By Shannon Achimalbe
Above the Law, April 4, 2018 —
In this changing world where jobs are competitive, we need to be creative to get employers’ attention.
When I was a law student looking for an internship, externship, or pretty much any type of work experience, there weren’t many options. At my law school, if you didn’t secure a position through OCI (which was the case for most of us), you were on your own. We had access to online job banks like Symplicity where there were some occasional law clerk and even some file clerk positions. But even those jobs were competitive because the announcements were shared with other law schools in the area.
So how were we supposed to get an edge over the others? What more must we do? I recall some of the more questionable advice I received from various people which I will explain below.
The Shotgun Method
A career services staff member told me to solicit every law firm in the area. She said not to send emails because they can easily be ignored and deleted. Instead, I was to send a cover letter and a résumé printed on the premium, ivory colored, papyrus-like papers. She even gave me a list of law firms with a contact person and phone number.
Back then, I wondered how these employers must have felt as every year their mailboxes were jammed with tens, if not hundreds of unsolicited cover letters and résumés asking for a job. I wouldn’t blame them if they felt annoyed.
When I asked why I should essentially contact a bunch of random people, her answer was simply, “You never know.” Since I completed my class assignments and had nothing else to do, I did what she said since she was in theory correct. I spent the better part of the week writing cover letters about how my art law and IP classes can transfer perfectly into a debt collection, family law, or an immigration practice. As I wrote each individualized letter, I felt like Bart Simpson as he was writing lines on the blackboard at the beginning of every Simpsons episode.
The result? Most people ignored me while others wrote polite rejection letters.
A few were kind enough to offer informational interviews. One was particularly helpful and continues to be to this day. We still keep in touch and I refer certain cases to him.
Nowadays, most career advisors discourage this type of spam-like behavior because of its very low success rate, and its likelihood of demoralizing the job applicant. Even if they successfully get a job, if it is not they job they wanted, they might end up hating it.
The Take No Prisoners Go Getter
Whenever I talk to members of older generations about finding jobs, a few have suggested going to the office in person, demanding a meeting with the hiring partner and not leaving until he offers you a position. The idea is that the employer will hire you because he will be impressed with your moxie, enthusiasm, and hunger.
Initially, I thought this was a joke and was only successful in movies and fiction. But some people still do this and get visibly upset and rude if they are not offered a position.
I find this advice odd coming from a generation where most (but not all) complain about young peoples’ arrogance and their sense of entitlement. Coming to an office uninvited and making demands out of the blue seems like the ultimate display of arrogance and disrespect.
Nowadays, this aggressive method will only work in the movies. In real life, you will more likely get in trouble. As you may have learned in Torts class, barging into someone’s office and refusing to leave is considered trespassing. And if this gets you in trouble with law enforcement, this is something you (and the lawyer you hire) will have to explain on your character and fitness application. And some may even blacklist you and talk about you on social media because they’ll think you are unstable and likely to purchase an AR-15 assault rifle and start shooting everyone.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with going to an employer’s place of business and asking if a job is available. Sometimes, you may be at the right place at the right time. You just have to be courteous about it and leave if nothing is available.
In this changing world where jobs are competitive, we need to be creative to get employers’ attention. But your creativity should impress employers, not scare them. In the meantime, maybe we should try putting the word blockchain in various parts of our résumés.