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by Brian Zhang | July 15, 2020

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If this summer isn’t going the way you had planned, you are definitely far from alone. Perhaps you had a summer job locked down, and then when lockdown happened, you found yourself back at square one. Maybe you were already having a tough time finding the right summer job, and the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic made it even more difficult. Whatever the case, it’s mid-July, and you may be thinking this summer is a write-off—but it doesn’t have to be! Check out these tips to adapt and make the most out of the rest of this strange summer.

Don’t lose hope.

Things are not as bleak as they may seem. In fact, new job opportunities are always popping up as more employers reopen or simply realize they could use an extra hand after taking a wait-and-see approach during the last few months. You just need to look out for these opportunities because they are not as visible as the traditional recruiting postings to which you’re accustomed.

Check regularly on websites like Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn. Vary your searches with keywords such as “summer law clerk,” “law student,” “J.D.,” and “legal intern”—every employer will use slightly different terms, and you want to make sure you cover as much ground as possible. Start with the most recent postings so that you get your application in ahead of others and maximize your chances. Make sure that your cover letter is customized for the position and that all application materials are polished.

Also, keep in contact with your career advisor so they can notify you of opportunities that they come across. Don’t hesitate to ask them for help with any application materials you are preparing, and be sure to check for any updates the career services office shares via email, social media, or tools like Symplicity.

It might sometimes feel like you’re looking for something that doesn’t exist. That may be true at a given moment, but it could very well change the next day or even the next hour. Employers are still searching for you, so meet them in the middle, keep applying, and let yourself be found.

Think near and far.

Since many employers are conducting work remotely, expand your search accordingly. You’re probably used to thinking about the commute and applying a practical geographical limit to your job search. Now, anywhere is fair game. If you are particularly comfortable working with remote office technology, be sure to indicate that in your application. You just might find that the job for you is across the country, and you don’t even have to leave your house to work there.

On the flipside, smaller local employers who are operating in-person might be seeking help too, which may be a good option for those who are comfortable with in-office work. Let the employer know that you are nearby and immediately available to come in. If you happen to be located away from your place of study and there aren’t as many law students where you are, that’s an advantage for you. If your fall semester will be online and you plan to remain away from school, let the employer know that you’re potentially available to continue part-time beyond the summer.

Be flexible and open-minded.

Don’t shy away from opportunities that end after your fall semester starts. Employers understand that timing is unconventional this summer and that you will need to focus on your studies when school starts. They are likely willing to ramp down your hours when the time comes. You can negotiate that in the interview or even after the job starts, so don’t preclude yourself from applying in the first place.

Branch out beyond your ideal practice area or type of work. Even if you’re very passionate about a specific area of law, you can nonetheless gain useful and transferable skills doing something entirely different this summer. Think about the bigger picture and the more general takeaways: writing skills, communication skills, creativity, critical thinking. Work that you never imagined yourself doing can benefit you in ways you never expected.

Be open to opportunities that are part-time, even if you actually want to work full-time. You can still find other productive ways to fill the remainder of your time.

Keep (or get) in touch.

Now is as good a time as ever to network. Take a moment to check in with any practitioners you connected with previously. Of course, it never hurts to make new connections. Reach out to alumni of your law school in your practice area of interest. The worst that can happen is you don’t receive a reply, so the reward far outweighs the risks.

What should you say? Consider asking to set up a virtual chat about their practice. Attach your resume, and ask for their thoughts on how you can strengthen it. If appropriate, mention that you are available for work, including on a project-by-project basis. If the conversation is not really going in the direction of employment, that doesn’t mean it’s not productive. Don’t underestimate the value of practical insight; there are some things that you just cannot learn in the classroom or out of a textbook. Better yet, you may gain a long-term mentor.

Get creative.

A summer job isn’t the only way to advance your career and be productive this summer. Keep up with developments in your area of interest. Learn more about your target area by reading treatises, researching articles, and attending webinars. Author (or co-author with someone more experienced) an article or blog post on a topic that interests you. Your goal boils down to gaining knowledge and showing interest in your desired practice area. Finding alternative ways to do that also shows your adaptability and initiative.

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