The seemingly never-ending search for the perfect job: it haunts us all. For first-year students, the search often takes a backseat to more immediate tasks. Readings must be done; assignments written; classes attended. Nevertheless, it remains an integral part of every student’s life. Whether you’re tabling for EJF, working on your Note topic for journal, or just learning to handle the 1L workload, throwing the job search into the mix can be overwhelming. To avoid frustration, a well-planned job search is essential.

I recently sat down with Christine Ralston, Director of Career Services, to discuss how students can best conduct their job search. Ralston suggested that when beginning a search, “identifying the setting type (i.e. firm, public office, private company, etc.), the geography, and the ‘practice area’” is key. Students should develop an initial sense of where they would like to be and work toward it. Once they have a goal, students can begin on next steps, which may include consolidating information into a spreadsheet and networking with potential employers. Whatever their methodology, students should assemble a portfolio of prospective employers that they plan on applying to. 

After that, Ralston explained, the next step is to get your materials in front of the relevant decision makers at those prospective employers. For 2Ls, most large firms start looking for applicants in mid-July to early-August, while mid-size and small firms begin their candidate search a little later in the fall. Many larger firms participate in OCIs (On Campus Interviews). OCIs are highly visible and a great way to reach out to these types of employers. Other employers need to be contacted directly. Students should research how these employers prefer to be contacted while keeping in mind the flexibility and agility students learn in law school. Many employers today rely upon electronic submissions, but students should be prepared to draw upon their networks to ensure that their materials are seriously considered.

For students interested in pursuing a career in business law and hoping to tailor a job search to meet those goals, the “setting type” plays a key role in the search. Second-years, and even 1Ls, can look to larger companies for summer opportunities to discover if working in-house is right for them. For example, Georgia Pacific, based in Atlanta, GA, is one company that offers summer employment for students. Another option Ralston recommends is the Twin Cities Diversity in Practice program, which offers opportunities for students, especially 1Ls, to get involved in the St. Paul-Minneapolis legal community and connects them with top firms in the Twin Cities area.

The job search can sometimes be challenging. To help meet that challenge, Ralston says “having a relationship with career services is key.” The Career Services Office is a great resource for students to receive feedback on resumes, cover letters, and other application materials, in addition to hearing about jobs that may not be posted on Symplicity. Ralston recommends that, in addition to careful planning and communicating with the Career Services Office, students utilize the other resources on campus, including faculty and peer advisors, and to try not to compare yourself to other students.

By knowing what to expect from their job search and utilizing the many resources on campus, students can have a better experience looking for their next job opportunity. Visit the Career Services website to get in contact with a member of the Career Services office and learn more.