When my job search turned into a full-time gig after taking the July PA Bar Exam I had an inkling that I was in for a ride. For starters, the fact that I was at a point where I didn't have a job lined up sucked because I had made it a priority to stay active from a work/fellowship/internship standpoint throughout school. Alas, when plan A and plan B didn't work out (pun totally intended), I was where a lot of recent law school grads have found themselves: trying to figure out what to do with a ~$200K graduate degree in a tumultuous market.
With so many opinions on how to best go about the job search, you inevitably have to make some gut decisions with less than perfect information. Do you mass email and play the statistics game? Do you take a more targeted approach? Do you leverage your strong undergrad alumni network? Is it better to focus on family and friends? Do you rely on those who have experience working with you?
I decided to forgo the numbers game and focus on the connections which I felt would give me the best referrals and my best chance at getting a foot in the door. Was that the best option? Well, early on I decided that once it was all over, I would take a look back and chart it out.
After a couple iterations, I eventually settled on a radial diagram that would 1) show the passage of time 2) characterize my job search events and 3) show their relative relationships.
Some preparatory comments. For simplicity, I lumped friends/classmates/co-workers into the "colleague" category. Similarly, the "job" category encompasses internships, summer jobs, and fellowships. Finally, the dotted lines represent cross connections, but the solid lines represent more substantial connections wherein one node directly leads to the next.
1) I couldn't believe that I only submitted 4 full-blown applications (custom cover letter, tailored resume, and referrals). Given that I was pretty much full-time on the hunt, it felt like I had done a lot more. That being said, I treated each one of these formal submissions as a high-value task so they were time intensive and I had to be selective or else I wouldn't have any time to actually search. Additionally, I treated nearly every "contact" as an informal job application in which I would ask about that person's business and try to understand whether or not there was an opportunity there. The data seems to under-represent my application rate, but still, not a lot of formal submissions.
2) As is evident from the data that I tried desperately to stay away from cold-calling. Starting back at the roots of the job search, I was using school connections, professors, and internships to serve as a foundation and then branching out from there to referrals, referrals of referrals, and so on. This feels like a risky strategy because as the job search progresses you are inevitably relying on folks that you have less of a connection with.
3) The strength (either length of time substantiating the relationship or closeness of the connections) of individual connections is in no way related to the number of referrals. There were some folks that showed an amazing willingness to help despite only having interacted with me over a coffee meeting. This lack of predictability put a huge premium on bringing my A-game to every introduction.
4) In terms of what I'm left with post-job search, the aversion to mass solicitation and cold-calling seems like the more efficient use of time given that even those connections that didn't ultimately lead to a job were still an opportunity to introduce myself to stakeholders in the community.
5) Despite coming from a solid undergrad program, nearly all my networking can be traced back to my grad program. I'm not sure if its the grad school's reputation in the community or a temporal factor, but my undergrad network was, for the purposes of this job search, essential nonexistent.
6) Ultimately, after all that job searching, I ended up getting an offer from a previous employer. I was thrilled to accept, but had no idea I was still on their radar. Go figure.
Hopefully there is something to be learned from the whole experience.
I couldn't be more excited about the path forward. My sincerest thanks for all the support, caring, and kindness. Great things to come.