March 2017

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Career Services Appointment

By Marianne Laleuf

Career Advisor, California Western School of Law

Even after passing the bar, your law school career office is still an important resource at your disposal for developing your career.  Like anything, preparing for an appointment with an advisor in your Career and Professional Development Office is essential to making the most of your time with your advisor.  Below are five recommendations to help you prepare for your appointment, both while in law school and as an alum.  

1. Self-Assessment

A career in law can take many different forms.   It will help your advisor guide you if you do a little self-assessment and think about the things that motivate you and are important to you in a job, as well as the type of lifestyle you seek.  For instance, are you comfortable with adversarial relationships and situations; are you open to regularly working on weekends and staying late at the office during the week; are you highly motivated by money or would you be comfortable making a lower salary; do you love research and writing; are you comfortable with speaking in public; are you passionate about helping vulnerable communities?  Having a basic idea of the lifestyle you ultimately want can help your advisor direct you toward your dream job.

2. Research the organization to which you are applying

Before meeting with a Career Services advisor to review your application materials or prepare for an interview, be sure to research the organization to which you are applying.  This means looking up the organization’s website and understanding the history of the organization, the work the organization performs, its key players, and its different divisions.  Additionally, it is important to assess the ways in which your interests and experience apply to the organization’s work.  This research is necessary to writing an effective cover letter, so it should be one of the first things you do.

3. Bring two hard copies of your resume and cover letter to the appointment

In this digital age we are often inclined to review documents on our electronics.  However, it is often easier to overlook spelling and formatting errors on electronic versions than when reviewing paper copies of the application materials.  This will also allow your advisor to make notes on your materials while identifying necessary revisions.  You should also bring hard copies to your interviews just in case you are asked for extra copies.

4. Take notes

Career development appointments typically last thirty minutes to an hour.  I have noticed that during many of these appointments students do not take notes, nor do they have anything with which to take notes. Counselors review a lot of information and it is impossible to remember everything discussed.  Having notes also allows you to review the information down the road to refresh your memory, if you need to apply your advisor’s recommendations to future applications.  Additionally, bringing a notepad and pen to appointments is a good habit to form as the vast majority of employers and supervisors will expect associates to take notes in every meeting.  

5. Implement the changes!

You just spent a good chunk of time meeting with an advisor to get recommendations on how to improve your application materials. It does you no good to go to the meetings if you do not implement the discussed changes. Your work will often need to be revisited, revised, and improved during your career. Working on your application materials is no different. If you disagree with a particular recommendation, I encourage you to voice your concerns to your advisor. However, the materials will not improve themselves, so it is important to revise your materials and properly review all your revisions before submitting your application materials. The job market is challenging enough as-is; you do not want to miss-out on an opportunity because you failed to catch a typographical error. And remember, your advisors are always here to review your materials one last time before submittal. 

In addition to these suggestions, perhaps the most important piece of advice is to actually utilize your Career Services and Professional Development Office as much as possible.  The more you visit the office and utilize the resources, the more they can assist you in your job search.