Perhaps one of the big stressors of school is how to seek and find employment.  I was asked to be part of a five student panel on strategies on finding a job.  The following are what I thought were good take-aways from the panel.

Network – Unless you’re the best of your class, most people don’t get picked up without being recommended or known to the hiring person.  You can do this through pro bono (volunteer) work, trade events, temporary jobs, friends and classmates.  Go, attend, and mix!  Check out linkedin, where you can use your friends and colleages to get you places you didn’t know you could get.

Do something different – It’s all about making yourself stand out, whether its through a recommendation or activites.  If  you want to do business law, take a finance class.  If you want to do entertainment law, take a flim class.  If you want to work in high tech, take an IT or Engineering class.  John (a member of the panel) said that he went to Guatamala for the summer to improve his Spanish.  The point is that you need to be more than school.  Also, be aware that your answer about why you chose to do your something different can imply that your interviewer isn’t as competent as they should be (ie — answering that an MBA really understands business implies that your interviewer might not understand business — a better answer is to say that you can acquire that knowledge through experience or class, and you chose the class route).

Do the important standard stuff – If you’re in law school, that means to try and get on a journal.  It means that you should attempt to have decent grades.  Excelling in the common gives your interviewer ways to compare you to the pack.  Often times the standard stuff is just a cutoff and not a deal-maker (ie you might need only good grades, and stellar grades doesn’t buy much).

Get experience – This can be through a job or volunteer work or unpaid internships.  Your interviewer would generally rather hire someone that has an idea of what’s going on rather than someone at ground zero.  It also says that someone else trusted you enough to accept your work, even if unpaid.

Be professional – Dress for the part.  It is almost always easier to dress down than up.  Do your research on the company.  Ask questions about their goals and where they want to be in five years.  You want to look available but not desperate for the job.  Don’t brown-nose.  Be confident in your answers (when asked what you want to do, don’t say that you might want to do something or something else … your mind can change).

Work differently – If your school has on campus interviews, do them.  But, also discover who is not on that list and go see if you can interview with them.  Your chances are better with those you discover because you’re not competing with everyone in your class.  Go to out of state job fairs.  See if your career services can connect you with out of state career fairs.  You will be inherently different than the other applicants because you will be from somewhere else.  Let diversity work in your favor.

I heard a funny saying about law school:  Law school is like a pie eating contest with the winner getting more pie.  Big Firms and Corporations are not for everyone.  Sometimes the intangible benefits of working at a small firm are better suited to you.