OCI schedules will come out this week and in the excitement of getting your resume polished, researching firms, bidding, and waiting, you might feel like the frenzied activity is over and you are left not knowing what to do next.
Rest assured that there is much to be done but do not rest.
Think of the five C’s:
-Conjure up a positive attitude
– Continue applying to jobs
-Create a personal brand
1. Conjure a positive attitude
The placement of conjuring a positive attitude in the list of five C’s is not arbitrary. It stands at the top for a reason. Nothing is more important (including your grades!) to the success of your job search and mental health than maintaining a positive and realistic mindset throughout OCI.
Maintaining a positive attitude does not require you to stick your head in the sand and ignore reality.
The undeniable fact is that most Notre Dame students consistently get great jobs they love outside of OCI.
The vast majority of Notre Dame Law students get their jobs outside of OCI. Those jobs are good jobs. As much as it may be hard to believe because the focus right now is so clearly on OCI, Big Law is far from the be all and end all of all good legal work.
In a recent blog post, I wrote about five amazing jobs outside of OCI and in another blog post, I wrote about 6 paid internships to apply for outside of OCI. Companies regularly hire from Notre Dame. When you are a 3L, you will have the chance to create your own Notre Dame-funded public interest dream job. Countless opportunities exist in state and local government, small and mid-sized firms, and non-profits and these employers are not interviewing during early interview week.
For your own mental health, it is so important that you recognize that the vast majority of legal hiring does not work in the streamlined, organized, one timeline fits all way that big law hiring works.
Get it out of your mind that the way legal hiring works is that all of the employers come right to your law school’s front door, you get tons of interviews over the course of a few days, and you get an offer for 2L summer, which then leads to a permanent offer after graduation. Only big law operates that way. Other timelines are much longer, with most prosecutor offices, for instance, not hiring people at all until they have passed the bar. Students in more regional schools often work at one organization throughout their entire law school career, proving that they are a good worker over a three year period before they finally get an offer at the end of it.
Letting yourself believe this truth, which many law students fight, will take so much pressure off of your job search and make it easy for you to conjure a positive mindset.
So if you do not find a job that fits you in OCI, do not get any callbacks or offers, or just feel stressed out about the process, take a moment to put things in perspective and get back to a positive state of mind.
2. Continue applying to jobs
It does not matter if you have a 3.9, Clarence Thomas is your grandfather, and you got a bronze medal in the steeplechase in the olympics. A job offer through OCI is not a guarantee.
You have a job offer when you have a job offer and not a moment before. Until it is signed, sealed, and delivered, it is not yours. Students with 3.9s can go through OCI without a single offer and students with 3.1s can get multiple offers. Even if you have 30 OCI interviews scheduled and 9 callbacks, you still do not have a job offer and should proceed accordingly. An alumnus recently told me they went 0 for 11 in callbacks. I personally went 1 for 9. A callback is NOT an offer.
Keep applying to jobs until the moment you get an offer. DOJ SLIP applications are due on September 4. The CTA reviews applications as they come in and the program gets more and more competitive as it gets further in the year. Read your weekly Career Connect. Great employers are coming on campus all of the time and if you do not read Career Connect, you will miss them.
So many applications are due in that time period where you might have a lot of callbacks but no offers yet. In that time period, you will feel confident about your chances. Do not let that confidence become inaction.
Remember this sentence and emblazon it on your brain:
Apply to jobs until you have an offer.
3. Create a personal brand
The more clearly you can articulate what type of law you want to practice, the more competitive an applicant you are. Where do you want to work geographically and what kind of law do you want to practice?
If you find yourself saying that you are “open to anything” and don’t want to “pigeonhole” yourself, you could be hurting yourself in the job search process.
The reason is that when you know where you want to practice and what you want to do, you can pursue summer jobs, externships, classes, and activities consistent with that personal brand, which is absolutely essential when you want to set yourself apart.
Take, for instance, this job posting with a law firm in LA.
“We welcome candidates with diverse backgrounds and a demonstrated interest in our Environmental and/or Infrastructure practices.”
If you are interested in environmental law and worked for the EPA last summer, your resume will stand out when you apply for this job. If you state a broad interest in litigation, the firm will likely have to rely more on GPA when deciding whether to interview you.
A job posting I came across recently with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of the General Counsel gets even more specific, stating they are looking for candidates who:
” . . .are interested in international law including issues such as World Trade Organization accession, compliance with free trade agreements, protection of intellectual property rights, transparency, government procurement, standards, judicial reform, and energy law, including project finance, oil and gas exploration and power project development.”
If you cannot articulate your interest in those specific areas of law and explain how the work you have done over the summer is consistent with one of those practice areas, you will be second in line to get an invitation to interview after all of the candidates who can.
If you really do not know where you want to practice or what you want to do, talk to a CDO counselor. We have ways of helping you create a solid personal brand.
4. Compile lists
Compile lists. Compile lists of small and mid-sized firms. Compile lists of government jobs. Compile lists of companies. Compile lists of public interest organizations. We have a long list of resources you can use to complie your lists in our resource center and CDO counselors are happy to meet with you and help with this process.
The job search is intimidating and impossible to manage when it feels like a nebulous, disorganized blob.
Tangibalize your job search. (Yes, I made up this word.) Compile actual lists of real places you want to work so you have a graspable target of what to aim for your in your job search.
If you are looking in Chicago, compiling a list is a little easier because of the Chicago 4 or more list, which is a list of all firms in the Chicago area with four or more attorneys. But you still need to go through the list and figure out which firms have practice areas that interest you.
Compile lists that give you a solid base for your job search.
5. Cultivate contacts
The semester is starting soon but that does not mean networking is ending. Go through your lists and make contacts with someone working at every single place you would like to work in the long-term.
Your dream goal should be to never apply for a job again without knowing someone who works there.
This requires a thorough and well-planned networking strategy but it is worth it.
When you know someone who works at an organization you are applying to, you can be more confident that your resume will not get overlooked. For jobs that receive hundreds of applications, knowing someone there can be the difference between your resume going to the top of the pile and no one ever reading it.
If your aspirational contacts are not in South Bend, go to your market on breaks or days when you don’t have classes (if your market is close enough to do that such as in Grand Rapids or Chicago), do phone networking, and schedule coffee chats over fall break. Keep building contacts.
If you feel lost now that OCI schedules have been published, talk to a CDO counselor. We can help you work through the 5 C’s.