It was a pleasure to once again be asked to be on the panel for the “Life after Hireback” event hosted by Young Women in Law. If you are a law student or articling student, I highly recommend attending this annual session which brings together lawyers, career coaches, and recruiters to discuss strategies for students who are entering the job market following articling.

For those who are going to be job hunting this summer, this blog tackles the top five questions asked by students on how to handle job applications after hireback:

  1. When should I apply?

Students often feel torn about whether to start applying to jobs immediately following the hireback decision or to wait until the Fall to begin the process. My advice here is that there is no right or wrong time to start the process; you know yourself best and can decide what strategy will give you peace of mind. If you are feeling burned out from articling, consider taking some time out to get yourself in the right mind frame to be successful in your search – feelings of bitterness/exhaustion will come across in interviews. On the other hand, you may be the type of person who will not be able to relax until you start working towards the next step in your job search – in that case, update your resume and start the networking process. Don’t worry about what colleagues in similar positions are doing: only you know what is right for you.

  1. What should I do about reference letters?

You should definitely take steps to secure a number of reference letters before you leave your articling firm. It is best to get these while your work is still fresh in the minds of the lawyers you are asking and while you are still physically present to chase them down. You may be asked to draft them and that is acceptable. The best reference letters speak to the referee’s relationship to you and how they were in a position to assess your work so that they can credibly speak to your abilities and highlight your strengths.

  1. What should I include in my application package?

I know it can be time consuming, but each application should include a customized cover letter which directly addresses how your skills and experience fulfill the particular job requirements. Your package should also include your updated resume, up to two reference letters, and your law school transcripts. Please click here to see our previous blogs containing our top tips on drafting effective cover letters and resumes.

  1. I’ve heard networking is a great way for junior lawyers to secure positions. How should I approach this process?

Networking can feel like a daunting process, but my advice is to take it one step at a time. Going for coffees, signing up for continuing legal education seminars, and joining groups (like YWL or those catered to your practice area of interest) are great ways to meet people. You may not be a natural at networking (few people are), so a good way to begin is asking lawyers you have worked with if they can connect you to someone as a starting point. Even if there isn’t a job now, the contacts you are in touch with may have an opportunity open up down the road or they may have someone in their own network who is hiring and can make a connection for you. Remember that the contacts you have made throughout articling are just as important as the skills you have acquired.

  1. Should I hold out for my dream job or accept the first offer I receive?

This is another very difficult question with no right or wrong answer. When students hit the job market they often end up having a lot of irons in the fire and so may be faced with a situation where they receive an offer for a position that, while good, may not be their ideal position. No one can answer this question for you and no one knows what other offers may (or may not) lie around the corner. My best advice is to not feel pressured in to making a decision quickly; take the time you need (within reason) to consider the pros and cons of the offer in hand and then make a decision that you can live with.

Although the thought of hitting the job market can feel overwhelming, be positive. You are not alone – lots of fantastic lawyers were not hired back. You can be disappointed in the result of hireback but have confidence in the skills you have built and know that you can move forward. This moment of forced self-reflection could send you on an even better path.

Louise Woollcombe is a Senior Consultant with The Heller Group. Louise is actively involved in recruiting and placing lawyers, of all levels, into law firms and corporations. She is also the primary consultant for compliance and risk management related positions. Outside of the office, Louise enjoys skiing, cycling, yoga and baking. She has three children and volunteers with their schools and sports organizations.

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