Resumes and covers letters: your focus but not all about you

Imagining that these documents should have you as their sole focus shows a gross misunderstanding of the hiring process. They may be your forum and appear to be about you, but if you treat them as straightforward  biography, you will create less-than-useful documents.

Resumes and cover letters need to be drafted with the employer in mind. They should reflect what you know about the work that you will be doing and how you might contribute to the enterprise.

Employers look for specific information about you. They appreciate it if the information is put into context with their businesses as the focus. How do you do this?

Research.  You do not need to know what the manager had for breakfast last Tuesday, but you do need to know about the industry and the job. Try to talk (yes, talk on the telephone) to people who are currently working in the field or who have done the work. Use your tools to explore the issues of concern to the industry: myfacebookspace.comLinkedIn@twitter.Google+  

Inventory Skills and Experience. What paid or volunteer work have you done? What skills do you have? Once you have learned about the job and the industry, you will be able to use Transferable Skills to make the case that you understand the employer and its problems, and that you have something to contribute.

Transferable Skills Example:  Restaurant server/bartender AND busy litigator
  • A restaurant server or bartender is responsible for managing a large and diverse group of potentially rowdy people who all want something at the same time or five minutes ago. They want it prepared exactly to their liking and at the temperature they believe to be correct even management is not keen to serve raw hamburger or to make multiple menu alterations for random preferences. You have to monitor the cash, the time, and everyone’s behavior, while smiling all the time.
  • The desktop of a busy litigator has multiple files with multiple clients all seeking a positive result. Some will be disappointed. Some will be angry. You have to manage their expectations and behavior, and explain why the result that they have is the best that could have been.
Telepathy is not a job search tool. When employers ask for specific details (leadership, scholarship, or technology expertise) provide it. Use these documents to provide relevant, meaningful, specific details. Don’t be modest, and don’t expect employers to read your mind.
Steve Jobs is now enjoying or enduring a Tom Sawyer moment, hearing what will eventually be his eulogy.

The word about Apple’s future is all over the map, and you have probably read it all. Without a crystal ball, my best bet is that Apple will be different: better or worse? Who knows?

When Apple’s board seeks a new CEO, its goal should be to find a charismatic leader with a vision.This is tough, because leaders with these three very different gifts are rare. With two-out-of-three or just one-out-of-three, an organization can function – even thrive. Can it soar? Probably not. 

Consider the leadership of your own organization. Does your CEO, PTA President, or Office Manager have one, two or all three? What might be different if your leader were a three-fer? 

Q&A: Managing Older and More Experienced Workers

From LinkedIn Q&A: 
How do you lead and manage people older and more experienced than you? 
  1.  Treat every single colleague with respect. 
  2. Never, ever, roll your eyes when someone makes a cultural reference to something that happened before you were born. 
  3. Focus on the work and on using everyone's skills, talents, and experience to get it done. 
  4. Consult with the most experienced workers when making changes to processes and procedures that they have worked with for years because:  
  • They have historic perspective and contacts;
  • They may know that something has been tried before and failed spectacularly; 
  • They may understand how processes are interrelated. Sometimes making a tiny change without this very specific knowledge can bring an enterprise down like a house of cards. Responsibility would flow right to you, because you are the manager. 
When you create a real team and respect and consult your colleagues who are specialists, they are reasonably likely to step in to stop you from making bone-headed errors. 

No team? No support for you.

From LinkedIn Answers (Organizational Development)

NALP Rules for 1L Job Applications: Comment on a thread

From a thread...So I understand that we cannot contact firms for 1L SA until Dec 1, and I can't talk to my school career service people until Nov 1. I have no problem with that. 
What are about firms or small offices that aren't listed on NALP? Are they associated with NALP? And can I contact them? I just want to know if they are willing to take on 1Ls for summer internship, and really don't want to get into trouble.
Part V: General Standards for the Timing of Offers and Decisions

D. Summer Employment Provisions for First Year Students

  1. Law schools should not offer career services to first-semester first year law students prior to November 1 except in the case of part-time students who may be given assistance in seeking positions during the school term. 
  2. Prospective employers and first year law students should not initiate contact with one another and employers should not interview or make offers to first year students before December 1. 
  3. All offers to first year students for summer employment should remain open for at least two weeks after the date made.
In reply... 
While it is true that the NALP rules need not be followed by non-NALP members, the rules about waiting to contact potential 1L summer employers until after December 1 are set forth by NALP in concert with the accrediting entities (ABA and AALS). Underlying the rule is the general agreement that the primary duty of a 1L is to learn the difference between a contract and a tort (my interpretation of  many complex policy discussions.)

That said, you are not precluded from connecting with the speakers who come to your school during the first semester and the bar association members you meet at their meetings, from re-connecting with the people who were your recommenders, or talking to your friends, neighbors, and friends of your family, who may be lawyers or who may know lawyers and who are eager to help you. You will build your network -- always a good thing.

How is a"connection" not a job application? What can you say or ask?

1. SPEAKERS and BAR ASSOCIATION MEMBERS "Thank you for coming to visit my school. I enjoyed your presentation and would like to ask some follow up questions next week. May I call you to schedule a meeting?" Note that you are looking for information, not asking for a job.

2. BAR ASSOCIATION MEMBERS If you have taken time to go to local bar association meetings or to attend CLE programs, you may follow up with the people you meet. "The CLE was very interesting to me as I am beginning to explore the [practice]. May I call you to schedule a short meeting?" Note that you are looking for information and not asking for a job.

3. RECOMMENDERS   "Thank you for writing a letter of rec for me. I am here at [law school] and find it (fascinating, frightening, etc.) Can I buy you a cup of coffee to say "thank you" and to ask some questions about my future?" Note that you are saying "thank you" and not asking for a job.

4.  FRIENDS, FAMILY, etc.  This group is the one most likely to ask you for a resume right away. It is difficult to say "no" to your parents, so, quickly, pull up the resume you used for your law school application, add "law school" to the education section, and hand it off to Mom, Dad and your brother-in-law's cousin.

THE ETHICAL LAW STUDENT (YOU) Remind the parents that you are going to be really really busy during the semester. Should they gin up employment opportunities for you before Thanksgiving, you would probably embarrass yourself because someone would remember that you weren't supposed to interview until after December 1, thus making you look like an unethical law student.

LIMITED KNOWLEDGE PITFALLS  In addition, before the end of the semester, your legal knowledge will be limited to the Case of the Thorns and other early-casebook entries, and not fodder for the kind of interview in which you would want to appear to be smart and knowledgeable about the work that the prospective employer would need from you.

WHAT IF SOMEONE OFFERS ME A JOB? If, however, someone who is known to you or someone you meet between now and December 1 offers you a job, you are permitted to accept. What the NALP rules preclude you from doing is launching a Massive Summer Job Search Campaign addressed to strangers before December 1.

Please go back to studying.

Law School: first month for 1Ls, 2Ls & 3Ls

For 1Ls:
  • This is all new. No one except the former paralegals in your class know anything more than you do.
  • This path has been well-traveled.  Hundreds of thousands of former first year law students have been in your chair. It is only recently that they have been assisted by Westlaw, Lexis, and Google. In the Olden Days they had to figure everything out with Black’s Law Dictionary and Shepard’s Citations’ in a (gasp!) book. [Note to self: says that my copy of Black's 5th is worth $125.00.]
  • Black's 5th: A book
  • This is hard. Getting your mind around new concepts, new ideas, and new definitions for old favorite words requires a different kind of brain power than whatever you used to memorize dates in U.S. History 101.

For 2Ls:
  • The security of your 1L section has evaporated. Most of the people in the classes that you picked out all by yourself are new to you. Watch out for the Gunners; steer clear of the back-row smart-alecks who will distract you; and get to know your professors.
  • 2L writing activities: You may be on a journal or a moot court and/or you may have selected a seminar-paper class. Whatever you picked, the writing will take more time than you imagined. Start early.
  • 2L writing activities: If you are fortunate enough to know what you want to do after graduation, select writing projects that might be vocationally useful. Budding Family Lawyers might write about divorce procedures, international custody rules, tax-related issues, or the intersection of family law, juvenile law, and criminal law. Many students choose wisely, and have writing samples that they use to connect with the lawyers for whom they wish to work.

For 3Ls:
The Comp Guide

  • If you have no practical experience, get it now. While you may have written a brief during  the summer, your best practice-for-professional-life strategy is to represent a real client, either in a clinic or through a pro bono project. There is no substitute for looking at a live client and feeling the weight of the responsibility for resolving a real problem. Minnesota Justice Foundation is a sterling example of an organization creating a collaboration among four law schools to provide pro bono opportunities. Most schools have clinic programs in which students can provide direct legal services under the supervision of a licensed attorney. 
  • Bar application deadlines are looming. You must have moral certainty about the deadlines for the bar exam(s) for which you may apply. Bar app deadlines are set in stone, and no amount of whining about the dog or computer that ate your application will get a waiver. Refer to the estimable ABA Section on Legal Education & Admission to the Bar's Comprehensive Guide to the Bar Exam
  • Bar applications require significant amounts of potentially obscure information. You will be asked about credit and criminal history (including your 245 unpaid parking tickets), where you have lived and worked for the past 15 years, and much, much more. Get a copy of the application for any state for which you might be taking the test.  Start gathering your information now. 

Introducing weekly #lawtweets

WEEKLY #lawtweets  Inspired by my own need for gentle reminders, Pass the Baton will post weekly #lawtweets for 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls which are keyed to the ebb, flow, and tidal wave of the law school year. The #lawtweets will reference career-related activities, networking reminders, spring break, and more.

Hashtags will be #lawtweet #classyear (2012, 2013, 2014), and #lawcareers.

I hope that you find them helpful.

Going to work: Travel sleepwear alert

Out of town interviews This week's tip from the always-helpful Culture & Manners Institute
 is timely for students who will be interviewing out of town...

When traveling for business, there are two things to consider when selecting what sleepwear:

1) Comfort (obviously) and,
2) Emergencies: What you would not mind your supervisor, co-workers or the TV cameras seeing you in outside on the curb, if the hotel must be evacuated during the night, because of a fire or other emergency.

You don't want to be caught in your ripped Metallica T-shirt, that nightie that makes you feel sexy or... 

Subscribe now to the Culture & Manners Institute's Etiquette Tip of the Week.