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Friday, March 29, 2013

Getting the Most Out of the Alumni Career Forum

There are two purposes to the Alumni Career Forum taking place this Wednesday, April 3rd:

Network: You’ve heard this before - - people often find a job through people they know! The Alumni Career Forum is designed to help you get to know practicing attorneys. While the  Forum is not a job fair (resume exchanges are not allowed), students often gain employment through meeting alumni and following-up with them on their own. The alumni participating will be ready and waiting to meet you.

Exploration:  Over 40 areas of law will be represented at the Forum. This is an excellent time for you to explore many different practice areas of the law and learn about different career paths. You will find out what areas are growing and which are declining and changing. You will gain practical information and realistic insights as to what you can do NOW to prepare for gaining legal experience/employment in the future. You will also learn how New England Law alumni found their first job(s) and how they came to work in their practice area.

The Do’s:

1. Do: Dress in appropriate business attire. This event is taking place after work hours, and the alumni volunteers are coming straight from work in their business attire. You want to impress these individuals. Dress professionally.

2. Do: Be on time. Give yourself the full two hours to attend the event if possible. There will be lots of people for you to meet. Give yourself enough time to make the most of this opportunity.

3. Do: Be aware of how much time you are spending with one person. At this event, 5-10 minutes is enough time to talk with someone. Be mindful of other students who may be waiting behind you to talk with the alum you are talking with.

4. Do: Be open minded in choosing who you speak to. You may receive excellent advice on how to get a job from someone who is practicing in an area that you have no interest. You may also become interested in areas that you haven’t yet explored!

5. Do: Collect business cards from participants. After you have talked with an alum, ask for his/her business card. Try following up with an email, letter or phone call.

6. Do: Be prepared. Review the Participant Biographies booklet before the event and know something about the alumni you would like to meet before you attend the event. Try to think of questions that you would like to ask that person about their career so that you will be well prepared to make the most of this opportunity.

The Don'ts:
1. Don’t: Bring a resume to this career forum. Collect business cards to follow-up with the alumni in the future.

2. Don’t: Ask for a job! This is not a job fair. Focus on building new professional relationships, gathering information for your career plans and making valuable contacts, rather than focusing on the job you hope to gain.

3. Don’t: Limit your questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question. For example, there are many aspects of practicing business/corporate law. The simplest question of: “What does a corporate attorney do?” is a great way to start a conversation.

4. Don’t: Limit who you are willing to meet. Look around and see who is by themselves at their table. Go to them and strike up a conversation. Even if you are positively sure you have no interest in their practice area, they may be full of great job search information, or you may learn of a new area of interest or they may know someone to connect you with.

5. Don’t: Feel like you are “schmoozing” people. Attorneys love to share their story. You are allowing them a chance to do so. Also, alums remember what it was like to be a student and they want to help you!

Networking Etiquette and Sample Questions:

Introductions and Closings

1. First, introduce yourself and give the alum relevant information such as your class year, your interests, work experience, student associations/memberships and organizations.

2. Shake hands firmly.

3. Use the list of questions below to help get the conversation started.

4. Be aware of the time. Try not to spend more than 5 minutes with someone if there are students waiting.

5. Towards the end of your conversation, ask for a business card from the participant.

6. Thank the alum for his/her time and coming to meet you.

Suggestions of Questions to Ask
What is a typical work day for you?
What types of cases/projects are you currently working on?
How is what I am learning in school different from what it will be like practicing [insert practice area]?
What does an [insert practice area] lawyer do?
How did you become a [insert practice area] attorney?
If I am interested in [insert practice area], what can I do to make myself an attractive candidate for employment by the time I graduate?
Can you recommend any professional organizations that might be useful for someone interested in [insert practice area] law?

Breaking into Certain Fields
How did you get your first job in [insert practice area] after law school?
Did you work while you were a student? Where? Did it help you get into [insert practice area]?
I have had two experiences within [insert practice area]. Should I continue to work in this practice area, or is it better for me to try a different practice area?
How did you get into a “solo/small/medium/large sized” firm? What do they look for in attorneys?
How important are grades to get my first position in a “solo/small/medium/large sized law firm or government agency/clerkship” opportunity?

The Alumni Career Forum will take place at the Revere Hotel on Wednesday, April 3rd, 4:00pm - 6:00pm, and is open to all current New England Law | Boston students. To attend, please RSVP with the CSO!

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