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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to Transform Your Non-Legal Work Experience into In-Demand Skills

By Mo Chanmugham, Esq.

The majority of law students come to law school without any prior legal experience. While many have worked, their experiences range from positions in retail and restaurants to the military or general administrative work. This leaves their resume looking rather light on the type of experience legal employers are looking for when they want to make a summer hire. If only your desire to be a lawyer since you were a kid could be a worthy bullet point in times like this. Don’t fret, there is still a way for you to impress employers with that summer job as a camp counselor.

7 Professional Skills Employers Are Looking For

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey, asking hiring managers what skills they are looking for in the class of 2015, there are a handful of professional skills that are in demand across all majors and degrees.

1. Ability to work in a team structure

2. Ability to make decisions

3. Ability to solve problems

4. Ability to communicate with people inside and outside an organization

5. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work

6. Ability to obtain and process information

7. Ability to influence others

So while you must gain core legal skills, such as, conducting legal research, drafting memoranda, reviewing contracts, preparing trial materials, and so on, you can now highlight your non-legal work experience by framing it in the context of these seven professional skills.

Frame Your Work Experience Using These Professional Skills

Use the following format to write your work experience on your resume:

Action verb + responsibility or duty + explanation of how, why, or result

You never want to just say what you did and leave it at that because that is not enough information to make your resume stand out. You want to tell people what you did and why. You could start by looking at the official job description from your last job to help you get started. Job descriptions are written in a way that makes it easy to translate the responsibilities and duties on to your resume in a style and language that employers are used to reading. From there you will have to add your own details about how you completed your responsibilities or why you did them or what result was achieved.

Example: If you worked as an administrative assistant for a real estate company and you helped manage their apartment listings, rather than say:
  •   Helped manage apartment listings
You could say:
  • Managed apartment listings by collecting and organizing new listings from agents and posting them to company website to increase website traffic.
Example: If you were the lead counselor at a summer camp, rather than say:
  • Responsible for 30 campers and organized daily activities.
You could break it up into several lines providing a more detailed and impressive picture of your experience:
  • Managed a team of 6 counselors who oversaw the well-being and safety of 30 daily campers.
  • Organized educational and athletic activities on camp grounds as well as day trips to museums and farms.
  • Communicated effectively with parents regarding sensitive issues such as disruptive behavior.
The possibilities are endless based on how you frame your work experience. You can now effectively communicate your valuable work experience to employers by highlighting the right skills in the right way.

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