Employment Honor Roll IV: Searching for a job post pandemic

By Katie Thisdell

Editor’s note: this is the final part of our honor roll for post-graduate employment. Read who made the honor roll, about the top performers or what will become of the employment market in addition to this story. 

A robust job market pushed employment figures to their highest level, with some schools performing better than others.  Those leaders now need to focus their resources on helping students land jobs during a pandemic.

The job search during a pandemic

As law school career service offices adapt to the new reality, the high-performing schools are better positioned to see continued success, primarily because they work closely with students.  

At Northern Illinois University College of Law, students learn on their first day of orientation that law school is more than just an academic program. It’s also a three-year job search. 

“Academics comes first, but keeping focused on your career path is something I consistently remind the students about,” Anderson said.

He lets students acclimate during their first semester, but after that, “they’re mine,” he said, only slightly joking. From then on, he encourages students to explore their options through networking, attending events and holding several different legal jobs, including a required externship. Building these experiences also helps students become more marketable. 

Because the school is small — 83 students for the class of 2019 — Anderson is able to get to know each of his students and their career goals. He starts by reviewing their resumes along with two graduate assistants. He then meets with Anderson after revisions are made. He learns their interests while also trying to foster a good relationship to encourage students to keep coming in for future meetings. 

“If a job comes in that I think is well suited to a student, I will hunt that student down,” Anderson said.

Weekly newsletters feature jobs, networking opportunities and events hosted by the school, outside organizations and other associations. 

He also doesn’t sit back idly at networking events — nor let his students do so. In fact, networking is how he found all but one of his jobs, so he thinks it has tremendous value.

Networking can happen anywhere — even at the grocery store — and you shouldn’t target just people in top positions. Legal staff and secretaries are vital people to connect with, he said. For students who aren’t sure how to do it, he explains how easy it is.

It’s simply talking to people which gets easier with practice. 

“The joke is, I’ll go to the opening of an envelope if I’m invited,” Anderson said. “And I’m definitely playing the role of wingman. I will literally throw students in front of a potential employer if I think there’s potential.”

And if a group of students has clustered together at an event, talking only amongst themselves, Anderson is quick to jump in and break them up. 

But what if you don’t walk away from an event with a job offer? Wasn’t it a waste of time? 

“That’s not the purpose,” Anderson said. “Ninety-five percent of networking will not pay off quickly. All it takes is one connection to pay off.”

Current students, of course, need to network differently during a pandemic. But that’s not necessarily worse or more difficult. 

“It’s going to be a very different experience,” Anderson said. “These students will have to be more proactive and get out there to create their own opportunities.” 

Smaller networking events will mean fewer chances to get in front of potential employers. Same with career events such as guest speakers and panels, which will also likely be virtual. Externships and other work experiences may also continue to evolve. 

On the positive side though, some conferences and events that students might not have been able to attend due to geographical or financial limitations are now online. 

“I think in some ways, now that everything has gone remote has created more networking opportunities for our students,” Mandrell said.  

As a student himself, Ausili, the assistant dean at Touro Law Center, said he had tried to do well academically and hoped everything would fall in place. He was fortunate but realizes he didn’t take proactive steps that would have helped. 

He now teaches incoming students from the get-go that career success really requires a partnership between his office and each student. 

His school is relatively small, as well, meaning his staff (himself plus two counselors, a director of employer relations and an administrator) are able to devote the time to connect with students. They can help students groom themselves and their application documents to show their passions. 

For instance, students learn how to highlight internship and externship opportunities to show potential employers their interests. They’ll refine their resumes, writing samples and cover letters. They’ll also learn how to interview for different types of positions. 

Those internships, externships, clinics and a pro bono requirement are key for students to build skillsets that they can showcase during their job search. 

“Our students get a lot of experience,” Ausili said. “They learn how to behave as professionals, and they make themselves very marketable as graduates.” 

Ausili knows that searching for a job can be time consuming. But that’s why he and the career office are there to help. Like at other schools, they’re there for the students. They can provide information and resources, help students navigate obstacles and teach best practices.

“They don’t have to start from scratch,” he said. 

 

Related stories:

Employment Honor Roll: 93.6% land jobs after 2019 graduation

Employment Honor Roll II: Top Performers

Employment Honor Roll III: Job Market Predictions

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