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Career Planning: Packaging Yourself

 Consider yourself and the services which you can provide as a product which you are going to try to sell in the marketplace. You want to present yourself in such a way that best allows potential employers to recognize that you are the most qualified person for the position.

This can be accomplished in several ways. Suppose you have already determined that you would like to work in a small firm that does immigration law. You have taken immigration law courses and sat in on a half-day seminar offered by the county bar association. During your second year of law school, you served as a volunteer for a student international human rights group and worked part- time for the National Immigration Project. You know you are a good listener, a problem-solver, a counselor, and a caring person. You have kept up your ability to speak Spanish fluently by tutoring an elementary student three times a week. To support yourself as an undergrad, you started a house painting service one summer and you know the experience of running your own business will prove valuable. Based on your notes from courses taken, the bar association seminar, and reading articles about the field, you know two or three firms that specialize in immigration law, some of the names of lawyers who practice in this area, and what the newest developments are. As a result, you can present yourself as someone with the desired qualifications, credentials, and commitment needed to secure a position in your chosen area of interest. You will, of course, want to include this when compiling your resume.

But merely putting them together as a resume alone and mass mailing it will not be enough to land a position no matter how good your resume is. Bolles cites in What Color is Your Parachute? a six-year survey by an outplacement firm which showed that 68% of its candidates found their jobs through personal contacts, 15% through a search firm's activities, 9% by answering classified ads, and only 8% by doing a mass mailing of their resumes or a letter and adds: "My conversations with job-hunters, over the years, have convinced me that there is a passionate belief in resumes that is out of all proportion to how often they in fact ever get anyone an interview for a job. I think the faith placed in resumes is a very misplaced faith."

Bolles believes that there is actual harm in sending out resumes. ''Job-hunters who invest a lot of time on sending out their resume, often suffer tremendous damage to their self-esteem when their resumes are rejected or ignored.'' He refers to an old career- counseling principle: A resume is something you should never send ahead of you, but always leave behind.

Accepting Bolles's view that the resume is not the be-all, end-all way of getting a job, you still need to put together something to be left behind so now, since you know what you are looking for and why you are qualified, is the appropriate time.

Look again at your notes. Can you identify specific things you have done that relate to positions in your particular area? lf you want to concentrate on landlord/tenant issues, can you demonstrate you have relevant experience even though you may never have worked on a landlord/tenant case per se? Perhaps you have never appeared before the rent control board, but you may have gone through a similar process for a hearing with another board while still in school.

If your desired position does not involve appearing in court, stress your writing, advising, teaching, lobbying, and other related experience. A law student who clerked for a firm involved in a big case or a young lawyer who has already demonstrated court skills may have impressive litigation skills or experiences, but if you know you do not want to spend your life as a litigator, do not elaborate on them in the resume.

Packaging Yourself is part of our ongoing Career Planning Series with Ronald W. Fox, Esq.

Previous installments include:

Understanding Career Planning

Evaluating Experience and Skills

Narrowing Your Options

Finding Your Area of Practice Preference

Is Solo Practice Right for You?

How to Search for a Satisfying Position

Ronald W. Fox is the principal of Career Planning for Lawyers.  Since 1990, he has provided individual guidance to law students and lawyers in transition helping them search for and locate positions consistent with their personal values and their professional goals.