I like to joke sometimes that when it came to growing up, I panicked early. I freaked out around the end of my junior year, when most of my senior friends were graduating, and from that point on I made it my mission to decide on a career before the end of the summer. I didn’t want to go off into the world confused and unemployed like my friends: I wanted to be ready. So by the end of the summer I had decided what I was going to do (at least for the foreseeable future) and started taking steps to make it happen.
Step #1: Gain experience in my chosen field.
Even though I already had an on-campus job, I got a second job at a law firm my senior year. I needed the money for tuition, but I also needed the experience. So even though I was just working on files and administrative assignments, I put a foot in the door of a company and got to see how a law office worked. For the first time, I experienced firsthand what working in a law firm would be like and it made me more sure of my decision to go into the legal field.
Step #2: Make myself memorable to the hiring staff.
By being flexible with my hours and consistent in my work, I made a place for myself at the office. I gained my supervisor’s trust and the notice of a few key people in the firm. At the time I was only hoping for a reference, some positive recommendation that I could take with me after graduation, but going out of my way in the short term paid off in a way that I didn’t expect: recommendation towards an internal promotion.
Step #3: Use my Connections.
I hadn’t initially planned to apply for a job at my firm, though I knew that one was available. They were hiring someone immediately and I knew that I still had a summer program to get through before I’d be ready to begin work. But when my supervisor encouraged me to apply anyway, I tossed my name into the ring. I made use of a connection, even when I wasn’t sure it could or would pay off.
In the end I had to go through a series of interviews before I was offered the job at my firm, just like any other candidate. But as I met with each of the associates and partners I realized that none of them had any real intention of withholding an offer. Over the last year I’d given them no reason to suspect that I wouldn’t be as good a candidate as anyone else – especially with the added bonus of my time at the firm and my impending summer of legal training. Step #1 led me to the right place, Step #3 the opportunity, and Step #2 had proven that I was not only memorable but also dependable. And so they hired me.
If there’s one thing I know that I did right as a twenty-something, it was planning ahead and landing this job. Getting a first offer after college is not an easy thing to do, as many of my friends are aware, and I’m so proud of myself for making it happen. A great deal of luck and good timing went into this process, but I also know that without the steps that I took in advanced I might never have made it here at all.