Job-hunting books list thousands of tips to improve your search. On top of that, your law school career services office provides hundreds more. Then, there are your friends, relatives and colleagues, all weighing in with their suggestions. Good advice all. But it can lead to "analysis paralysis." To overcome information overload and get your job search into forward gear, just remember the Rule of Three: assessment, research and involvement.
1. ASSESS YOUR STRENGTHS AND PASSIONS. Those with the power to hire are looking for people who "by actions and deeds" demonstrate an honest interest in and enthusiasm for the work they seek. They'll hire you because you genuinely want to do the work, not just to earn the salary. In the words of Boston consultant David Maister, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Enthusiasm, and the hard work it inspires, count for more than an extra piece of ability."
You're severely diminishing your effectiveness if you haven't spent at least eight hours recalling the work, volunteer and leisure experiences you've enjoyed in the past and identifying the skills you used in pursuing them. To improve your job search, study your likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses until you can articulate them easily to others. On the other hand, don't feel too constrained in how you pursue opportunities. Leave a little room to try new things. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised at how well-equipped you are to undertake a job you haven't considered and may find satisfaction in work that might have seemed less fulfilling from a distance.
2. RESEARCH YOUR WAY THROUGH OBSTACLES. It's natural to get to a point in your job search where you feel stuck and unmotivated. That's just the time to let yourself explore, without expecting any results! Ask a career services counselor, law school professor, practicing lawyer or non-practitioner for input. Go online or head to the library to find out more about the fields that intrigue you. Read the publications of any related professional associations. Ask others if they know of anyone who works in the areas that intrigue you, and contact those referrals for further information. You'll reenergize yourself and, at the same time, uncover leads.
3. GET ACTIVELY INVOLVED. No employer will hire you just because you verbalize interest in their work. They'll hire you only when you prove your interest with action. Volunteer in their professional associations. Join a political action committee or nonprofit group that's closely aligned with their work. Publish an article in a relevant professional journal. Your earnest participation in the field to which you aspire will do more to assure you the kind of job you want than the most effective resume, cover letter or pitch imaginable. Meeting potential employers in the field will result in them looking at you differently. Outside of the context of competition for a job opening people may be less defensive and more receptive. You will have opportunities to display your abilities and passion without looking like you are putting on a show.
The steps are simple to recharge your job search: assess, explore and get involved.