As hard as it is to believe, the school year will be underway in just under two weeks. After years of schooling, you know the routine and the steps you need to take to start the school year. Buy books, read over your syllabi, move into your new apartment, etc. It’s all pretty straightforward. But what steps should you take to start your job search? I have three ideas to get you started.
1. Meet with a CDO counselor
Whether you’re feeling totally lost in your job search and unsure what types of opportunities you want to pursue or very secure in your planned path with loads of spreadsheets, checklists, and a polished resume ready to go, meeting with a CDO counselor as soon as you return to campus will set the tone for a productive and focused fall job search strategy. Just talking about your job search out loud will do wonders to focus and motivate you for the job search ahead.
If you’re coming off your 2L summer and wondering where to start, we can point you to job search databases, show you how to identify alumni, or just talk through various practice area options with you.
If you’re finishing with OCI and wondering what to do next, we can guide you to some great summer programs in government, business, or public interest that you may have never considered, talk to you about how to go after small and mid-sized law firm positions, and get you out of the OCI mindset and into the traditional job search mindset.
Of course, if you just want to vent, talk to someone about how your job search is going, or update us with news, we are always thrilled to talk to you. Schedule with a CDO counselor on symplicity or come see us during walk-in hours.
2. Polish your application documents
If you decided to participate in OCI and even if you didn’t, you have probably already updated your resume with your summer 2017 position but it is always worth taking a look at your resume before the start of the summer to make sure it is in the best shape possible. As you remember, application materials for OCI employers were due back in early July and since then, you completed several projects for your 2017 summer employer that you didn’t get the chance to put on your resume. If you are a 3L, you did not necessarily have an event like OCI to spur you into resume updating action. Now is the time to add those projects.
Start by making a list of every single project you completed over the summer and then add the relevant projects as individual bullet points to your summer experience. If you want help drafting bullet points that accurately present your experience in the best light, that is what the CDO is for.
The start of the semester is also a great time to get your cover letter template and writing sample in shape. Send those drafts over to a CDO counselor and be sure to read our writing sample guide, which goes into detail about how to draft a writing sample cover sheet, how to pick a writing sample, and any other writing sample issues you may encounter.
Remember to always submit finalized application documents in PDF format. PDF format looks cleaner and minimizes the chance that stray track changes comments and other metadata might be present in your document.
You want to be nimble and ready to apply to a job as soon as you see an open posting and the best way to put yourself in position to do that is to polish your application materials now.
3. Put your job search down on paper
Don’t let the job search be a nebulous blob. Make it tangible and write down opportunities you’re interested in on paper. If you’re feeling worried, disappointed, or overwhelmed with your job search, just the exercise of writing down the jobs you plan to apply to over the coming year has a very therapeutic effect.
Many government honors program and summer opportunities (password in the CDO resource center) including DOJ honors, the Washington Attorney General’s office (Due August 13th!), and the Department of Energy, have application deadlines in the fall, Equal Justice Works, Shaffer, and Bank of America Foundation fellowship applications are all due in September, and it is always beneficial to build early relationships with small and mid-sized firms that may not hire until later. So today is not too early to put your job search to paper. Plus, with multiple opportunities available, it can be really hard to keep track of your applications unless you create a spreadsheet with deadlines.
Go through the government honors handbook (password in the CDO resource center), the Public Interest Fellowship Database, stay on top of symplicity and the weekly docket, and make a list of summer programs, honors programs, or postgraduate opportunities you plan to apply for and when the applications are due. Some applications are really long or require several essays that take a lot of work to complete so gaining awareness of relevant application deadlines early is incredibly important to avoid a last minute hurricane of stress.
If you don’t have a solid sense of the job opportunities you want to apply for or a practice area that interests you, write down the projects you worked on this summer and make a note of which projects you liked the most, which you liked the least, and why. You can bring that list to the CDO or use it as a tool for yourself as you think through which practice areas and office environments are the best fit for you. Read relevant blog posts such as this one and this one, which were written to give you some tools and ideas to help you narrow down practice areas that match with your unique personality and skillset.
As you return to South Bend and get back into the school year, try to incorporate these three steps into your back to school routine so you can hit the ground running with your job search this fall.