winter break

The Law Student Holiday Count Down

At this moment, every successful law school student is hunkered down in preparation for final exams. Library caddies, study rooms, and hallway chairs are all full of studious individuals, hoping to pass their upcoming exams with flying colors. But during this time of year, don’t let those tests consume you. Beyond exams, focus on a series of other strategies that can help you build your professional network and launch your career. At a minimum, look to accomplishing the following five activities the next weeks following exams as a boost to your network and career path:

1. Shortly after exams, invest time sending holiday wishes to every professional and prospective employer you encountered during the previous 12 months. For more casual acquaintances, emailing those wishes can be perfectly appropriate. In the case of a prospective employer, past employer, or alumni of the school, consider sending a holiday card with a brief personal note. Just writing one or two lines will help you become memorable, and being remembered in a positive light is exactly what every student should want.

2. During the winter break, you may return to a city where you worked as a summer associate or intern just a few months ago. Use the upcoming holiday break to reconnect face to face with contacts you established in that city, especially contacts with potential employers. On more than one occasion, a quick coffee or lunch has revealed a previously unknown job opportunity.

3. In addition to meeting with prospective employers, use the winter break to build your professional networks. The holiday season can be the perfect time to reconnect with peers who have gone off in other directions. Search out college classmates who have headed to business school. Eventually and inevitably business people will need lawyers and vice versa. Use this holiday season to start creating those relationships.

4. In many cases, many organizations experience their quietest time of year between Christmas Day and New Years. That means key decision-makers, who have chosen not to take a vacation, have more time than usual to meet with students who have expressed an interest in a particular company or industry. Take a risk this holiday season. Reach out to every prospective employer with whom you have an interest and don’t stop until you’ve scheduled at least one meeting during the holiday break.

5. Spend some focused time during the winter break setting SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-limited) goals for the upcoming year. Begin by asking a series of questions, including: Who do you need to know? Who can help you make a connection with a potential key employer? How should you best reach out to that person or persons? When? And what specifically should you say to that individual or ask of them? Remember, you never accomplish a goal that you don’t set.

Winter Break: A Time to Job Shadow

So you’ve got less than a month and a half until Winter Break. Hooray! Time spent at home with family and friends will be a restful and well-deserved break. However, you’re probably not even remotely in the relaxed holiday mood as your mind is most likely overwhelmed with upcoming exams at the moment. As you should be dutifully studying like expected, you might want to pencil in a few phone calls this month to your connections to line up some work over break. Why? To land a job.

Working over winter recess doesn’t sound like fun, but it could mean the difference in landing a job or not. But this is not your typical 8-5 work you’ll do over the holidays. This job is actually job shadowing. Job shadowing is a great way to get a sense of what it’s truly like working in a specific practice area and work environment. Also, if you are planning on practicing law in your hometown, the best place to be networking is within your hometown. Family, friends, classmates, and friends of family can all be great resources in finding a local attorney in the area willing to walk you through a few days at their office to give you a feel for the job.  There’s no way to be 100 percent sure you’re going to fit into a practice area or job until you’ve actually tried it — and shadowing or volunteering is as close as you can get.

Interested in working outside of your hometown? Do you have your sights set on the Big Apple or Washington, DC? If you can, set up a trip to your career city destination and spend some time networking. If you have family or friends in the location in which you would like to eventually work, reach out to them and ask for connections to find job shadowing opportunities. If you can’t make the trip this winter, try and set up some travel time during Spring Break to seek out a job shadowing opportunity.

Even recent 2L and 3L panelists in our “How I Got My Summer Job” seminar mentioned that they were aggressive enough to seek out employers to job shadow over the winter break, resulting in immeasurable experience and knowledge and some even earned a job later that summer. Be sure to stop by our office if you don’t know where to start in finding an individual to job shadow.

If you have a firm in mind in which you would like to job shadow, do a little homework first. Research the company and the position of the person you’re tailing so you have a context for your new experiences. Come prepared to strictly observe, but be ready to roll up your sleeves and work as well. Ask to spend the last few minutes of your day reviewing your experiences with the person you’re shadowing and getting answers to questions you may have. Solicit feedback as well.

Be sure to thank your job-shadow host with a handwritten note and make every effort to maintain your new contact as an active member of your network. You may even ask them to help you pursue additional job-shadowing opportunities so you have the broadest picture possible and knowledge of multiple practice areas. In the end, you’ll have gained an important person in your network who could also be your greatest asset. As you keep in touch be sure to mention how you would like an opportunity to come back and work for a longer period of time, or even for an internship. You never know if your time over the holidays could result in a holiday present to you later down the road — a job!