As I write this article, there is a hiring freeze in effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and nobody is certain when the next on-campus interviews will take place. What is certain is that there will be another recruiting season, and law students’ employment prospects will improve.
So, it’s still important for students to prepare alternative strategies for getting a job in the event they don’t get an offer out of their law school’s formal recruiting program. The following advice is intended to be helpful and reassuring, with or without a pandemic.
Can’t live without them, or so we think
Few programs offered by your law school’s career services office are more exciting than on-campus interviews. Law students share a singular goal to graduate with a job, and on-campus recruiting seems like the most sure-fire way to secure one. For this reason, when interview season rolls around it’s easy for students to get swept up in the whirlwind. There’s a lot of pressure to apply to those jobs coming from the career office, fellow law students, and frankly the entire law school. So much pressure that it can be easy for some law students to lose themselves in the process.
Speaking of getting lost in the process, I once heard on-campus interviews compared with a train ride. You’re a first-year law student, overwhelmed and overwrought, and then suddenly here comes a slick-looking train. Everyone is telling you to get on the train. Everyone you know is getting on the train. It feels like it would be the worst thing in the world if you missed the train.
So, you do everything in your power to get on that train. But in the excitement of boarding the train, some law students might forget to inquire as to its destination. As a result, they end up in a place, or in this context, a job they never wanted and that doesn’t jive with the reason they went to law school in the first place. This can lead to job dissatisfaction, burnout, and unhappiness.
As a career advisor, I am a huge proponent of on-campus interviews in general because I don’t want students to miss out on opportunities that they’re interested in—repeat “that they’re interested in”—and on-campus recruiting makes it easier for them to apply. Indeed, some employers only hire students through this process so it’s imperative for students to pay close attention to which employers are participating.
Recruiting season is also a great chance for students to refine their application materials. And law students need to get as much interviewing experience as possible, which on-campus recruiting offers up in droves. But whether the on-campus interview opportunities include your first-choice dream job or not, you should know there is a light at the end of the tunnel if you come out on the other side without an offer.
It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get an offer
Coming out of recruiting season without an offer does not mean that you won’t get a job. Quite the contrary. For one thing, on-campus interviews happen very early in the semester, so those opportunities are limited to employers who know what their hiring needs will be several months ahead of their new hires’ start dates. Typically, only larger law firms and some government agencies have this kind of employment foresight. So, if a large law firm, criminal law, or other agency work isn’t the type of employment you’re interested in, then you’ve hardly missed out.
Sometimes not getting the offer can be the wake-up call you need to start to think more critically about what job you want. Maybe you didn’t get an offer because deep down you didn’t want the job, and that lack of enthusiasm might have come across in your cover letter or your interview. Sure, when interviews don’t turn into offers it can feel like doors have closed, but that means other doors, the right doors, now have the chance to open. And perhaps by not getting an offer, a student has now been spared the fate of having to work somewhere that doesn’t interest them and that leaves them feeling unfulfilled.
Another thing to consider is that the end of on-campus interviews marks the beginning of your opportunity to apply to other job listings that are yet to come. As the semester goes on, interesting employers such as small and medium-sized firms, solo practitioners, public service organizations, judges, companies, and nonprofits will continue to post listings for interns. In other words…
It’s not too late to get a job
Yes, the good news is that after formal recruitment programs, many additional employers will list jobs with your career office over the remaining months in the semester and even into the early part of the summer after the spring semester. And when the heady rush of on-campus interviews is over, students can slow down, take a breath, and think more carefully about where they truly want to work. Then they can go about applying like they mean it and get hired.
- Visit your career office for help with developing a job search plan
- Check job listings regularly
- Create a “Target Employer” list
- Polish your resume and cover letter
- Order business cards
- Tell everyone what you want to do!
- Attend networking functions
- Go on informational interviews
Your career services office can help you with all these steps and figuring out a personalized approach for you. So please rest assured that after this pandemic, and after on-campus interviews, the timing will be right for you to get the job you’ve always wanted.