job search

5 Benefits of Cover Letters

Guest Blog by Vault.com’s Sarah Kuhn

Including a cover letter is a great way to express your interest in a company and stand out against other candidates. Many candidates choose not to include cover letters, so putting in a little extra work can really go the extra mile for you in the long run.

Of course, the overall idea is to make sure you are writing a proper cover letter: it should be specific to the position you’re applying for, centered on what you’d bring to the table, and not focused on what you’d want out of the company in terms of salary, progression or other demands.

The five points below will explain the benefits of a cover letter and review how writing one can set you apart from the competition.

1) Recruiters will see who put the work in

Just the fact that not everyone includes cover letters with their resume is reason enough to write one. It’s an extra touch that will help you stand out as a candidate. If you can personalize it with the name of your contact or a specific person with hiring power within the company, that will display additional effort and initiative as well. Take the time, because others won’t.

2) Your resume is factual, your cover letter is personal

Use a cover letter to shed light on the details of your resume. A cover letter gives you the opportunity to tell your professional story in a way that’s more personal. For example, you could address a large gap in employment or change in career path. Bring your resume to life by referencing it in a personal letter to your professional contact within a company.

3) Demonstrate your interest

Putting in the additional work of writing a cover letter shows that you value the time of the individual receiving your resume enough to reciprocate by taking the time and effort to write them directly. You’re willing to put action behind entrance into their company. This is the perfect place to express why you want to work for them. Tell the company why you’d be a good fit for the position. Tell them why you want the position.

4) Show you’ve done your research

Use company-specific examples of what made you look to them as an employer, what sparked your interest in them, or any company initiatives that align with your values. Immediately, this approach sets you apart from mass LinkedIn applications, or individuals who have just clicked a button to apply with no care for the company deeper than the position at hand. Employers value loyalty, and this tactic will help set you apart as a candidate that wants a career, rather than to use the position as the next stop in your job hop.

5) Give them a taste of who you are

Depending on your writing style or skill level, you can get really creative with how you let your personality show through a cover letter. But no matter how skilled you are, it’s important to keep your cover letter concise so that the content is impactful. Make sure to sound professional—you can even use borrowed language from the company itself—but ultimately the voice of the cover letter should be your own.

These five benefits will help you as a candidate by providing leverage that an application or resume alone wouldn’t allow. While your resume provides an overview of your skills and experience, the cover letter is your opportunity to express your personality through paper. Give yourself a leg up on competition by supplying your potential employer with a chance to learn more about you.

The Post-Holiday Job Search

Now that the holidays are in your wake, take into consideration that the early part of the year isn’t quite business as usual. Understanding this will let you make appropriate adjustments and use your time wisely. Here are some thoughts to help you get your search back on track:

1. Reestablish your routine. Even the most dedicated job-seeker saw his or her carefully plotted search plan rendered moot around the middle of December. Some, recognizing the inevitability of this, opted to visit family or friends with the idea of starting anew in January. Many, however, made no such conscious choice and found that their search ground to a halt amid unanswered e-mail and un-returned phone calls.

Regardless of which camp you fall into, you may be finding it hard to get back to a routine that seemed largely meaningless for three weeks. But re-imposing discipline will not only ensure that you resume productive behavior but it also will prevent a slow drift into depression. So, start setting the alarm for a reasonable time again. Prepare a written schedule of your weekly activities, including to-do lists. And reclaim the space that you were using as your “office.” These basic tasks will help you recapture the mind-set you need when job-hunting.

2. Be patient. Once you’re back on your routine, you’ll be all fired up. So you’ll find it particularly frustrating to discover that your job-search network isn’t as responsive as it was prior to the holidays. This doesn’t mean that you’ve hit a roadblock. What it does indicate is that all the people that you rely upon for future employment are also laboring to reestablish their own routines, which they also lost control of weeks ago. Even those people who are desperate to hire in early January will still take a week or more to excavate the pile that has accumulated since mid-December. Until they do that, everything else is generally put on hold, including the hiring process — and answering your e-mail and returning your calls.

No matter how much you might like or need the process to move faster, nothing will return to a semblance of normality until mid-January. Remember this so you won’t panic when the world fails immediately to match your renewed enthusiasm.

3. Do other things. Networking may be difficult right now, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be productive. Now is an excellent time to revisit your resume and other marketing materials to ensure that they’re current and reflect you in the best possible light. Think about this not just in relation to your written materials, but to how you present yourself overall. Are you eloquent about your accomplishments, pertinent skill sets, and potential contributions when speaking to perspective employers? If not, now is a good time to work on that so you can make the most of the upcoming opportunities. Practice — on your own or with someone else — until you have your patter down. Are your job-hunting clothes all set? It’s not a bad idea to make sure they still fit after the holidays.

Early January is also an ideal time to do research on industries, companies, and individuals that are crucial for your search. If you think you might be interested in an area where you haven’t previously worked, use this time to investigate it. Or if you have a big meeting later in the month, use this time to bone up on the industry, the company, and the people you’ll be talking to. Make sure that you use this time wisely so you’ll be fully prepared when the working world reengages and turns its thoughts to new hires.

4. Be optimistic. The old year is gone — and so is the fiscal 12-month period. Many companies that didn’t have the budget to hire last year now have the funds to do so. In fact, there’s often pent-up demand owing to the fact that managers who were eager to hire four to five months ago now have the resources they lacked. On top of that, the New Year brings a sense of renewal and optimism to many companies, which makes the first quarter a particularly good time to secure new employment. So even though you’re unemployed, you can feel cautiously optimistic about your professional future.

Land A Law Job by Volunteering

Are you currently in the hunt for a legal position? Consider volunteering. It could be just the ticket to a rewarding career. And it doesn’t even matter so much where you volunteer, as long as you show up with open mind and a good attitude. One study showed that volunteering increases your odds of getting a job by 27 percent.

Volunteering is not about earning brownie points or padding your resume. It’s about doing something for the sake of doing it – and because it’s the right thing to do.

“Volunteering allows you to try on different organizations, roles, issues, etc., without job-hopping,” according to Ideal Careers. “Of course, volunteering isn’t the same as being on staff, but it can expose you to the work of an organization in a deeper way than becoming a member, following it on Twitter, or even conducting an informational interview with an employee.”

And the best part: random acts of volunteerism can open doors to all sorts of new career opportunities. Read More or check out the many volunteer activities with the NC Bar Association. Here are some of them:

  • 4All Statewide Service Day
  • Law-Related Education Partners
  • Lawyer on the Line
  • NC Lawyers For Entrepreneurs Assistance Program (LEAP)
  • NC LEAP Inventor Assistance Program (Patent Law)
  • Veterans Pro Bono Network
  • Wills for Heroes

7 Tips for What You Should (And Shouldn’t) Do at Your Callback

Not only did you make it through the hectic OCI season with some excellent interview experience, but employers are now inviting you back for additional interviews. Great job! Now is the time to be excited! It is also the time to plan. You hit it off with the on-campus interviewer and now you must plan for the next round of interviewers at the callback. Keep in mind some of these dos and don’ts for the callback, courtesy of the hiring director at an AmLaw 100 firm:

1. Wear a suit-even if the firm insists it’s a relaxed, casual place. This applies to both men and women. Don’t get fooled by the “business casual” stuff. According to this hiring director, go for business formal — though pants suits are perfectly fine for women these days. She also advises: “Iron your shirt or blouse and steam out the wrinkles in your suit. Use a lint brush.” Unsure about something you are wearing? Best to not wear it.

2. Do not wear perfume or cologne. Take a shower and use deodorant — that’s enough. “I’ve been in offices a few hours after lawyers meet a candidate and sometimes you can still smell the cologne,” says this hiring director. You want to be remembered for your skills and great talent, not your scent.

3. Find out who’s interviewing you, then Google them. Don’t just read the employer bios. Google them, too. “Note any recent cases or clients [because] attorneys do love to talk about themselves.” The employer didn’t tell you who will be interviewing you? No sweat: Just call the recruiting department and ask! But be prepared for last minute changes.

4. When you show up, treat everyone nicely. “Be friendly and engaging to the receptionist or whoever is greeting you. This shows that you can work and interact with staff and attorneys alike.”

5. During the interview, ask questions, then more questions. ”Even if you’ve asked the same questions six times, ask them again.” And never ever say, “no I don’t have any questions.” Moreover, if the interviewer asks you a question, “don’t use one word answer; always elaborate.” You should also know your own resume-inside and out as you can potentially be asked questions about your activities, clubs, awards, classes, etc.

6. But don’t ask mundane questions. Save questions about salary, recruiting process, maternity/paternity leaves, reimbursement of travel expenses, retirement plans, etc. for the hiring director or coordinator. “Use your time wisely with the attorneys-talk about you, their practice, and their company.”

7. Send a brief thank-you note. You don’t need to pull out your monogrammed stationery. Email is now acceptable. But it’s always a good idea to include something about your discussion with the interviewers. “It shows they made an impression on you.”

Even if you decide to forgo a callback from the start, or you go to the callback, get an offer, then decide to cross the employer off your list, you should promptly and gracefully decline the invitation or offer with a call, followed by an email confirmation. (It’s also a nice touch to tell the employer where you end up.) ”You may want to work at the company [you've turned down] one day, and the recruiting director might remember that you didn’t return her call!”

How to Set Up Effective Networking Meetings

It’s fall and you’re getting back in touch with your classmates and friends, finding out what they did over the summer, and asking for advice about classes, professors, and even where great new restaurants are located near campus. Networking operates along the same principles. You’re asking friends, acquaintances, and referrals about career paths, people they know, and job search strategies. It’s really just a conversation. There’s nothing all that complicated or scary about it.

In addition to checking job listings in Symplicity and other locations, you probably want to start setting up networking meetings. Our office is a good place to get tips. The school alumni directory, located in the new Wake Network, is a great place to start. You can also talk to your career advisor about locating a specific alumni in a field and geographic area of interest. With alumni, you both have a connection to the same school, which is a good ice-breaker. Professors can also be a good source of information.

Student memberships in professional associations are another way to find people to network with – since you are a member of the same organization, they have a built in connection to you. LinkedIn groups are also helpful. Of course, friends, family, people you know through sports, campus activities, and other schools you have attended, are another good place to start.

Now that you have some un-intimidating ways to find people, what should you do next? You can send a brief, friendly email asking to chat with them about their career, and mentioning your connection to them. If you want, attach your resume. The email should be more conversational than job search directed at this point.

Next, put together a list of questions for networking contacts. Questions about their own career path are a good place to start. You know that everyone likes to talk about themselves, right? Questions about areas that are in demand, job web sites and professional organizations related to what they do, and predictions about future growth areas and are also good. You can show them your resume, and ask for suggestions to improve it. Questions about referrals to others they know in the industry are fine (but I would wait until the end of the networking meeting to ask for other names). Hold your first networking meeting with someone you know, rather than your dream employer, so you can practice, and work out the kinks.

Plan to conclude networking meetings by asking your contacts if it’s okay for you to follow up with them. Follow up is the key. It takes the pressure off them having to feel they have to come up with an available job for you, but leaves the door open to remembering you when they do hear of an opening.

Once you get into the mindset that networking is a conversation and not a high pressure job interview, it’s a great way to meet people. There are many career studies that indicate it’s the best way to find a job. Need advice on getting a networking plan in place? Make an appointment with your career advisor today.

Why Attend the Equal Justice Works Conference & Career Fair?

For those students interested in pursuing a career in public interest law, now is the perfect time to mark your calendars and make plans to attend the annual Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair. The career fair will be held this year in Arlington, Virginia, from October 28 to Saturday, October 29.

This event is the largest national public interest legal career fair in the country and provides students with the unique opportunity to network with a diverse grouping of public interest employers and organizations in one location over the course of just two days. The career fair typically draws more than 160 public interest employers from many states, including California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, and Texas. The employers conduct actual interviews for internships and full-time jobs and meet with students in informal “table talk” discussions of public interest legal opportunities with their organizations. The conference also includes opportunities for networking, mock interviews, and resume review with practicing attorneys and workshops on specific public interest careers.

The cost of registration for the conference is only $25.00 and registration information is available.  A list of employers participating in this year’s conference is also available. Some notable attending employers include:

  • Animal Legal Defense Fund – Cotati, CA
  • Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, PA
  • Disability Rights Advocates – New York, NY
  • District Attorney’s Office of Charlotte, NC
  • Federal Trade Commission – Washington, DC
  • Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
  • U.S. Senate Office of the Legislative Counsel

Registration for the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair ends on September 14, 2016 so be sure you register early! To stay abreast of other Equal Justice events and public interest opportunities, students should also consider joining the Equal Justice Works JDs for Justice Network or following Equal Justice Works on Twitter.

Should You Take a Document Review Job?

Document-review work is not glamorous, but it is a common way to gain legal experience and provides valuable insight into the discovery process in many different areas of law. It is often done by solo practitioners looking for extra income or new law school graduates who have not yet secured permanent employment, or outsourced by larger firms with a heavy workload or large scale project. So what is document-review work and could it be right for you?

Document-review attorneys are required in a variety of situations. Typically, parties in a lawsuit or officials in a regulatory investigation need several documents produced or received. Corporations also need document reviewers to organize their documents. For example, a document reviewer might screen a recently departed employee’s computer files or create legal abstracts for insertion into a master spreadsheet.

Most document review work is done at a law firm office. However, it can also be done at a recruiter’s office, at the site of a corporation, or at a third-party location.

Typically, document-review work is done in teams of two to twenty persons. Occasionally, a document reviewer may work alone. Document review teams are typically supervised by one or two attorneys from the organization and interact with IT personnel.

The job requirements almost always call for bar licensure, and previous experience with document reviewing is preferred but not required in most cases. A document-review assignment can last almost any duration of time, commonly two weeks to three months. Document reviewers must be able to start an assignment on short notice, sometimes even within one day. The end date is usually not known upfront, but employers do provide an estimate if possible.

Our office lists document review positions in Symplicity posted by staffing agencies, but be sure to also reach out to legal staffing agencies directly and apply on their websites. A sampling of such agencies locally and nationally are:

Unsure if document review work is right for you? Contact your career advisor with your questions or Read More to find out how document review work can help you grow as a lawyer.

5 Tips for Less Stress at Networking Events

Networking has many benefits: you can meet new people, make connections, and learn about up and coming career opportunities. If you’re attending an event for the first time, the following tips can help alleviate your concerns.

1. There’s no magic bullet. Keep in mind, networking events do not bring guaranteed success.  Online or in person, you get out of networking what you put into it.  Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself by imagining how you should be or act. Simply focus on looking presentable, being considerate of others, and enjoying the company of the people you will meet.  Worst case scenario, you have some food and drinks, then head home. Which leads to….

2. What should you talk about? Aside from conflict-ridden topics (ie. Religion, politics, etc), strike up conversation on anything. The expectation may be that you should use this opportunity to market yourself, discuss your practice area interest or career goals, and that is a great idea. However, it may be a bit easier (and a bit more natural) to just start conversation as you would if you were amongst friends. Chat about the food, current surroundings, or an interesting, relevant story you recently heard. Keep the stories positive, because everyone migrates towards enthusiastic people. Once you get into casual conversation, you have developed some rapport, and you can introduce your professional self and make a connection.

3. Conversation lost its sizzle? Try a few questions to get to know your new connection a bit better, as opposed to yes/no style questions. “How did you get started with XYZ Company?” “What makes someone at your company successful?” “What do you think of the changes with (function of job)?” Just be sure you contribute as well, making it a two-sided conversation.

4. Manage your time. Even if you feel like you’ve hit it off with someone, be respectful of their time. It would also be good for you to go along and meet more people as well.  This is a great opportunity to exchange contact information either from sharing business/networking cards or another convenient method. Don’t have business cards? There are many online options to create your own personalized business cards to market yourself, even if you are in between jobs.

5. Confidence is key.  Applying for a job, presenting a topic for a business meeting, interviewing, and meeting new people… all require confidence for success. You have to value yourself and convey enthusiasm before others can really see those qualities in you.  If you’re feeling nervous about meeting new people, then practice what you may say with some friends. Smile often. Keep your head held high, literally. Posture and your presence when walking into a room will show your confidence. Make eye contact while talking to someone. These physical tips could help boost your confidence while approaching new people, and the more practice you get, the more you will improve.

Overall, professionally present who you are. Focus on building quality relationships and getting to know the people around you. Not every event will go smoothly, but it’s how we keep our cool under pressure or how we can make others feel that will make the lasting impression.  Practice, get out there, and enjoy these events!

Making the Best Use of Spring Break

beach chairLaw students the world over look forward to breaks from law school. Some students view these breaks as a holiday—a time to get away from the intense daily demands of their studies, travel, and visit with family and friends. Other students have ambitious plans for catching up or getting ahead in their studies. Regardless of which approach you take, you are probably pretty happy when you see Spring Break finally approaching. There is nothing wrong to either approach to Spring break, at least in the abstract. In fact, the best Spring Break plans should probably include some of both. The key is to come back to law school after the break in a better place than you were before—and accomplishing this task takes just a little advance planning. Here are a few tips for making the best use of your Spring Break this year:

Set reasonable goals for studying during the break.  Often, law students say that they are going to outline for all of their classes during the break, do practice exams for each class, get ahead in their reading assignments, and read a bunch of supplements. Spring break can be the perfect time to work on getting caught up in your studies, but it is important to set realistic goals. After all, Spring Break usually only lasts a week! You aren’t superhuman, and you can’t do everything. When you set unrealistic goals for yourself, it is easy to get defeated and give up when you realize that you can’t get everything done. Instead, decide what your highest priority items are, and focus on those first. Create a study schedule for yourself during the break, and set reasonable goals for what you intend to accomplish during each of those study sessions. You will be focused and productive, and your efforts will build momentum for the weeks leading up to final exams.

Visit the city where you wish to work. Planning a trip to the city where you want to work, either in the summer or after graduation, will prove useful in the long run. By scheduling informational interviews or even coffee or lunch meetings with attorneys and alumni in the area, you can accrue connections to help you learn the ropes in a new area. On these informational interviews or meetings, ask plenty of questions so that you may acquire tips and best practices about important topics such as how to get your foot in the door at a particular place of employment.

Give yourself permission to take some time off. It isn’t particularly healthy to work long days every day during the break, including weekends. There is still a lot of time before the end of the semester, and you don’t want to burn yourself out. If you take a little time off from your studies, you will come back refreshed and ready to tackle the hard stuff. At the minimum, give yourself a couple of days off entirely. Do something fun. Get out of the house. See your friends and family. Read a fun book. Go to the movies. On the days that you study, take regular breaks. If you set realistic study goals for yourself and create a study plan to achieve those goals, you will be able to build in some time to relax as well.

Make vacation plans that recharge your batteries, not leave you even more tired. Maybe you are caught up on your law school studies, and you’ve decided to go on vacation during Spring Break. (Or you are making it a combination study/travel break!) It’s important to make sure that your vacation plans don’t leave you exhausted as you are heading back to classes. It’s still a long uphill climb to final exams, and you won’t be setting yourself up for success if you have run full speed the entire break.

Above all, think balance. As with everything in law school, taking a balanced approach to Spring Break and other holidays will help to keep you on the right path to academic and personal success.

How a Law School Specialization Can Help You Obtain Employment

Guest Blog by Ashli Irene Weiss from Ms.JD.com 

Specializing while in law school is a valuable tool. As a law student, I specialized in intellectual property and focused on trademark law. My specialization helped me land amazing intellectual property career opportunities within a field of law I enjoy and that my peers are equally as passionate about. I wrote this article to share the benefits I learned that come with a specialization, to quell the fear that many students have of specializing while in law school and to provide advice on how to choose a specialization.

A legal specialization can be work experience in a job interview.  ”Why do you want this job,” is a question I received at every job interview. As a new graduate, I always incorporated my specialization. A specialization requires certain courses to help prepare a student to practice in a specific type of law. I wrote articles on intellectual property, completed projects that simulated attorney work product and discussed new issues in IP with my peers in class. This translated to my potential employer as experience, because it aligned with some of the job qualifications required for the position. Similarly, a new graduate can use their specialization to demonstrate experience. This may help the new graduate stand out from other applicants who also have limited work experience, but no specialization.

Specializing shows to potential employers that you have a passion.  As an interviewer for an intellectual property job position, I favored those applicants that showed a passion for IP. In general, a passionate employee is dedicated to completing the task at hand, more pleasurable to work with and tends to have innovative ideas in that area of law. A specialization is a straightforward way to show an employer that you have a passion towards a particular field of law. It signals that you wanted to take specific courses in law school to prepare you for a specific career. It suggests that the employer can speak with you about breaking issues in the law, because you keep up-to-date on the news in that area. An employer may also be more confident that you will put in the hours required to solve the issue and have a better work product.

A legal specialization helps create new contacts.  In law school, I reached out to IP lawyers via email and introduced myself to IP lawyers at events I attended.  Under these circumstances, I always mentioned my specialization in IP.  My specialization was something that could relate with the IP lawyer.  People connect more willingly with one another if it is based upon a similarity.  Conversation between the two people flows more easily, because they can exchange thoughts and new ideas on a common interest.  If you practice in the same field of law, there is also a likelihood that the lawyer will run into you in the near future.  With a chance of crossing paths again, a lawyer may be more willing to help so they can maintain their reputation.

Read more on other ways specialization in law school can benefit your career.