Guerrilla tactics for getting the legal job of your dreams
With each interview a battle, each rejection a defeat, and the victory of being hired feeling more and more elusive, any law student can understand how the post-law school job hunt may seem like a war.
On Feb. 4, Kimm Walton, author of Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams, visited the Levin College of Law to share with students some creative suggestions for getting their own dream jobs.
Dispelling fears that dream jobs in the legal field are reserved for only those with a 4.0 grade point average, Watson declared, “You are so not defined by your grades!” and added, “If you think there is anything stopping you from getting a great job, you will see that you can get a great job!”
In her presentation, Watson addressed many of the most common employment conundrums that law students have, from polishing résumés to acing interviews, and from successfully networking to healing from a rejection.
A résumé, Watson advised, should be a “marketing tool,” and urged that applicants remain aware of “image and message control,” being sure to pitch themselves to employers as polished professionals. She recommended that résumés remain free of negative grades, insignificant prior employment, and unprofessional-looking email addresses.
Additionally, she advised that job applicants should be conscientious of how they present themselves on social networking sites, as employers may also look there to get a better image of what a job candidate may be like.
For a successful interview, Watson emphasized enthusiasm and preparedness, including mastering an answer to the ubiquitous “why should we hire you?” question, and asking the employer well though-out questions. The best questions to ask employers, she advised, are open-ended ones that demonstrate prior research of the employer and the employer’s field of practice.
She added that an applicant should also prepare a brief but confident response to any questions about potential weaknesses on a résumé, still being sure to focus on his or her positive qualifications for the job.
Even after a successful interview, however, many applicants receive the dreaded rejection letter, which Watson referred to as another part of the “learning process.”
“Rejection does not define your career unless you allow it to,” Walton cautioned, adding that an employer who rejects an applicant may still be a valuable resource. She advised responding to a rejection by asking for reconsideration if the employer’s needs change, in addition to asking for additional referrals from that employer.
Watson encouraged students to ask other legal professionals for advice or information, but never to ask for a job. Instead, “strategically position yourself to get opportunities,” Watson advised.
According to her, one of the best opportunities are CLE (Continuing Legal Education) classes, which she said law students may attend free on scholarship. CLE classes benefit law students by providing more information and valuable networking opportunities in many different fields of legal practice.
Despite what appears to be her overwhelming success, Walton admitted that she also had difficulty finding her dream job after law school. After discovering that writing is her “passion,” however, Watson began her own publishing company and, in addition to Guerilla Tactics, has successfully published several other titles and a series of humorous law school flash cards called “Law in a Flash.”
Watson’s own success, which she channels into the advice that she gives law students and new lawyers, proves that the only armor new lawyers need to land their ideal job is resourcefulness, perseverance, and a sense of humor.