Job Hunting 101: What Makes You Unique?

chessAlison and I were giving a talk to a bunch of students at the University of San Francisco School of Law this past weekend as part of a Greenhorn Legal program. We were talking about social media and personal branding. We challenged students in the audience to identify what made them unique.

We each come to the profession of law with some special and unique skills. They can be skills we honed during our previous professional lives. Or they can be skills we developed through our education, internships, or even our nonprofit volunteering. We are each made up of a unique set of experiences, which makes each of us a unique candidate for a job.

You must figure out what makes you unique and how you can communicate that to potential employers.

I will use myself as an example. Prior to law school I was a consultant working for government clients implementing software systems. I also spent some time doing political public relations work in Sacramento. When it came time to write cover letters and resumes for law school, I had one thing going for me that made me unique: I had client management experience.  I also had significant professional corporate experience.

I made sure to call out this experience in my resume and in my cover letter. It came up in a number of interviews. I knew that I could position myself as someone who had a proven track record of professional work and client services. And that made me a unique and attractive job candidate.

How do you know what makes you unique?

Well, you know better than most. I would challenge you to sit down with a sheet of paper and start to list all of your work experience. Then list the skills you learned or applied in each of those jobs. Start looking for patterns and themes. What can set you apart from the next resume in the stack? Is it your leadership and management of projects? Is it your clerkship? Is it your writing experience? Is it the article you published while you were an undergraduate? Thinking through your accomplishments will help you decide what makes you unique so you can highlight that for employers.

What if you are still struggling? What if you can’t find those themes? Well, this is a great opportunity to go speak to someone at the Career Services Office at your law school. Or to reach out to a career coach.

You have unique qualities that make you an excellent job candidate. But you need to make sure you are communicating that to potential employers. Spending time doing this brainstorming activity will definitely help you write cover letters and present yourself with confidence in an interview.

Want more tools to jump-start your career? Join us on April 13th for Catapult 2013 in San Francisco. Find out more.

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About Lee Burgess

Lee Burgess, Esq. is the co-founder of the Law School Toolbox, a resource for law students that demystifies the law school experience, the Bar Exam Toolbox, a resource for students getting ready for the bar exam and Trebuchet, a legal career resource. Lee is also the founder of Amicus Tutoring, LLC, a company she started to help students find success in law school and on the California bar exam. Lee has been adjunct faculty at two bay area law schools teaching classes on law school and bar exam preparation. You can find Lee on Twitter at @amicustutoring, @lawschooltools, @barexamtools & @trebuchetlegal.

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