Last time I wrote about how you would choose a law firm that is best for your career. In hindsight, this implies I am writing to that guy or gal graduating from Harvard at the top of the class, who has many choices. But what about everyone else – the people who don’t have choices and need a job? Okay, here is how to do it. It is simple really. Just follow these steps:
Read Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People (affiliate link). Read it a couple of times. Warren Buffett I think read it over 50 times. I am not sure how many times I have read it, but certainly more than ten. You learn a ton from it. Among other things, there is a key phrase in this book, which is that your goal is to “arouse an eager want” in the person you are speaking with to want to do business with you, hire you, etc. This is what it is all about.
Figure out what you are good at. Are you good at writing, at communicating and getting along with people, at negotiating, at selling and marketing, etc? It is a good idea to be brutally honest with yourself and ask others who respect you enough for their honesty. This is not the time to live in fantasyland. Also take stock of your interests and your passions and what you have knowledge about, including hobbies and areas of expertise. You will find this exercise very useful as you go through the next steps.
Narrow your focus. You may have trouble with this, but it is critical. Your instincts and emotions are shouting at you:
I need a job. I will take “any” job. Just give me a doggone job!
But sorry, that will not cut the mustard. No one wants to just hire “someone.” People want to hire someone who will be “exceptional,” “special,” “right for the job,” a “real star.” And worse yet, if you tell people you “need a job,” you will just be forgotten.
Let me give an example of what I mean by narrowing your focus: Let’s say you did well in transactional work in law school and you like transactional work and you want to do that kind of work. If you tell people you want to be a transactional lawyer it just isn’t memorable. There are hundreds of thousands of transactional lawyers in the U.S. right now and several million more worldwide. Nothing is special about you at all. So consider narrowing it down and there are a lot of ways to do this. You could say:
I want to be a corporate deal lawyer (still way too broad).
I want to be a corporate lawyer who focuses on deals in the auto industry (hmmmm…..maybe now you have something).
Why is this? Well, you think back to step two, where you recognized that you really just love cars. You know everything about them. It has always been a passion for you. You actually know the difference between a tire iron and a carburetor. Your parents own an auto dealership and you used to sell cars on the weekend. You really have some solid industry knowledge. You reason that the auto industry is changing and morphing (everyone from the new players like Tesla and Google to the old guys like GM and Ford), and all across the world different players are doing all sorts of amazing things. You reason that this industry will grow, consolidate, shrink, change, and morph, and they will need knowledgeable lawyers to handle these deals.
Step up your learning. Whatever you don’t know start to learn about. Subscribe to auto-industry trade publications. Tell your friends and colleagues everywhere that this is “you” from now on. Read and read and read. Learn and learn and learn. You are a font of knowledge in this industry.
Start networking this way. No more saying “I need a job.” Instead, you are saying, “I am planning to work in a highly specialized area of corporate law, which is M&A in the auto industry. There are many lawyers that will do M&A, but I will focus in this area and I will add real value in it, because I not only love the industry but I really understand it.”
Your solicitations to employers are provocative and different now. You aren’t looking for any old job – you are looking only for an employer that does auto “stuff.” You are targeting this type of job now, and only this type of job. You start to see which law firms do this kind of thing. Maybe even auto industry general counsel’s offices, etc.
You ask to meet people even when there is no job, which are so-called “informational interviews.” At these meetings you get your point across as to the narrow niche you want and that you will excel in. You become unforgettable. You are that “guy who wants to do corporate work in the auto industry.” You start saying to all who will listen kind of off-beat things like “if you think of a car, you should think of me!”
You treat casual meetings as chances to hone your message. You don’t go through the motions. You are exciting and interesting, and you have a narrow focus.
You will be amazed at how many of your close friends’ relatives are senior executives, or senior lawyers, in the auto industry, and many of them will do you a favor by introducing you.
Actually, this isn’t a step – just a pause to take stock now. It used to be you were entirely forgettable. You were some guy looking for a job; any old job. Anyone who met you immediately forgot you. Now you are a super-duper expert in the auto industry with a legal degree and a passion to use it in that very industry. Anyone who meets you isn’t going to forget you. Since your message is “sticky,” it will, well, stick in their minds. If someone says “car,” they probably really will think of you. You are dramatically increasing your chances of one person referring you to another, and so on.
Keep at it and don’t give up. This really will work. Don’t be afraid of narrowing your focus. It is what is making you (i) not that useful to most people but (ii) incredibly useful to a few people. With those few people you will have “aroused an eager want.” Instead of you begging to get hired, the employer will really want to hire you. And you only need “ONE” job!
Finally, and this is not a step, but do the obvious things:
Dress sharp. For men, a suit and a tie, with a carefully done knot, and, yes, shine your shoes! Women, appropriate professional attire (sorry, I am not an expert here). Appropriate tailoring for all is a must. If you look sharp you make a great impression and the converse.
Work on your delivery. Practice in the mirror. Practice with your friends, parents, and significant others. Hearken back to step one about what you are good and not good at and weave that into what you say when you talk about yourself. Take a short course on interviewing, or whatever it is that you need. You will be amazed how bad you are at first and how good you get after you get your “rap” down. Trust me, no one interviews well at first. We all have to practice that subtle combination of being yourself and selling yourself, which is awkward for many. And ultimately you have to be able to answer the question that is always hanging there: “Why should I hire you?” You have to be able to absolutely crush that question.
A breath mint is a great idea before a meeting, by the way.
Your handshake is really important. If you have cold, clammy hands, consider how to dry them and warm them up. Sorry to say this but it is part of the impression you make.
Of course, research the company you are talking to before you get there. Have some exciting and interesting talking points that have something to do with the expertise you are showcasing. You don’t want to just sit there. You want to be able to say something like: “I was really looking forward to meeting you. I read about your new plan to [fix carburetors with pure mind control] and found it really interesting and exciting and cutting-edge…..”
Finally, the last thing I will leave you with is this: BE ENTHUSIASTIC. Make the meeting an exciting, fun event for the interviewer. Make her feel like it would be just peachy-keen great to have you to work with, rather than that it is boring having you around. Maybe have some coffee (or a Red Bull) before the meeting.
Now good luck. You can definitely do this!