4 ways to use your career services department

By Alexander Sumner

I’m going to be honest with you: being in law school is a lot like speeding down a highway. You see a lot of billboards and advertisements and think, “Huh, that looks nice, but I just don’t have the time to stop” while chugging an iced coffee, talking on the phone, and rushing to your destination. Stop anyway. Take a little break to stretch your legs, get some air, and take advantage of the resources around you. Your school’s career services department and advisors are there to help you, let them.

 

 - Resume Review. Before you submit your resume for any summer jobs, internships, or OCIs, let someone from career services take a look. Legal resumes are structured a bit differently than other fields, so you’ll want to make sure your resume is in the right format.

My school had what was called a “Rapid Resume Review” session a few times a semester where students (usually on lunch or between classes) could submit their resume electronically for review, and then have a consultation about potential areas of improvement.

The one caveat with resume review: Don’t have too many people look at your resume. You’ll get inconsistent advice flying at you from all angles — which is both exhausting and frustrating. Everybody has an opinion, and they love the opportunity to share it.

 

- OCI Preparation/Mock Interviews. If you haven’t heard, “OCI” stands for On-Campus Interviews. These interviews are typically arranged by third parties and your law school and involve a rigorous application period and high GPA standards. If you manage to get through to an actual interview, they are hosted at the school, typically during regular business hours.

Whether you’re preparing for an OCI or just a regular interview, your career services department can be a great source for mock interviews and general preparation advice. To do this, you can set up a meeting with your favorite advisor (or your least favorite, if you feel he or she will force you to get over your jitters) and practice. Dress professionally, do your hair, do whatever you’ll do the day of your real interview—treat this as serious practice, and you will get serious results.

 

- Networking. Career advisors are one of the greatest untapped resources for networking. Think about it: Their entire job is about preparing and helping law students get jobs they are interested in. They’re bound to have at least a few helpful connections!

While you may not get a job from just networking, the more you expose yourself and build genuine connections, the better your chances. Sign up for any mentorship, “meet for coffee,” or practice area luncheon you can. For one thing, there’s usually free food; for another, it’s a chance to mingle with alumni and local practitioners.

 

- References. Many people use former bosses, professors, or mentors as professional references; but did you know you can also use your career advisor? What better person to speak to your ambition, drive, grades, and career interests than the person you’ve been meeting with consistently to discuss these very things?

Pick and stick with one career advisor; build a rapport with them, meet regularly, and get them invested in you academically and professionally. Ask for help when you need it, advice when you’re lost, and motivation when you’ve run out. Your advisor can be a great reference, let them get to know you.

 

The sign of a stubborn person is one who has the tools for success but fails or refuses to use them. Take advantage of the opportunities around you; after all, your tuition has already paid for it!

 


Alexandra Sumner is a recent graduate of Indiana University — Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. 


 

 

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