Ed. Note-today we have a guest post from Milou Lammers, a recent law school grad, trying to land her first job in compliance. 

About two years ago, I went to speak to my advisor and law professor who taught corporate compliance and asked him “how do I get a job in compliance?” To which he replied, “honestly, I have no idea.”

How does one get a job in compliance? I have spent the past two years asking different compliance professionals ranging from analysts, managers, and chief compliance officers in different fields this exact question. Surprisingly, they all had quite similar answers along the lines of: “I kind of ended up here in compliance, but I love it and I’m not leaving.” Then I would ask them how I could get a job in compliance and the answers were usually along the lines of, “I’m not sure, I would encourage others to enter the field, but I’m not sure how you get a job in compliance.”

I am a recent law graduate from the University of Richmond School of Law and figured out quite early on in law school that corporate compliance was the career path that I wanted to go into after law school. I recently moved to Houston, Texas where I met Tom Fox, the Compliance Evangelist, who said Houston is the “epicenter of FCPA enforcement” (this should mean there are plentiful resources – right?).  He encouraged me to share my experience as a new professional trying to enter the compliance field, so I have decided to write about my experience trying to get to a job in a field in which there seem to be few resources and little advice.

My current approach or strategy can be divided into three categories: applying online, attending local events, and networking one on one. Please feel free to chime in via comments for any recommendations or advice on how to improve my approach. I have found that if you ask politely for help or advice, most people are ready and willing to offer theirs and usually they have helpful things to say.

Thus, each morning I search a variety of job sites from career builder, LinkedIn, indeed, Lensa, and more and apply to any and every entry-level to more experienced compliance job in a variety of fields. I particularly find Lensa’s daily recommendations beneficial as they pull from multiple sites in my area. In Houston, there are primarily jobs in the oil & gas, healthcare, financial, and manufacturing industries.  My email inbox is currently full of potential opportunities I have either applied to or flag that I need to submit my resume to. I call this the “hustle” phase of hunting for a job because it takes a lot of time and patience.

For example, there’s one particular job I have mind that I submitted my resume for in March of this year and I am still waiting for an reply – whether it’s a hell no or a come talk to us. This part of the job hunt process may be the most time consuming and least rewarding because it involves a lot of filling in the same information over and over again and it often takes companies a long time to review all of these apps which means you are left in limbo waiting. So for those of you sharing this experience with me – continue applying your butt off but also focus on meeting local professionals.

I find this part, meeting the compliance folks, the most rewarding part of my strategy or job hunt process. I found local events by searching online for compliance roundtables, conferences, and conventions in my area. Even if the events took place a while back, I look at the information about the speakers and try to find them on LinkedIn or via email and then if I think they may be interesting to my job search I reach out and see if they may be willing to meet with me. This is exactly how I met Tom. I sent him an email after I had seen that he was a frequent compliance speaker in my area and he replied that he would be happy to meet with me. I encourage you to reach out to those professionals you think may have a strong network. Even if it is a bit nerve wracking to send that email, you would be surprised how many people are happy and willing to make the time to meet with you. Sending that email shows initiative and a commitment to network with professionals in the field that you want to enter. Plus, the worst thing that could happen is that they do not respond or they say no and then there is no harm.  I have found though, that reaching and asking others for advice and help will get you really far.

The last part of my current strategy is to ask for help. At the events I have been attending in the compliance field I have been introducing myself to professionals and asking them for tips or if we have a connection or mutual interest I ask them if they would be willing to meet with me one on one to offer advice. While some may be too busy, I have been pleasantly surprised that most have been willing and open to meet with me to talk about their experience and connect me with others who may have more insight or connections applicable to my career goals.

Also, if you have a marketable skill, like a specialty in a particular area, use that to your advantage. For example, at a local roundtable I attended I heard a compliance professional express some struggle with the G.D.P.R. – I have worked on this particular regulation in compliance for two different companies and feel comfortable enough to talk about it and offer advice. I went to her at the end of the meeting and offered to do a bit of research for her and her company’s program over lunch. She really appreciated the work I did for her and through that I made a meaningful professional connection and another resource for help. Through my marketable skill set I was able to freshen up my knowledge, talk to her about her work and offer help; this felt useful and beneficial for both of us.

Even as a “newbie” in the field, rely on the resources and knowledge you have that brought you to the conclusion that you want to enter this field. Use your free time to research and build out your expertise or broaden your knowledge base so that you have information to offer and can “talk the talk” when you get your chance to speak to those professionals who may be impressed by your knowledge and inclined to help.

Looking for a job is not an easy thing. It takes time, requires patience, and can create a decent amount of anxiety. However, every time I hear another compliance professional tell me that they love what they are doing and encourage others to join them in this field I am reminded why I want to work in compliance.

Currently, I am still actively looking for a job in the Houston market in corporate compliance and would like to keep sharing about my experience trying to land a job in compliance. As part of this experience, I would like to ask any compliance professionals reading this for any advice they may have for me or any other new professionals entering the compliance market. Please either reach out to me in the comments or via email at miloulammers@mac.com to further the discussion.

By sharing this experience and asking for advice I am hoping to make it a bit easier for you the next time a new professional asks you “so how do I get a job in compliance?”

Milou Lammers is a recent law graduate from the University of Richmond School of Law Class of 2018. She worked as a research assistant and teacher’s assistant at Richmond Law for corporate compliance. She has prior work experience in global compliance and ethics in the U.S. and the E.U. from work assignments with large international companies in a variety of industries including defense, manufacturing, and banking. She has created compliance policies and programs for different companies with a particular focus on the G.D.P.R. She lives in Houston, Texas and is looking to start her career post graduate in corporate compliance. She can be reached at milou.lammers@richmond.edu.