How To Land Your Dream Job

Coming of Age In A New Economy

How To Land Your Dream Job

by Jack Whittington, JD Candidate 2011

As we steadily march towards graduation, job searching has been a hot topic here at Coming of Age. In the previous columns we’ve discussed what you can do in the last months of school to ensure you’re prepared for success once you do walk across the stage.

In December we spoke about laying out a structured game plan to guide us in this process. Last month we spoke about the importance of remaining diligent in these last few months when all we really want to do is kick back and enjoy a victory lap. This month I’ll share with you some results I’ve enjoyed by sticking to THE plan.

As noted previously -  my goal has always been to break into the sports law arena. It is an intensely specialized area of law and one that is very competitive and difficult to break into. This past January I was brought on board as a law clerk for a local firm that specializes in sports law and deals directly with professional athletes. I am extremely fortunate to have received this opportunity as experience in this field does not come easy. While it was a dream come true for me it was not something that just happened on its own. I had to work to put myself into a position  where I was desirable and someone the firm actually wanted to bring on board.  I laid the groundwork long before I ever set foot in the office for my first day of work.

For those of you in law school, I would encourage you to seriously think about what area of law you want to specialize in. The longer you wait, the more opportunities you allow to pass you by. My determination to pursue sports law came in the fall of last year, really late in the game, so I knew I had a lot of ground to make up as there are those who have been working for years to go into the field.

One of the problems many of us face when we decide on a practice area is we don’t know where to go or how to get started. We have to take initiative in pursuing what we want to do because no one is going to do it for us. I knew this was a field in which my opportunities would be slim so I would have to create opportunities for myself. One of the ways I did that was through blogging.

The beauty of social media and the internet is that we can carve out a platform for ourselves to speak about whatever we want. One of the most oft uttered pieces of advice you will hear when it comes to blogging is to talk about something you enjoy. My own personal site covers an array of topics but it also features pieces on sports. It also gives me a place where I can build credibility. Twitter and LinkedIn are great ways to broadcast your message to the audience of your choice. You can follow lawyers and leading voices in your field on Twitter and interact with them. Through LinkedIn you can join groups and discussions specifically tailored to your area of choice.

Furthermore, you can participate in those discussions by offering blog pieces or even scholarly works on areas of the law that interest you. You will be surprised to find just how many people out there may share the same passion and views that you do on a particular subject. You never know when networking and having your voice heard could lead to an extraordinary opportunity for you and your career.

Also, use the resources that are available to you on your campus. Professors are more often than not willing to help their students in any way they can. It is always a good thing for a professor when a student from their law school succeeds. If you want to specialize in labor and employment law go and talk with the professor that teaches the class or one that has experience in the field. Even if you have not had that professor personally for a class, odds are they more than happy to help and give advice to you as to how you can get started in that field.

I reached out to a sports law professor who I had never had for class and asked him for advice. Through networking with him I was referred to the Professional Development Office. Just by pure luck it turned out that the Dean of the Professional Development Office had recently spoken with a local attorney who specialized in sports law about developing a relationship with the law school. It was really a case of being at the right place at the right time, but as my grandfather used to tell me, you make your own luck, too.

The Career Service Office at law schools sometimes get a bad rap for not finding everyone a job as soon as they get out of law school, but what students need to understand is that they cannot help you if they do not know you. Establishing a relationship with the people who work in that office will go a long way in the career search because they will have connections to alumni and attorney’s nationwide in a multitude of positions. If you establish a rapport with them early they can zero in on rare opportunities that may be a perfect fit for you. However, when they find those opportunities for you, it is your job, not theirs, to follow up and pursue it vigorously.

In my own case I contacted this particular firm in the fall of last year; they received my information and said they would get back with me.

At that point if I had just sat on my hands and waited for them to call I would still be waiting for the call, I believe. Just because they do not call back in a timely manner does not automatically  mean they’re not interested, it may be as simple as getting placed on the backburner due to the hectic day-to-day goings on of a law firm. Admittedly there were times when I was unsure if I was going to get a call back or interview, but I remained diligent following up with them every so often to let them know I was still very interested in working with them.

Patience is a virtue. When things do not come as quickly as you like keep working on ways that you can make yourself a better job candidate. Keeping yourself abreast of matters in your field goes a long way in accomplishing that. Show your potential employers that you want this job rather than a job.

In early January, I finally got the call I had been waiting on for months, on a Saturday no less. When I went to the interview, the attorney already knew a great deal about me just from reading my blogs and information I had broadcast through social media. Even though he had not been able to bring me in for an interview sooner because of a trial they had spent a considerable amount of time preparing for, that didn’t mean that he wasn’t keeping an eye on me to see if I was right for his firm or not. He enjoyed and appreciated the material I had written and the way I engaged others in a professional manner. The spot was mine. The countless hours spent writing blog posts and reaching out to professionals on Twitter and LinkedIn had paid off.

I firmly believe that my experience is not an anomaly. I believe in this new economy where law school grads are struggling to find work that this is the way they can separate themselves from their peers to get the jobs they want rather than just a job. This position is a clerkship. It is experience in a field where experience is incredibly difficult to come by. I know I cannot afford to rest on my laurels as there is much more work to be done in my pursuit of a career in sports law.  However, I do know this: if you stick to the game plan that we’ve been discussing here at Coming of Age you will be met with success.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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4 comments on “How To Land Your Dream Job

  • I agree with everything you say here, Jack. After having landed my “dream job” several years ago and now striking out on my own, however, I would add the caveat, “be careful what you wish for.”

    At many, if not most, law firms, you may not recognize your dream in all that ugly reality, Take the time during your clerkship to assess what life will be like working at the firm as an associate. Don’t get caught up in the prestige of working there, and do not delude yourself that you will be less miserable than the other associates. Take a long, hard and objective look at the partners, the associates, the clients, the paralegals, and the staff. Look for the red flags and, if you have a nagging voice in your head that tells you something isn’t right, listen to it.

    In scuba diving, we have a rule: The Dive Never Gets Better. If something is fundamentally wrong, don’t try to fix a bad situation; cut your losses and move on. It’s your life that’s at stake, after all.

  • Congrats on getting the call! I agree with your job searching strategy. In this economy, we’re all entrepreneurs and have to prove our value before a client or employer will “make the purchase.” Nowadays, job seekers must brand themselves and begin making the sell far before they actually need the job. Its definitely challenging but social media tools make it much easier than it could be. Plus, when you are forced to commit to a niche and brand yourself, you’ll probably wind up with the right type of job for you. When the interview lasts for months and employers have access to everything you say online, it will be really hard to fake it for a job that’s not the right fit.

  • You’re right, Jack. Blogging is an effective tool for a job seeker. A recent grad that I gave some tips to credits the blogging with making the difference. I’ve seen some other law student bloggers get well-placed. I can’t say for certain that the blogging helped, but it shows initiative and confidence…two things firms like.

    Two caveats: 1) readers shouldn’t conclude that employers will find them through their blog (unless it develops a huge following); and 2) be careful what you talk about. If you wouldn’t say it to a potential employer’s face in an interview…don’t say it in a blog!

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