1st year students' first career services meeting: a beginning


First year law students’ first meetings with career services professionals mark the beginning of an enormously valuable two-way relationship. What should each expect?  

STUDENTS

Why engage with career services? You don’t know what you don’t know. Unless you are a trained career counselor with years of experience working with law-trained people, you need the guidance and wisdom of someone who knows how this works. This service is included in your tuition, so avoiding contact with career services wastes valuable tuition dollar.

What can you expect from the first meeting?  Assuming that you attended the 1L Introduction and that you are not asking your counselor to repeat an hour-long program in this 30 minute session, you can expect to be asked some or all of these questions:  
  • Why did you decide to come to law school?
  • How did you make the decision?
  • When – if at all – did you decide to become a lawyer?
  • Do you have specific career goals?
  • Do you have specific plans for the summer of 2012?

Note that each of these questions could take an hour to answer, so it will be helpful if you have given them some thought.

What about a resume review?  Resume review is managed in many different ways. Follow your career services office guidelines. Do not attempt to free-lance your resume without review. An error that might be small in your eyes might be disqualifying to an employer.  All too often, 1Ls forget to put “Law School” on their first resumes.

BIG QUESTIONS Why won’t all of your questions be answered? Why won’t you believe that you have been set off in a correct direction? Why might you feel let down by this meeting?

If you consider your first meeting with career services as a first blind date, you will understand why the relationship feels incomplete. You would not say to a blind date “Damn glad to meet you! Can I have your children?” or begin to plan to combine your finances and apply for a mortgage the next day.

Finding and navigating a career path is as complicated and time-consuming as any other life-long activity. 
  • “Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’” is not a career planning guide.
  • You cannot outsource career planning.
  • There is no app for this on Harry Potter’s Wand.

CAREER SERVICES PROFESSIONALS

What are they supposed to do? And what do they do?

The 2011-2012 Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools (Standard 511: Student Support Services) says just this about Career Services:  
A law school shall provide all its students, regardless of enrollment or scheduling option, with basic student services, including maintenance of accurate student records, academic advising and counseling, financial aid counseling, and an active career counseling service to assist students in making sound career choices and obtaining employment.
Career services professionals are keenly aware of the words “to assist,” which means “to give support or aid.” It does not mean “do it all for you.” With student-to-professional ratios of 300-or-more-to-one, the notion that jobs could be handed to individual students might be aspirational, but it is unattainable.

With this tiny and insufficient guidance, during the past few years, career services professionals around the country have:

  • Invited and answered millions of emails, texts, and tweets from students and graduates;
  • Scheduled hundreds of thousands of one-on-one meetings;
  • Conducted hundreds of thousands of mock interviews;
  • Substituted websites for manuals and handouts [Note to Minnesota grads: I have one last paper copy of the 300+ page GreenBook];
  • Collaborated with alumni offices and bar associations to create mentor opportunities for students;
  • Shouted-until-hoarse about the benefits of clinics and pro bono activity;
  • Invited thousands of alumni and other professionals to speak to their students;
  • Partnered with student groups and bar associations to connect speakers and students;
  • Begged students to maintain contact and to keep them up-to-date as the reconsider their plans and goals;
  • Beseeched students who came to law school without plans or connections with lawyers to have regular conversations that might lead to forming concrete plans;
  • Met with any person or agency at any time or place that might lead to employment for a student or a grad;
  • Created interview programs and opportunities, both on and off campus;
  • Partnered with deans, urging them to ask for money AND ask for employment opportunities in the same breath;
  • Kept current with developing and declining practice areas so that the advice that they give is timely and current;
  • And more. 

Working with individual students

GETTING A JOB  The assumption, of course, is that everyone wants a job. That said, without making some connection with each student, connecting a student with a job that might be interesting, acceptable, or useful is difficult.  Without telepathic abilities, career services professionals rely on students to ask for what they want.

NETWORKING   Career services professionals rely on students to do their part of networking activities which cannot be outsourced.  Students have to make the first call. It is something that they will all have to do on behalf of their clients soon enough.

REACHING OUT  When you have the right information (“I am interested in Agricultural Law in Ohio), and you find a connection, make it. Introduce the student to the connection by email.  This is different from the previous networking task, as it is a target of opportunity, not something that you can do all day every day, unless you have just a handful of students under your wing.

A TWO-WAY STREET  Early November is busy for students and for career services professionals. Taking the first career path steps together and promising to create a partnership will benefit everyone. 

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