A few years ago, there was a Twitter storm of people debating the worst career advice they’d been given. I was shocked to see one of the pieces of advice most heavily criticized was cold-calling potential employers.
Tons of people claimed that jobs simply weren’t found that way.
However, in my entire post-law school life, I have never gotten a job that was advertised. Of the five jobs I have worked since law school, not even one of those employers had posted a Help Wanted ad.
If I have such a strong history of finding unadvertised work, why was this method so controversial? To be fair, this method may not work in every industry, in every geographic location.
There are certain employers like federal agencies that must follow procedures for hiring. It is highly unlikely you’ll get an unadvertised job at this kind of employer.
But there are still plenty of situations where it’s possible to find unadvertised work.
Be Strategic About Where You Look
Many small firms, small businesses, start-ups, solo entrepreneurs, and community service organizations could use legal advice.
I was late to the game trying to find a summer internship after my second year of law school. I reached out to my local Legal Aid to see if they could use some help. Turns out, they did! Not only did I get a summer job out of it, but they hired me short-term after law school, too.
Similarly, I have my own law office. I’m friends with a professor who asked me if I could use an intern. I honestly hadn’t considered hiring an intern, but he suggested I talk to one of his students who was interested in attending law school. The student was fantastic, and I hired her. I never advertised for an internship. I wasn’t even thinking about it! Because this intern talked to her professor about interning for a small law office, she not only got the internship, but her role has continued to grow.
Many places like solo practitioners and Legal Aid offices are usually grossly overworked. Even if they weren’t considering hiring an intern, the prospect of extra help could be enough to convince them to give you a chance anyway.
Don’t Be Afraid To Cold Call
As a freshly sworn-in attorney, I didn’t have many job prospects. I graduated in 2010, a terrible year for the economy, and most of my classmates struggled to find work, too.
I volunteered for a local political organization in my hometown where I met a gentleman who knew an attorney in the area. My new friend said the attorney was always complaining about how busy work was. I figured it couldn’t hurt to reach out to the attorney to offer to help.
The attorney jumped at the opportunity, I interviewed and convinced him he was working too hard and should hire an associate. I was hired on the spot, and that’s the true story of how I got my first job out of law school in a down economy.
There was a little bit of luck involved and a good referral from my new political friend. Having a good reference certainly made a difference, but the truth is my new boss would never have called me if my friend had simply suggested it.
By taking matters into my own hands and reaching out to the attorney, I was showing that I could be aggressive and ambitious. My new boss appreciated those qualities in his associates.
I’ve since worked a bunch of different jobs including doing a stint in fundraising for higher education. Cold calling is never fun. The prospect of rejection is disheartening at best and nausea-inducing at worst. I can promise, though, fear of cold calling gets easier to cope with the more you practice. The absolute worst that could happen is an attorney simply tells you, “no.” That’s it! Big deal!
On the other hand, the best thing that could happen is you get hired for a job that is a great fit. Or, you get hired for a job that helps lead to the next step in your career.
There are many great possibilities from cold calling and asking attorneys, businesses, and organizations if they’re hiring. Don’t let fear keep you from reaching out and unearthing a hidden gem of an opportunity.
As you can tell from the true stories I’ve shared, cold calling can and does sometimes work, but having a personal “in” makes a big difference, too. I trusted my professor friend, so when he mentioned having a student interested in practicing law, I was a bit skeptical about hiring an intern, but not nearly as much as if I didn’t have a reference I trusted.
Similarly, my first boss heard good things about me from my friend in local politics. With that reference, my boss was already open to learning more about what I could offer the firm.
Ask your friends, neighbors, family, and acquaintances if they know of anyone who could use some extra legal help. If you ask whether anyone is hiring, the answer may well be a quick no, but if you ask whether anyone could use help, it opens opportunities that may not be advertised.
You’re capable of getting the job of your dreams. Be fearless and go for it!
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