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LCN Says

Five ways to make the most of your university’s careers service

updated on 07 September 2021

Covid-19 has had a massive impact on all sectors and such sudden changes can be unsettling. How can you stay on track? Your careers service can:

  • help you to understand what’s going on in the UK job market;
  • think about what might lie ahead; and
  • support you to put the skills you have to good use while helping you cultivate new skills to kick start your legal career.

As an aspiring lawyer, it will serve you well to make the most of your careers service to become savvy about virtual recruitment methods such as online applications, video interviews and telephone interviews.

In this article, we share five ways aspiring lawyers can get the most out of their careers service.

One: start early

Starting early will help you to make the most of your time at university. Most career services run induction sessions (general and law specific) early in the academic year – a sensible student should, of course, attend one of these if available. As the term unfolds, there will be presentations on CVs, cover letters, and application forms. Such presentations can help you to tell the difference between a ‘chronological’ and a ‘skills-based’ CV. Even if you think it won’t benefit you, it might end up being useful in your penultimate or final year of university, plus knowing which services are available makes them easier to access when you need to.

Get to know the careers department, maybe even pop in to introduce yourself to one or two consultants. This way you’ll recognise a familiar face when you need assistance with an application form. Aside from publishing employment opportunities on the careers hub, the careers service will signpost you to online newsletters such as LCN Weekly, as well as a plethora of learning material at their disposal, including The Beginner’s Guide to a Career in Law and The LawCareers.Net Handbook,  which includes vacation schemes insiders, mini-pupillages, practice area insights and career events timetables.

Two: use the resources available to you

According to Gemma Baker, graduate recruitment manager at Willkie Farr & Gallagher (UK) LLP, said: “Often candidates don’t demonstrate enough interest in the firm and their applications are incredibly generic.” The careers service can support you by providing specific advice on how to ace a training contract interview and tailor your CV to your chosen firm. They won’t laugh or throw their hands in horror if you tell them an interview disaster story; their role is to support you from the beginning to the end to decide between several options and reflect on what’s best for you.

They are there to offer guidance on how to stay resilient during a job search, handle rejections and keep yourself motivated during endless months of applications.

Most careers services hold regular drop-in sessions and workshops throughout the academic year. We have outlined a few examples below."

CV and application clinics

John Watkins, director of The University of Law’s employability service advises that “students should have the first draft of a CV, cover letter or set of application form answers already prepared.” When visiting a careers consultant for the first time, it’s important to come prepared, this will enable the careers service to add value to your professional development. During these visits, try to keep your CV updated – don’t forget to include evidence of skills and experience. Your CV is a great way to reflect and see how far you have come!

Assessment centre workshops

If you’ve been invited to an assessment centre, the employer believes you have the potential to fulfil the role. Assessment centres offer recruiters the opportunity to:

  • see how you interact with your peers;
  • watch you carry out or delegate tasks in a group exercise;
  • observe how you conduct yourself during a presentation;
  • discover how you think in a psychometric test.

Your careers service can provide you with practical advice on how to succeed in an assessment centre and offer tips on how to improve your presentation skills. Don’t forget to write down what they say, you’ll be surprised how hard it is to recall the session if you haven’t made notes!

Psychometric tests

This is an aptitude test designed to evaluate your decision-making and judgment-forming skills. It involves a series of multiple-choice questions designed to evaluate your critical thinking and reasoning skills, including how you make inferences, deductions and interpretations. It’s a good idea to practise before taking the Watson Glaser tests further down the application stage.

How to maintain a digital presence

In the new world of online networking, it’s important to build and maintain a digital presence. Now more than ever professional platforms like LinkedIn offer excellent networking groups across all career specialisms. If you don’t already have a profile, your university can help you set one up and signpost you to groups where you can build your knowledge of the law and make contacts with your successors.

Three: one-to-one career coaching

This is a free service offered by the careers service, which involves reflecting on your motivations, your values and what you enjoy about your course. If you are unsure which career route to take, a careers consultant can steer you in the right direction, but you must have an open mind. Effective coaching can help you to:

  • explore career options;
  • write quality training contract or pupillage applications; and
  • excel at interviews.

It’s not enough to just attend these sessions, you must also act on the advice you are given; if you are asked to make changes to your CV, ensure you provide an update once completed and engage regularly. Don’t be the student who visits their careers service only during training contract deadline week! You can book an appointment with a graduate careers consultant either by telephone, skype or Microsoft Teams – you can indicate your preference when you book. It would be useful to see the consultant from the law faculty or, if your university doesn’t have one, try to seek out a specific tutor who is the authority on the legal sector.

Four: mentoring

Some universities run annual mentoring schemes that will match you up with a mentor who’s already successfully working in the career you want to enter; this could be an associate or a partner at a UK top 100 firm. It’s unlikely they will match you up with a newly qualified solicitor because they might not have the spare time to offer you information and advice. There are many benefits of mentoring – a great mentor can offer you valuable friendship, plus career and life advice, which can be instrumental for your professional and personal growth.

Five: alumni

Even after you graduate, you still have access to your university careers service and its facilities for three years or more. This includes attending events such as careers fairs and employer presentations as well as obtaining in-depth guidance, such as CV checks and being signposted to several useful graduate job websites.

Alongside this, most careers services will have a career hub with job vacancies from a range of employers who are interested in recruiting alumni from your university. Plus, most universities organise free events for alumni on a variety of subjects with experts in their field. These events are a great way to keep learning and networking with fellow alumni.

To find out more on how to make the most of your careers service, read LCN’s advice in:

Christianah Babajide (she/her) is the content & engagement coordinator at LawCareers.Net.