Ed. Note-this week we are running a series of Guest Posts by Milou Lammers. She is new to the compliance field and new to the legal profession, having just passed the bar. (A Big Congrats!) She has written an ongoing series about who journey to secure a job in the compliance profession. Today, she concludes by looking back on her job search.
As I have discussed in earlier posts, I am a law graduate who graduated from law school this past May and have spent some time writing about my job application experience. It seems that on average it takes around 6 months to get a job, however it may take some less or more (hence why it is an average). I personally had friends and peers who started clerkships and law firm jobs two to three weeks after sitting for the bar exam and those that are still studying for their second bar exam or are still looking for work. I myself, graduated this past May and spent May – July studying for the bar exam. I took the bar exam at the end of July, moved to Houston, TX in August, and should be starting work full time for my first post-graduate job in December.
Thus from graduation to start date it took me 7 months to get a job, about 4.5 months after sitting for the bar exam. This waiting period has been one of the most challenging times for me. After graduation I do not think I was appropriately prepared about how realistic I needed to be about how challenging it may be to get a job. Nobody warned me that it may take this long and no one really gave me a roadmap on how to strategize my job search and so I would like to reflect on mine. If it worked for me, it may not work for you but at least it may give you other ideas on how to improve your approach or learn from my mistakes.
- Ask for help
You have made it this far in your educational or professional career and so you should have some resources built up either from school or past summer jobs. Use those resources, those people to your advantage and ask them for help. Find a professor, a career counselor, or family friend, etc. who you trust and who will give you candid advice. The most valuable thing I will be taking from my law school experience is my experience and relationship with my professor and advisor at my law school. If you are still in school, try to find a professor who you really connect with and ask them for help with your career search, with a networking strategy, etc.
Further, if you are still in school reach out to your career counselors, see if they have resources for you and if you have a personal connection with them. If you have graduated, reach out to old professors who you enjoyed working with or the career person who is dedicated to help the alumni community – ask them for help. Try to find an advocate in a mentor who is willing to give you candid advice and knows your priorities. After I had received job offers, I called my mentors to ask for their advice on how best to proceed and to weigh my options with me. If you have not found these mentors at your law school, reach out to old family friends or join local network associations and mentoring programs. Try to seek individuals who take an interest in you and then ask them for help.
- Reach out to people
Jumping off this previous notion, reach out to people you want to meet. I have been told repeatedly by senior professionals that they like when students or young professionals reach out to them via LinkedIn, email, etc. to get to know them. If you see someone with a very interesting career path – send them a note and ask if they may have time to meet for coffee if they are local or have time for a phone call. Ask them about their career paths and what they thought were career defining moments. If you reach out and they do not respond, that is okay – there was no harm in asking or reaching out. As long as you are polite and genuine, you will be surprised how many people are willing to talk to you and give you advice. Soak up this advice up and stay in touch with these professionals who inspired you.
I once walked up to a partner at a law firm and said, “Hi my name is Milou – you have my dream job, do you think you would ever have time to tell me how you got to where you are today?” He was flattered and we met for coffee a few weeks later and discussed his background and steps I should be taking in my career trajectory. I asked him how I should ask professionals to meet me and he said just be yourself and keep doing exactly what you are doing. Be polite and sincere and reach out to those who inspire you or those who have a career path that speaks to your future goals.
To those professionals who may inspire others, if a student or young professional does reach out, try to dedicate some time to answering their questions. Our lives always seem to be busy and chaotic and we can always find reasons not to respond to someone asking for help, but if someone does and you think you may have resources or time for them, respond to them and help them in any way you can. Consider it a means to pay it forward for the future work force in the hopes that people will continue to help young professionals as they enter their careers.
- Be persistent
No, please do not send your idol multiple requests on LinkedIn – they will not like that. But do reach out to recruiters about jobs you are interested in, send the job posters on LinkedIn notes expressing interest, and follow up. Send thank you notes to those who interview you, thank you notes to those who have decided not to pursue your application, and those who have advocated for you. If you asked someone to help as an internal reference, if you find out you were not selected for the position, send them a thank you note anyways. They still advocated for you and they may still be a reference later on for the next job.
Follow up with those who emailed you back but then did not respond when you replied. Be persistent in a polite and up front way. Tell people you are interested in the position (if you really are) and check in on status updates if it will not jeopardize your application. If a recruiter or H.R. professional told you they would give you information on Friday but you have not heard anything by Monday or Tuesday, call them and check in to see if they have any more information. Be persistent in a way that shows that you are interested in the position you applied for and are eager to hear about next steps.
- Find local events and networking groups
Do your homework. If you were like me, I was at home most of my days during unemployment so use your time wisely. Research local professional networking events, roundtables, and groups that you may want to join and go to their events. If you cannot afford to pay membership dues like most individuals post-graduate, reach out to the event organizers and ask if you may be able to join anyway. I found that most of these organizers were impressed that I reached out and were happy to help a recent graduate find their way. Register for any events you find interesting and attend these events with a goal to meet two to three individuals. Ideally these events will have many participants and while it would be amazing if you could meet all of them, try to focus on a few who you can really connect with versus just idly networking with all of them.
Introduce yourself and tell them your elevator pitch (hi I just recently graduated from <insert law school name> and am passionate about <insert your passion [like compliance or regulatory work]> and I am here today to meet professionals like yourself in my local network). People will respond to your proactive nature and will most likely want to help you in your job search.I am very thankful that my job search is coming to a close but it was not easy. I spent the past 4.5 months after taking the bar exam stressing about my bar results and working my butt off to network, meet professionals, and apply for jobs. I tried my best to be patient, but it was not easy.
Everyone kept telling me that I was doing all of the right things and that it would all work out. This is true, but in the moment when you are stressing about student loans, bills, etc. it can be hard to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But trust in yourself and in your network. You worked hard to get where you are and you need to keep working hard to advocate for yourself. Get your name out there, meet people, and tell them your story. You will be surprised how many people will tell you that they went through the same thing and how willing they are to help you.
I would like to thank my family, friends, past colleagues, mentors, and new professionals I have met during my job hunt. Thank you for helping me, meeting with me, and giving me advice as it was hugely valuable and helped me get my job. Best of luck to all of those still searching, you will look back at this period of unemployment one day and ask yourself why you were stressing out so much and think you should have enjoyed your free time more, but finding a job is stressful and as long as you are trying your best it will work out. For now though, enjoy sleeping in because I will miss that and walking my dog in the middle of the day the most.