Image created by Charlie Bulmer. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives.
Have you hit a dead-end in your legal job search? Chances are, your path to employment starts with taking a second look at who you know.
A job search can seem daunting, even in the best of markets. Between researching opportunities, drafting application materials, and reaching out to contacts, maintaining momentum can be difficult. These days, complications that have come with the global pandemic probably don’t help. Here are some tips to help you stay on track:
Start with the basics
If you’re just embarking on the job search process, now is the time to get organized: update your resume, audit your LinkedIn profile, reflect on what you want in your next role, determine what’s realistic and achievable, research the market, make a list of the people with whom you want to reach out, and most importantly, determine the people with whom you still need to connect.
Look to the “margins”
If you are in the middle of the process and feel the market and your own momentum have ground to a halt, expanding and reconnecting with people in your network will help you stay in action. It’s the summer after all, and it is not uncommon for employers to go silent. Don’t take this as a definitive lack of interest—it’s very possible that the decision-making process has slowed. Use this time to be strategic: redouble your efforts and look to the margins of your network.
What is “the margin of your network”?
If you’ve been job searching for a while, you’ve likely connected with your first-degree connections—the people you know well or who have a genuine interest in your personal or professional life. If you feel “stuck” in the process, take a look at your second-degree connections. Go back to the beginning of your job search contact list and reconnect with those you haven’t talked to recently or haven’t reached out to at all. In these conversations, make sure to ask, “Can you think of somebody else I should contact?” or “You mentioned a friend who works for XYZ firm, would you mind putting me in contact with them?” Somewhere between 55 and 85 percent of all job openings are never posted. Instead, these fall within the so-called “hidden job market” and the only way to learn about these unpublished opportunities is to talk with people, get introductions and achieve visibility (aka networking).
Your network is crucial to your job search.
This is true during good job markets and it is even more true during challenging job markets like this one. If you don’t know where to look for second-degree connections, try organizing your contacts into the buckets below:
- Current and former colleagues
- Law firm/employer alumni (some firms have active alumni networks)
- Professional contacts (e.g., opposing counsel, accountants, bankers, consultants, suppliers)
- Community contacts (e.g., neighbors, clubs, societies, community organizations)
- Law school and college classmates
- Law school and college alumni associations
- Professional associations and bar groups
- Mentors such as professors and teachers
- Your friends, family, and acquaintances
- Friends of friends and friends of the family
- Anyone where someone you know has said “Oh, you must talk to…”
In my experience, we all know far more people than we think we do. The good news is that once you start identifying and speaking with contacts the process gets a bit easier. While it may not seem to be a time when vacancies are typically being identified or filled, it is a time to connect with others in preparation for what lies ahead. Make the most of the time that you have to build and sustain your network. You could be just one connection or conversation away from your next job!