How to Begin and Succeed in Your Job Search

Beginning a new job search? How can set yourself up for success? Read on to hear our experts' answers to three common questions facing job seekers.

Q: I am 50 years old, have operated in real estate companies, my background is accounting and am about to be admitted to the NY bar. I would like to get a job as a new attorney somewhere but have no idea how to begin my job search. Any ideas?

A: Follow all the networking advice offered in this section to help insure a successful transition to a legal career. Why not enlist an army of helpers, so to speak, in your new career quest? Make your age work to your advantage by tapping into the many contacts you've developed in your past jobs and personal relations. Not only is networking the best general job search approach but also the most effective when there is a possibility for potential discrimination (be it age, race, gender, or disability related). The person to person referral process of networking will have your contacts emphasizing your talents, abilities and experience to their contacts thus de-emphasizing your age and potential discrimination.

The feedback you can gain from others in the legal field will help you to focus your search (probably best to look at smaller, less bureaucratic/conservative firms) and aid you in achieving your goal.

How to Increase the Odds in Finding a Job

Q: What can a recent jobless graduate do to increase his odds in finding a job? Does using a temp agency help at all? Any other suggestions?

A: There is a lot you can do to increase your odds of finding a job. First of all, you should know that many recent grads find their jobs up to six to nine months after graduation. You should be actively checking in with your career planning center--in addition to job listings, they usually have programs or meetings for recent grads looking for jobs, and can often match you up with alumni. Temping can be a good thing to do as well because it gets you into the job market and puts you in contact with lawyers who could possibly help you. Try to temp in a smaller firm so you will have more contact with the lawyers and not just the other "temps." The only caveat I have about temping is that you have to be careful not to spend so many hours/months at your temp job that you neglect your job search. The bar associations are also very helpful to recent grads. They usually have free or low cost introductory memberships, and often have programs for recent grads. I have also known people to find jobs through becoming actively involved in a bar association committee. Pro bono work through a bar association is another option--it at least gives you some experience that you can talk about during an interview. Finally, there is usually a spurt of activity around the time the bar results come out so now may be a good time to step up your job search.

Handling Objections to Your Background and Experience

You finally got "The Big Interview" and you're doing your best to make a good impression. You're also worried that the interviewer is going to ask about that one embarrassing item or gap on your resume. Maybe it's that you were fired from your last job, or that you don't have the degree usually associated with this field. Perhaps you're afraid you'll be perceived as being too young, too old or too [fill in the blank] for the job.

How do you respond to this delicate situation?

1. DON'T TRY TO CONCEAL THE TRUTH, hoping the employer won't care. You may have learned how to hide your feelings in court, but it's harder to remain impassive in a job interview. Extra anxiety triggered by a half-truth may be conveyed to the interviewer through body language or voice quality and perceived as deception or dishonesty.

2. DON'T WAIT FOR THE INTERVIEWER TO BRING UP THE SUBJECT. Instead, raise the issue yourself as soon as you feel you've developed some rapport. You needn't linger on it though. Simply point out the situation, acknowledge that the employer may be concerned about it, and explain specifically why it will not interfere with your ability to meet the demands of this job.

3. TURN YOUR APPARENT WEAKNESS INTO A STRENGTH. Someone who's been fired can explain what he learned from the experience and how he's a better worker as a result. A new graduate can point out that she's ready to be molded into the type of lawyer the employer needs. Meanwhile, the experienced lawyer can tout his ability to be profitable from the very first hour.

4. APPLY TO DIFFERENT EMPLOYERS if you can't figure out how to sell yourself to your targeted employers. A small entrepreneurial venture may appreciate a jack-of-all-trades more than a large company where functions are sharply defined and separate. A history of providing good results but remaining in jobs for only a short time will make you an appealing candidate for temporary, project, consulting or contract work.