Five steps to be ready for the job market by graduation

By Hillary Mantis

If you are a 3L, graduation is just around the corner. It’s coming, whether you are ready or not. If you are a 2L, it’s not that far behind. If you are a 1L, it’s not too early to start thinking about it. But it doesn’t have to be like Hurricane Sandy, a force that hits you without much warning. You know that you will be graduating. There are steps you can take now, so that you can be more prepared to enter the job market.

1. Have Your Resume and Cover Letter Critiqued

When I have counseled recent graduates, I have been amazed to see that their resumes were sometimes outdated, in the wrong format, or lacking recent entries. There are career experts available to help you, free of charge, right in your own school’s Career Office. It’s so easy to meet with them while you are still on campus. They can help you make sure all of your documents are truly market ready. If you are shaky about interviewing, they can help you with that too.

2. Meet With Alumni

Alumni of your school are on your side. You share a common bond. If they can help you, they most likely will. The more alumni you meet before you graduate the better. But how do you find them?

Many schools have alumni mentor programs. You probably also have an online alumni directory at your school, which you can access through your Alumni Office. You can also sign up for your school’s alumni group on Linked in. You can meet alumni in person too — they are frequently speakers at the panels your school offers throughout the year. So go — there may even be free pizza.

3. Be Strategic About Employment

If I were facing a tough post graduate job market, I would think about getting a part-time job with a neighborhood law firm. I’ve seen this work out time and time again, where the employer ended up hiring the student, at least part-time, after graduation. I would participate in law school clinics and externships, which will give you real world experience, and hopefully real world contacts. I would make sure I knew about all of the legal job web sites, not just the one at your school. I would also get to know professors now while you are on campus — they are tapped into the job market, and may have ideas. They can also be valuable references.  

4. Find Out if Your School Has a Post Graduate Fellowship Program

Many schools have funded short term paid employment programs for recent graduates. They may have deadlines that you can find out about now. When does the program start? What type of employer qualifies for funding? Is it a rolling admissions program, or does it have a set number of grads in it? Can you do it if you are located in another state after graduation?

Find out the details now, so you can meet the qualifications if you need the program later. It can buy you time while you are trying to land a permanent job. It can also provide income, and a credential for your resume, which may make you more marketable to future employers.

5. Learn About Managing Law School Debt

CCRAA, IBR, and LRAP: Do you know what these terms mean? Or are they just alphabet soup? Knowing them may be a way to help you stay afloat financially after graduation. Find out the details, now, before you graduate. Hint: They stand for the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, Income Based Repayment, and Loan Repayment Assistance Program.

Talk to your Financial Aid Office. They may have additional ideas for you on how to manage your debt after graduation. You may have more options open to you in the job market, if you know about loan forgiveness and repayment. That public interest or government job might be more doable than you think.

These ideas are easy to look into before you graduate.  Hopefully, they will make the road ahead calmer for you.


Hillary Mantis consults with law Students, pre-law Students, and lawyers. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers, and Jobs for Lawyers: Effective Techniques for Getting Hired in Today’s Economy.  For more information, you can write to Hillary at