ow to Get a Non-Legal Position When Legal Jobs Are Scarce
A few weeks back, we offered a lighthearted take on a few notable nontraditional jobs for J.D.s, but it’s a different story for those of you who are just a few months away from law school graduation and the bar exam. With legal hiring drastically reduced, many new graduates will not be able to secure legal employment right away, and with student loan payments on the horizon, getting a non-legal job is of paramount importance.
First Things First: Honest Self-Assessment
As a law school graduate, you have developed a number of skills peculiar to the legal profession, such as reading, researching, and analyzing case law, but you have other skill sets that you have honed over the years as well, and now is the time to put them to use. But, first, you have to take stock and be honest with yourself about what skills you possess and how they can be applied to particular jobs. You should also think critically about what kind of working environment suits you best. Are you a people person? Do you prefer to work independently with little supervision? Are you self-motivated or do you need a push in the right direction sometimes? It makes no sense to apply for sales jobs if you’re terrified to talk to strangers, or to apply for an IT position if your computer skills are weak. Being honest with yourself about what you can and cannot do will help you target your job search so that you have a higher chance of landing an interview, and ultimately, a job.
Put Your Research Skills to Use
You’ve just spent three years combing through cases, writing briefs, memos, and seminar papers, maybe even a journal article. You’ve also spent hours upon hours using legal databases and other online resources to complete all these assignments. Your assignment now is to use your investigative prowess to learn all you can about the positions you want to apply to and the employer or company. (You can start your research here.) The more you know, the easier it will be to craft your resume to reflect the skills that the employer is seeking. This research will also pay off in that you can go into the interview with the confidence you will need to demonstrate your knowledge of the industry and your suitability for this particular position.
Create Targeted Resumes
The biggest mistake that many new graduates make when approaching a non-legal employer is to recycle the same resume they use when applying for legal positions. What this says to the employer is that you consider the job to be merely a temporary pit stop until you can hightail it back to law. When applying for those non-legal positions, make sure to take the time to create specially targeted resumes that demonstrate your transferable skills and applicable work experience. Not only does this highlight your suitability as a candidate for the position, it also shows how well you’ve done your research about the employer and what the position actually entails.
Prepare Yourself for Difficult Interview Questions
So, you’ve crafted a resume that will get you in the door, but what do you do when the interviewer wants to know why you, a lawyer, are looking to enter a non-legal field. The good news is that one of the skills you should have honed in law school was the art of persuasion and making a winning argument. Treat the interview like a trial and make a case for yourself. Convince the interviewer that the position is a good fit for you and that you will make a real commitment to the job. (NALP offers some tips on how to deal with tough questions to get you started.)
Now, we want to hear from you. What are you doing now to prepare for the post-graduation job hunt?