Writer Mike Scott interviewed me for today’s Detroit Legal News article for law students and new lawyers about standing out in today’s tight job market. When he called me, I thought of all the law students and recent graduates who spend most of their job search time and effort looking for and responding to postings online, and/or sending out hundreds of unsolicited resumes to employers where they know no one. I wanted to share my advice that this isn’t the most effective way to spend all of your time and energy.

Law students and recent graduates should assume that if they are doing this, then hundreds of other law students and recent graduates, if not more, are responding to the same postings and sending out unsolicited resumes to every firm in their city or county. Thousands are doing the same in every state and part of the country.

Develop A Strategic Plan.

If you don’t think your chance of getting a summer or permanent job through on-campus interviews or job postings is very likely, regardless of the reason, you need to develop a strategic plan for your job search. It should be a strategic plan similar to the business development plans that lawyers should create and implement to get new clients and more business from existing clients.

1. Figure out the market you will target, whether you know anyone in that market and why you are a good fit for that market.

2. Know yourself. Know what strengths you bring to an employer, and your unique attributes and experiences. If you aren’t sure of your unique attributes and experiences and/or true demonstrable strengths, ask for help from people you trust and people who love you. Get their input on who you are when you are at your best.

3. Build on your strengths. If you are a leader and organizer type, find a way to get involved leading or organizing something related to your target market. If you are introverted and a great writer, let your target market get to know you through your writing. Bar associations and legal newspapers are frequently looking for more articles – submit yours without waiting for an invitation. If you like to volunteer, pull yourself away from searching for job postings online and allocate time each week to volunteering within your target market. ie. volunteer to help in some way at legal aid clinics, local or state bar association offices or events, fundraisers held within the legal community, law related golf outings, etc.

4. Be yourself and let others get to know you. In this tight job market, it is very important to get to know people who do what you want to do and/or who can refer you to others. And the most important part of this is to let them get to know you. You want to stand out in their minds.

Sitting at your computer responding to online postings or stuffing envelopes with cover letters and resumes isn’t the most effective way to let people get to know you. Be honest with yourself. When you look at your cover letters and resume, what makes you stand out?

People do business with people they know, like and trust. They refer people they know, like and trust. And they hire people they know, like and trust. If you dedicate time during your job search doing things within the legal profession that you enjoy and that you are really good at, you will develop professional relationships with people who can help you now and throughout your career. You will stand out in their minds.

By building on your strengths, you’ll also be gaining unique experiences and attributes that make you stand out. Think of the effect on your self-confidence, your resume and your reputation. You’ll be building a great foundation for your career.

I’ve met hundreds, probably even thousands, of law students and recent graduates through my years of private practice, my coaching practice and all of my bar association activities. The law students and recent graduates who stand out in my mind are relatively few.

They stand out for various reasons, none of which are grades. Rather, essentially they stand out because they did things that let me get to know them. They are the ones who took initiative, asked me questions, talked with me after presentations, volunteered, took on responsibilities, got involved, asked me for help, showed up and mattered, and/or took advantage of opportunities or created opportunities for themselves and/or others.

They had different confidence levels and personalities. Not every one was a Type A, an extrovert, a leader or even a joiner. Even if I had only a few conversations or contacts with them, I got to know much more about them and their abilities than the hundreds or thousands of others who blended in because they didn’t do anything to make themselves stand out in my mind.

What can you do to make yourself stand out to people who can help you in your own job search?

Here is a link to the interviews in today’s Detroit Legal News by writer Mike Scott.