Taking Charge of Your Career
In the modern day, you have to take charge of your career, make your own opportunities, step outside of your comfort zone, upgrade your skillset and own your capabilities.
Not sure how to do that? No problem, I happen to be the Queen of living boldly and doing just that so let's break it down.
I'm going to apply this topic to a legal career in particular because if you haven't noticed, I'm wildly passionate about it.
What I mean by taking charge of your career is, you have to make the first move, period. No employer is begging you to join their team, you have to make them aware of why they need you and why what you have to bring to the table, is the best god damn dessert they'll ever eat.
The legal industry is one of the most competitive out there and gone are the days where you can leave university and get a job. As degrees are now way more attainable and accessible than they used to be, we are no longer competing with the few who could afford to go to university but the thousands. If you've done a legal application before, you'll understand what I mean when I say you need to dedicate your time and research into filling them out for each individual firm and even if you pass one stage, you still may have 3-4 rounds to go before you actually land a job! Some of which include assessment centres with multiple students all fighting for that space, so, how DO you take charge of your career and land yourself a fancy lawyer job?
1) Start as early as you can
This is my number one tip for a reason and I can't express enough how important it is. If you begin to build your legal network from day one, I can guarantee you make connections that will serve you down the line, either for a reference, as someone to introduce you to another opportunity, for work etc.
2) Network, network, network
In law, it's all about the connections you make, as I've said above, you will never know when these may be able to help you down the line. Networking is such a valuable part of your legal career because it encompasses a lot of what your line of work will entail on a day to day basis. The more you get out there and speak to firms, other students and law career providers such as Law Careers Net, Bright Network, London Young Lawyers, Legal Cheek etc, the more you build your confidence and communication skills and the more natural it will feel. Firms will always be impressed by the person who wasn't afraid to ask questions, who made others feel included or who actively engaged with them. Your passion shines through and I promise you it will not go unnoticed.
3) Apply to events and other opportunities
If you're a first year like myself then the likelihood is, you've come to the conclusion that I have, that there are not many opportunities for first years out there. As much as I believe this to be true, it serves in our favour when we are able to hunt out the ones that do exist, it shows our hunger and passion to get started straight away.
However, if you haven't applied for any first year schemes then events are also an excellent way to go, you'll get to meet lots of other young aspiring legal professionals, lots of firms and people who are genuinely rooting for your success. My first legal event I attended also landed me with the opportunity to film the whole event on the Law Careers Net page and I was absolutely ecstatic. I had a meet and greet at the beginning of the conference, a tour around the building and full access to take over for the day!
4) Utilise social media
The legal industry is changing and social media is a big part of that change. Most people don't think to look on social media to network with firms out of fear of it being 'unprofessional' or crossing some kind of boundary but that couldn't be further from the truth. Firms have upped their game on the social media front and they WANT you to engage with them on it.
This is a super easy way for you to show off your passions and what you get up to outside of your work and studies. Your prospective employer wants to know what ignites your fire, what you multitask around what you do and what you find truly interesting, it shows you have levels and that you have a creative side to bring to the team. So engaging through social media is a great way to show that off.
Social media has lead me to find out so much more about the culture of Shoosmiths through how they talk to me, the information they put out there for aspiring lawyers at their firm and their regular Q&A's.
Social media connected me to London Young Lawyers, Legal Check and various legal podcasts that have invited me to events, enhanced my commercial awareness and shared multiple opportunities that are available to me.
5) Research what you're going in to
With most jobs growing up, I've gone to interviews and my prospective employer has told me a bit about the company and what it does. However, the legal industry flips this on its head and expects you to know who the firm is and what they do. Now I'm not saying that you need to walk in to a legal interview and know the ins and outs of their business, as Burgees and Salmon said to me during a Q&A panel, "we know what we do as a business, we want to know about you", so don't get that confused. Walk in knowing who the firm is, where their offices are and an understanding of what they do but there's no need to give a full historic timeline.
Researching your firm shows that you have thought about where you see yourself in the future and where you feel like you will fit in as part of the team. Doing your research demonstrates the commitment you have to the firm and what it is about them that you value.
I found that the best place to get research on firms is through the Law Careers Net handbook as it gives you a break down of all of the firms and what they do and where they are located. Similarly if you don't have the handbook, their website is also a great place to head to sign up to email alerts where you will receive "meet the firm" or "meet the trainee" emails all about other experiences from an internal perspective.
I hope these top tips help you when starting your legal career, no matter what stage you are in your studies or even post graduate, work through these steps and get busy taking charge of your career!