you have been doing.

Plan

Once you have determined what your interests are and your application documents are ready, make a plan of attack.

  • Meet with your career adviser, or call or email to discuss your goals and strategize.
  • It is a good idea to have a Plan A, Plan B, etc. in order to cover all of your bases. The order of attack may be determined by the market place (e.g. federal government agencies tend to start their hiring processes earlier than state and local agencies do). Or it may be determined by your interests (e.g. you would prefer to work in a small firm doing litigation but will work in a government agency with a litigation department if a firm does not work out).
  • Set realistic goals for yourself. Make your goals weekly, and meet them but do not try to do too much at once or you will burn out.

Apply

With your plan set in place, start sending out applications.

  • Set up a Search Agent on Symplicity by clicking the "Save As" box and naming your search in the Advanced Search form under "Jobs." Once you have run your search, click on the "Search Agents" tab also under "Jobs." You should see the Search Agent you just created. Click on it and then click "Yes" to enable it. The default is once a day but the increment can be changed to week or month. This is how often the system will search for your stated criteria. An email will be sent to your kentlaw email address containing all new jobs that fit your search criteria.
  • Review resources in the Document Library of Symplicity for additional jobs and deadlines.
  • Consider a proactive approach to employers (e.g. identifying and targeting small firms, state agencies, judges, corporations, etc.) Your career adviser can assist you.

Network

Networking is simply the act of obtaining information and increasing your contact base through informational sessions with other professionals. Begin by identifying as many people as possible who can provide relevant information on your job search or refer you to people who can.

  • Establish an initial networking list of people very familiar to you e.g., friends, relatives, current or former faculty members, former employers/co-workers, members of organizations to which you belong, etc. Let these individuals know about your interests and ask them who they might suggest you talk with to learn more about the field in which you are interested.
  • Expand your list of networks by using the following resources:
    1. Alumnae/i Advisor Network
      The Alumnae/i Advisor Network, available on the law school's website, contains a database of over 300 Kent alumnae across the country who have volunteered to advise students on networking, practice areas, and job markets.
    2. Martindale.com
      You can also locate other alumnae through www.martindale.com. Through this searchable database, you can perform advanced searches by city or practice area and then by attorneys who attended Chicago-Kent.
    3. LinkedIn
      As social networking tools go, www.linkedin.com is the most popular for professional networking. You can post a virtual resume on-line, and see your connections within six degrees. Chicago-Kent has an alumni group on the site and you can connect to most of the Career Services staff, who are connected to lots of great alumni and other legal professionals. You can do searches by geographic area, type of career, employer, etc. This is a great resource for government, non-profit and corporate attorneys and alternative career practitioners who may not be listed on martindale.com
    4. Bar Associations
      Many local bar associations host social events, seminars and other occasions where you can network with practicing attorneys. If you plan to practice in another state, consider joining the local bar association and call in advance of your break to learn about upcoming events. Also, if you know which practice area you are interested in, consider joining a specialized committee. This will provide you with excellent resources in your field of interest and help you get acquainted with the major "players" in the field.

Out-of-State Resources

Reciprocity
If you are applying for an out of state position and plan on being there during your break, you should request reciprocity from a local law school's career services office. See the NALP web site for descriptions of the various law school reciprocity policies. In order to apply, you will need to complete a reciprocity request form which is available on the Kent web site. Note that it could take several weeks before your request is approved.

BYU Intercollegiate Job Bank 
The BYU Intercollegiate Job Bank in the Document Library of Symplicity compiles entry level job postings from schools throughout the country. This resource will be especially useful for students and alumni conducting an out-of-town job search, but through this service you can also access the postings of other Illinois and Chicago area schools. Sometimes internships and externships are listed although the site is intended for postgraduate job searches.

Other Law School Websites
Other law schools around the country compile resources like those Chicago-Kent's Career Services Office has put together, and many of those resources are open to the public. Go to the Career Services section of a law school in the area where you want to work.

Relax

Law school can be overwhelming. Take a deep breath and find time to renew your inner resources.