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Melissa Pollack spent 6 years working in the recruiting departments at some of the nation’s top law firms including Simpson Thacher, White & Case and Sonnenschein. She has been helping attorneys prepare their resumes and prepare for interviews for over 10 years.

Given today’s economic situation, doing a job search is even more difficult than in years past.  Sure, the increased usage of the Internet makes finding job postings a lot easier, but you’re constantly competing with hundreds, if not thousands, of other people for a single job.  So what’s an unemployed attorney to do?  NETWORK.

Here are some ideas about how to network and some less conventional approaches that you may not have thought about.

  1. Keep up with old colleagues.  Use Facebook and LinkedIn (read my prior post about social networking and your job search for some additional cautions on these!) to keep up with former colleagues and classmates.  If you see a job posting, check LinkedIn to see if you know anyone who works there, or if any of your second-level contacts work there.  It can be very helpful to have an insider pass along your resume, rather than ending up in a giant pile of resumes on a recruiter’s desk.
  2. Reach out to former employers and senior-level attorneys/others you’ve worked with in the past.  While it’s always a good idea to use these people as references, you can also just keep up with them on a polite social level.  Since senior-level people are often the ones making decisions about when and how to hire, be fresh in their minds when a position is being filled.  Don’t be shy about approaching former assigned mentors, either – if someone thought of you highly, keep up that contact.  You can use your law school professors in the same way, too.
  3. Contact your undergrad and law school Career Services Offices.  See if they have any networking programs available (my alma mater had a “speed networking” event in NYC a few months ago – it was so successful, they had a cap on enrollment AND ran a second event a few weeks later), or access to an alumni database.  If you have a local alumni club, join it and bring business cards to social events – you never know who you’ll meet there!
  4. Join local groups – find something you’re interested in (whether its political, social, sports, bar associations, etc.) and go out and meet new people.  Don’t be shy to talk about your job search and introduce yourself to people.
  5. If you have an interest in working at a particular company (or law firm) that might not be hiring at the moment, see if you can find someone who works there who would be willing to give you an informational interview.  I have found this works best when the contact is a friend (or a friend of a friend), rather than a stranger, who has no vested interest in you.
  6. Talk to your friends who work at large corporations and check the website for hiring needs in your particular field – for example, you might not have thought about talking to your friend who works for an ad agency about your job search, but perhaps her legal department is hiring.
  7. Consider other areas of legal work – Human Resources and Employee Relations (for you labor attorneys out there), Compliance, Banking, Mortgage-based opportunities (not just for the real estate attorneys either – given the collapse of the housing market, think about all those litigations that people are bringing against the banks and lenders!), non-IP positions at tech and pharmaceutical corporations (and IP positions at non-technical places), local branch offices of large corporations, and so on and so forth.  You need to be creative about where to look for jobs and think outside the box.
  8. If a headhunter or recruiter calls you, ALWAYS return the call.  ALWAYS listen to the job listing he/she is calling about.  You can decide later if you want to apply.  And if you choose not to apply, refer a friend or colleague who’s looking.  The friend might return the favor one day, and the headhunter will likely remember you too.
  9. Keep your CLE credits and bar admissions current.  There are lots of free classes out there, so not only is it cheap, but you can meet lots of other people at classes AND keep your skills sharp (even if you’re unemployed).

Remember – networking is a great tool for your job search.  Don’t be shy, but be polite, flexible and creative.  You never want to be pushy or overzealous, but don’t feel awkward about approaching people you know to talk about your job search.  Be your own advocate!

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