As a recent graduate, the first thing on your mind once the initial thrill and satisfaction wears off, will undoubtedly be; “So what next?” Job hunting is less of a science and more of an art form, especially in a field as highly contested as law, so as a law graduate specifically, simply waltzing into your local job centre simply isn't going to suffice, you're going to have to do the vast majority of the ground work yourself.
Thankfully LinkedIn makes much of that work either, and is a platform built from the ground up to facilitate the process of pairing job seekers with employers. There are, in fact, thousands of graduate recruiters currently using LinkedIn to help them find the best fresh-faced candidates, indeed, you'd be hard pressed to find a modern law firm who didn't have some kind of LinkedIn presence.
Here we'll be taking recent graduates through the features and possibilities that LinkedIn offers for those “Fresh off the boat.” LinkedIn isn't just a job board, it's a social media network geared towards professionals, and with the right tweaks, your profile can act as beacon for employers.
Adapt Your Profile
If you've spent the last few years studying for a degree in law, chances are you'll already have a LinkedIn profile of your own. But is it 100% complete? A profile that's 100% complete and has been edited specifically to attract clicks will be far more visible and effective than a bland, default profile that looks as though it was knocked together in a spare afternoon.
LinkedIn will place your current position as your headline by default, but as your current position will probably read as “Unemployed,” you'll definitely want to change it. Make your headline stand out by putting what you have to offer in real terms. This is not Facebook or an online dating profile, you're selling your skills, not your personality. So, for example, putting “Law Graduate, Specialising in Family Law with Valuable Experience” would be a great headline, whereas “Enthusiastic Solicitor, recently graduated and eager to work” would not be. The headline should reflect your goals and where you want to be, not where you are or have been.
Again, this is not Facebook, but it is also not a passport or drivers license. Choose a good headshot that could be classified as professional, but personable. Working in law, it's probably also best that you're wearing a tie in your photo and have sensible haircut. People will judge you on your photo, whether you want them to or not, so you might as well give yourself a decent chance.
Keywords: Subtly plant keywords that relate to the profession throughout your profile. Many firms will be searching through LinkedIn using keywords in order to filter out potential applicants.
Experience: If you're looking to find work as a solicitor in a decent firm, your summer spent washing dishes at the local pub probably won't help you. Edit your experiences to only include jobs (including work experience) that are relevant to your career.
Summary: Edit your summary to the extent that it posits you as the perfect solicitor. Recruiters are looking for motivation more than anything else, so a great idea could be to use your legal work experience to reveal why you are pursuing a career in law. This can include anything from open court session you attended where you gained a great deal of respect from “Seeing justice done,” to potential work experience at law firms where you got a “Real taste for the lifestyle and the work.” Also try to alter the tone of this section so that it strikes a more professional tone. Professionalism is an essential skill in the legal sector, so reveal just how professional you are through your language, your attention to detail and your tone.
Skills/Endorsements/ Recommendations: One of LinkedIn's most valuable tools, and what sets it apart from conventional CV's, is the ability to list your skills and have these skills endorsed by people who matter. Be sure to use the skills section to highlight your skills and achievements, and ask your relevant connections to endorse them. Or go that extra mile and consider asking for a recommendation? This would be especially valuable if you've done any internships where you made a good impression.
LinkedIn Do's and Don'ts for Graduates
DO - Be thorough. By listing all of your pertinent skills and experiences without skimping on the details, you won't have to make the hard sell elsewhere.
DON'T – Think that LinkedIn is like all social media networks. It's essentially an online CV, so don't use it as your personal soapbox or platform from which to inform people you've just returned from the gym.
DO - Keep your profile up to date. If it looks like you've been neglecting your profile it will reflect badly on you to potential employers.
DON'T – Make spelling and grammar mistakes. Of course, you're not applying for jobs as an English teacher, but in law, correct spelling and grammar is absolutely crucial, so don't get lazy!
DO - Treat people on LinkedIn as you would in the real world. Apply the same rules to LinkedIn as you would to real life. Bombarding people with job requests over and over, for example, or gushing about the firm without any solid facts, will make you look unprofessional.
DON'T – Undersell yourself. Positivity is the key in this profession, so show potential employers that you're a positive and enthusiastic individual with your updates and content. Also, try to steer clear of arguments unless you have a clear point to make as there is nothing more of-putting to law firms as needlessly argumentative people.
Of course, a LinkedIn profile is nothing without contacts, in much the same way a Twitter profile is nothing without followers. You should start by requesting connections with those in your graduating class, both those you were close to and those who were simply aware of you. Chances are that they will all accept, as it's in their best interests to make connections too. This also includes your lecturers or anyone from firms in which you served an internship. Past and present university contacts should be easy to find, as everyone who lists themselves as an alumni will be linked to the university's LinkedIn page. Remember to use the site's 'Introduction form' if you're unfamiliar with them though, or use the InMail feature to pen a more personal introduction if you've opted to pay for the site's premium features. Also, find company pages for firms you think you might be interested in and connect with them. Most firms will direct their recruitment through LinkedIn, and the first place they will probably look is at recent graduates who are connected to their profile.
LinkedIn will suggest relevant groups for you, but why not show some initiative and create your own? There will be numerous groups dedicated to helping users find jobs in the legal sector, but probably very few in specific niches. Consider starting a group related to the niche area of law that you feel is your speciality and firms looking for someone with your skills will eventually come knocking. Groups will also contain jobs that might not have been posted elsewhere and will provide access valuable industry trends and discussions.
Finally, LinkedIn has its own Student Jobs page, which specialises in finding jobs for recent graduates. This is a tool that collates all jobs available to graduates by sector and also lists companies who are looking to hire graduates. An invaluable tool for recent graduates that is quick and easy to use.