Monday, October 20, 2014

Engage Your Senses for Powerful Proofreading

By: Kandice Thorn

I am constantly emphasizing the importance of a *PERFECT* resume and cover letter, and today I'm going to give you a powerful tool to help you get there: using your senses.

Now, obviously, I am not suggesting that tasting or smelling your resume will bring it to the next level - that would be gross and creepy and ultimately useless.  But here is how engaging your senses of touch, sight, and hearing can help you make your document perfect.

Touch:  I can't explain why, but something happens when you print a document out versus just looking at it on the computer screen.  While holding it in your hands, you interact more with the document and suddenly errors you didn't realize were there pop out at you.  Before you submit a document, always print it and do a review that way.

Hearing:  Reading your document aloud helps you hear your document the way others will read it.  It's easy to skim over awkward words or typos when you are just looking with your eyes, but these errors become impossible to ignore when you read aloud.  It forces you to slow down and consider every word in your document.  It also helps you get a better sense of how your sentences flow together.

Sight:  Obviously, you use your eyes to read, but you should remember to use your eyes to see the overall structure of your document as well.  How does it look on the page?  Is it easy to skim?  Do you use white space effectively on the page?  What about headings?  What elements take up the most room on the page - are those the most important?  Use your eyes to review your document both up close and from afar.

You can use these techniques for any document you draft: resumes, cover letters, research papers, contracts, etc., etc. etc.  I'd bet that the more you use them, the more you'll wonder how you ever got by without them!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What to Wear to an Interview?

By: Kandice Thorn

I could do an entire month's worth of blog posts about interview attire, but why do that when others have already done it so well?  This week, I'm going to highlight a couple of posts by others who have done a great job explaining proper interview attire.

First, the Corporette blog gives excellent advice for women:

For men, check out the Lawyerist's post:

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Monday, October 6, 2014

What's the Deal with Cover Letters??

By: Kandice Thorn

Career advisors give widely diverse advice when it comes to cover letters.  Some assert that a good cover letter is key to getting a good job.  Others tell you that cover letters are obsolete and nobody reads them anyway.  The truth is probably a mix - some recruiters read cover letters and care very much about what they say; many others (perhaps most) toss them in the trash immediately; some might read them only after the resume has passed muster.

So what does all this mean for you?  How does this inform your drafting?  Here are my top five pieces of cover letter advice:

1.  Keep it short.  2-3 paragraphs is all you need.  Anything longer will definitely not get read.  One should be able to read it at a glance.  If a reader can't get the main points by skimming alone, it's too long or too wordy or both.  If you want your cover letter to be noticed, a short letter is much more likely to be read than a long one.

2.  Do not rehash your resume.  Instead, focus on 2-3 things you want the employer to know about you.  Try to put a spin on it that is different from what is in your resume, for example by tying two experiences together in a new way that makes sense given the job qualifications.

3.  Tie your skills to the needs of the company/position.  This demonstrates that you know the position and have done your research.

4.  Convey enthusiasm for the position and the company.

5.  Don't put too much pressure on the cover letter.  This is not to say that you shouldn't proofread - just like everything you submit to a potential employer, the document should be flawless - but don't agonize over whether you highlighted the right skill to a particular employer.  Chances are nobody will read it anyway.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Most Important Six Seconds for your Resume

By: Kandice Thorn

I learned something incredible last week--a recruiter spends on average just six seconds looking at a resume.  Yes, you heard me right.  That meticulous document that you spent hours upon hours to perfect will get just a six second glance to determine whether you will move into the "yes (interview)" or "no" pile.

This means that you need to make sure the right things are jumping off the page in those six seconds.  Here are a few tips to make your six seconds count:

  • Stick to the one-page limit.  The second page will feel cumbersome and will not get even a cursory glance.
  • Make sure your resume is well-organized.  Use headings that stand out.  A well-organized resume is easier to skim.  Follow the samples in the mini-guide for examples of organizational structures that is easy to follow.  The samples also demonstrate an organizational scheme that is common in the U.S. and in the legal field in particular (this is useful because a familiar format will be easier to skim). 
  • Make sure the information you are including is important and relevant.  A resume is not a "throw in the kitchen sink" undertaking.  Be selective about what you include and make sure it is information the employer will care about.
Fordham students and alumni should feel free to reach out to me to discuss how to organize your resume so that your best qualities stand out.

Monday, September 22, 2014

What Are You Waiting For? Join a Bar Association!

By: Kandice Thorn

I've said it before, and I'll say it again (emphatically): law students should join bar associations.  If you haven't joined a bar association yet, I urge you to consider joining one.  Student membership is typically steeply discounted and bar associations are an incredibly rich source of opportunities for networking, volunteering opportunities, and just learning more about a particular area of practice.

Here is a sampling of local bar association events in the coming weeks:
Don't miss out on this opportunity to enrich your academic and professional experience.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Resume Real Estate

By: Kandice Thorn

If I told you that you have 500 square feet with which to design an apartment that you will live in, how would you design it?  How much space would you allocate to the bedroom versus the living room or the bathroom or the closet?  I imagine you would devote more space to the "more important" rooms and less space to "less important" rooms.  If you have a large shoe collection but don't cook, you might have a big closet and a small kitchen; but a gourmet chef who has little interest in clothing might do the opposite.

With a resume, you have a similarly small space - one page - on which to arrange all of your education and experience.  When organizing your resume, it can help to first identify the things that you think will be of particular importance to an employer, and those that will be least important, so that you allocate space accordingly.  If you worked for three years as an attorney at a law firm, that should take up significantly more space on your resume than a six-month internship you did while you were in school.

I see many resumes where this space allocation is not taken into consideration - everything is given equal weight.  Typically this results in resumes that exceed the one-page maximum that that seem scattered and unfocused.  By allocating space properly, your resume will be more focused, and the most important items/experiences will stand out to an employer.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Your First Networking Event

By: Kandice Thorn

I have been approached by several students recently who were preparing to attend their first networking events. I'm using the term "networking events" to broadly refer to conferences, panel discussions, "meet and greet" events, or anything else that will attract professionals with whom you may want to build a professional relationship.

Attending your first networking event can be intimidating. You might not know what to wear, what to say, or how to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation. The good news is that it gets easier every time you do it. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Don't put too much pressure on yourself. For the first event, it's okay to be an observer. Watch how people dress, how they interact with one another. Consider yourself a social scientist observing what groups of lawyers do when trapped in a conference room. You are gathering information that will be useful to you the next time around. 
  • It's better to be overdressed than under-dressed. Ideally, you'd be dressed perfectly appropriately for the setting. But if you aren't sure what "ideal" for a particular event, remember that being overdressed shows that you care and are trying to make a good impression; being under-dressed conveys that you are lazy or don't care. Most people are coming from work to attend networking events, so they will be dressed professionally. For most events that are held at a law firm, a suit will be appropriate for both men and women. For events at bar associations, a suit will also be appropriate, though you could opt for business casual attire (a collared shirt and slacks for men, a blouse and skirt or slacks for women). 
  • Don't be late.  It's not bad form to be a few minutes early.  While nobody enjoys being the first one there, it may give you a good opportunity to network with other early birds in a more low key setting. 
The most important thing is not to expect perfection the first time around. Networking in professional social settings is an art that takes a long time to perfect. Keep at it and you'll find your confidence growing rapidly.