Are you a 1L overwhelmed by the job search and how everyone around you seems to have summer positions lined up? Not to worry – everyone finds summer jobs at different points in the semester! After receiving rejection after rejection, I had many moments where I wondered whether perhaps something was wrong with my interview skills. But finally opportunities came through, and here I share four things that I learned through the interview process:
1. Shoot your shots and keep your options open!
The job market is competitive, so you may need to send out a LOT of applications! I applied to about 40 summer positions and an additional 50 judges. I will be externing for a judge this summer, but before law school, I had not even heard of judicial externships! There are so many options to consider, whether it be working for a judge, nonprofit, government agency, law firm, in-house company, professor, or clinic through your school. While it’s helpful to come into law school with an idea of the type of law you want to practice or the type of organization you want to work in, don’t let that limit your horizon of opportunities — you never know what might work for you, and there could be something amazing for you out there that you just aren’t aware of yet!
2. Tell a story that aligns your interest with the position you’re interviewing for
Since employers don’t expect you to have a ton of legal experience as a 1L, a key thing employers look for is your interest in the position and their organization. So make sure to tell a story that aligns with their mission and the work of the specific division you’re applying for. I failed to do this when interviewing with the criminal division of a government agency. I’m interested in environmental law, so in answering the typical opening, “Why this position?” question, I talked about my specific interest in their Environmental Crimes section. I regretted this answer as soon as they responded, “Well, we don’t really do environmental crimes…” If you’re not sure what they primarily do, first peruse their website and press releases; if it’s still not clear to you, reach out to someone who is more familiar with the organization’s work. If you aren’t sure which specific division the interview is for, clarify this prior to or at the start of the interview (another mistake I made).
3. Aim to have a conversation, not a Q&A session
One misconception I had about interviews is that they aren’t all about how good you are at fielding the “tell me a time when…” questions. You can have the most eloquently crafted examples following the STAR method that describe your brilliant leadership, effective communication, and creative problem-solving abilities. But if the interviewers don’t see you as likable, they probably won’t hire you. Preparing to answer the typical questions is important, but ultimately, employers want to know that you’ll be a pleasant colleague who they want to work with! Guiding the interview into a conversation is easier in some situations than others; sometimes the interviewer may jump right into a scripted list of questions, other times there might be more leeway. Even with the scripted questions, I would try to tell a story and insert conversational remarks, not recite something I had rehearsed several times beforehand (even if that was the case). I would also aim to be genuinely curious and ask questions throughout the interview, not just waiting until the end when it’s standard to ask questions. If you connect on a more personal level with your interviewer and have an enjoyable two-way conversation, your interviewer is probably more likely to remember you and feel positively about how the interview went.
4. Don’t take rejections personally!
I had several interviews that I thought went well, but the only feedback I got was that there were too many qualified candidates and not enough spots. While that isn’t the most comforting answer, it’s probably true! I had to become okay with not taking a rejection personally because more likely than not, it’s not personal. There are so many factors that go into a decision that are out of your control. I started to see each opportunity like a wave in the ocean – many may pass by, but there will always be another one. Also, a rejection for a 1L summer internship isn’t a door shut forever — if the organization is right for you, you will have more opportunities later on.
If you are fortunate enough to receive more than one offer, the best advice I received in choosing between opportunities is to choose a position where you’ll be doing something you’re genuinely interested in, something that refreshes you and makes you joyful and reminds you why you came to law school in the first place – because 1L year has a way of making you forget that! It might be an opportunity that allows you to explore new practice areas or dive deeper into one you’re already interested in. And if all else fails, toss a coin – but take notice not of where the coin lands, but rather, what you instinctively wish it will land on as the coin is in the air.
In the end, don’t sweat it! As several law students have told me, it doesn’t really matter in the long run what you do your first summer, as long as it’s something law-related. It’s more about what you learn from it and how it shapes your story going into 2L summer. And, if you’re still struggling with your job search, you can always seek the help of an expert!
For more advice on finding a 1L summer job, check out:
- Tips from a Law School Career Expert
- 5 Ways to Prepare for a Job Fair
- Podcast, Episode 232: Finding a 1L Summer Job in the Spring
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