One of the most common questions I get from new graduates – whether attorneys or paralegals – is how to find employment after graduation. Many of my candidates make the decision immediately following graduation to jump into contract work. For attorneys this usually means doing document review, and for paralegals this is generally a temporary or entry-level legal assistant role. Is this a good decision? I would almost always say yes (and I’d say come talk to us – we’re the best!) But once you’re in these roles most people don’t know what to do next. Here’s what I usually recommend:
Make time to apply. This probably seems like an obvious tip, but it is the number one missed opportunity for many new grads. Whether you are in a temporary job, non-career job, or just “looking” at open roles, you need to make sure that you are checking the open jobs in your field on a daily-basis. Many job boards will collect the daily postings into an email and send it to you every morning. My favorite is Indeed, but there’s also LawJobs (on LinkedIn), Monster, and too many more to name! This is one of the only times in your life where you won’t be bringing any work home with you, so take advantage of your evenings and get moving.
Apply the right way. How does your resume look? I know this is something you’ve heard ad nauseum, but it’s important. Make sure you have a visually-appealing format, no grammatical or spelling errors (and don’t trust auto-correct – it routinely corrects HIPAA to HIPPA, for example), and PLEASE keep it to two pages or less unless you need the additional page to explain a Nobel Peace Prize.
Okay, your resume looks awesome – now what? Do your research! For every single job application you need to tailor the information in your resume to appeal to that position’s hiring manager. Applying to be a corporate paralegal? Definitely include your internship with a great local corporation. Do not include that you taught horse riding lessons for 10 years. That information is interesting, but corporate legal departments and law firms don’t care!
Consider non-traditional work. As someone who took a non-traditional career path I am a huge fan! To give a personal example, my husband and I met in law school, graduated, passed the bar, and now I do legal recruiting and he works in compliance for a large corporation. Both of these positions are great because they draw on our legal knowledge, but keep us out of court (my nightmare!) and away from the billable hour. Think about your own experience and whether there were any “non-traditional” things you have enjoyed. Maybe you like contract drafting and negotiation, investigating claims for employment law issues, or even the administrative/sales side of the business. Those are all things that people with your background have had success pursuing.
Network! If you take one piece of advice seriously, make it this one! Networking, particularly in the Southeast, is the most valuable activity you can do to find a job, or further your career once you have one. How you network is totally up to you. Some people choose to connect with alumni, some find mentors and friends through professional organizations, and some choose to get involved in the community. In the Carolinas, I’ve had candidates find opportunities through organizations like the Metrolina Paralegal Association, SCUPA (South Carolina Upstate Paralegal Association), and Women in eDiscovery. It doesn’t matter how you do it – what matters is doing it AND following up with your new connections.
The bottom line is this: most people you meet, particularly in these settings, want to help you succeed. Be friendly, introduce yourself, make a common connection with someone, and follow up via email or text. I know it’s scary, but just do it!