Want a Legal Job? 5 Tips for Getting People to Help You Out

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When you’re in the legal job search trenches, it’s easy to feel alone. Everyone else is going about their day, gainfully employed, and you’re sitting alone in your pajamas sending out resume blasts. It’s enough to make anyone feel demoralized and isolated. And, when you’re in this state, it’s easy to think no one wants to help. Successful job seekers fight this temptation and keep reaching out for help!

Why? Because that’s the fastest way to get a job. 

5 Tips for Getting Help With Your Legal Job Search

I know it can be tough to keep reaching out when things aren’t going well. Wouldn’t we all prefer to curl up under the covers some days?

With that in mind, here are five simple ways to productively reach out for help:

  1. Hone your message. This one is easy, because it doesn’t involve actually talking to anyone! Before reaching out to a potential contact about your job search, it’s critical to get specific about a) what you’re looking for and b) how they can help. Richard Hermann refers to this as a “contacts roadmap,” which is a fantastic concept. The idea is that you critically examine your skills and interests, actively thinking of the ways your contact can potentially help. Then, you make a specific ask: “I’m looking at family law jobs in New York City, and I’d love to talk with some of your contacts at Sanctuary for Families. I volunteered at a similar organization during law school and I’d like to get involved while I’m job hunting and have some spare time.” 
  1. Examine your weak ties. Everyone has two types of social ties: strong ties and weak ties. Strong ties are your closest friends and family. Hopefully these people already know you’re job hunting and have done what they can to help! The real networking power, paradoxically, is in your weak ties. Why? Because these folks are slightly outside your day-to-day life, so they have access to opportunities you might not know about. They run in different circles, as it were. And, critically, they can put you in touch with opportunities in these circles. Take an hour and go to a coffee shop. Write down everyone you can think of that might be willing to help you out, whether they’re a lawyer or not. Classmates, law professors, professional contacts, these are all fair game. But think more broadly! Do you have kids? The other parents you know can be rich sources of information. Are you involved in a religious organization? Do you play on a sports team or volunteer regularly? Have you formed relationships on Facebook or Twitter (more on that below)? All of these groups (and plenty more) are useful “weak tie” hunting grounds. 
  1. Set a specific, achievable goal for outreach. Let’s not go overboard here! Given your personality and schedule, what’s a realistic goal for outreach in the next week? For example, could you commit to sending two emails to people you haven’t talked to for awhile, asking for their help in your job search? Could you commit to setting up one in-person informational interview? Could you make an appointment with your law school’s Alumni or Career Services office? Try to make the goal specific (so you can track whether you did it) and achievable (so you don’t get overwhelmed). 
  2. Make your social media consistent and professional, and then use it. Social media is everywhere these days, so it is important to examine and utilize this aspect of your life while you are networking and job searching. It is especially important during a job search to cultivate a professional and unified image on social media. The easiest way to do this is to limit what is available publically and to hone the little information that is publically viewable into something that shows you as a professional. Be honest on social media: make your profile pictures appropriate and of only you and look back and delete anything negative or inappropriate. Then start using social media to reach out to some of your weak ties, if you do not have direct contact information. Want a leg up? Learn how to improve your LinkedIn profile and start posting about topics related to the legal field or your specific niche within it.
  1. Track your progress. As a job hunt drags on, it’s hard to keep momentum. Tracking your progress helps you stay on track and can also help when you’re feeling down, because you can tell that you’ve been making a consistent effort to move things along. 

A job search, ultimately, is a numbers game! The more people you connect with, and the more actionable information you provide to help them help you, the sooner you’ll be on your way to legal career success.

Best of luck!