updated on 11 December 2018
When I read application forms, I like to see some personality. Candidates who do this well always stand out from the crowd. But how do you show your personality on paper, I hear you ask? It's not easy. And you may think it's something best demonstrated at an interview. Well think again, because the first hurdle to a career in law is almost always an online application form, so selling your personal brand to the recruiter, even at this very early stage, is vital.
So, what will make the recruiter take notice? With more than 22,000* people studying law each year, you'll need something truly unique to help you stand out.
That's where your personality comes in (what could be more unique?). Let it shine through in your application form, and you've won half the battle.
You'll need to have a genuine interest in developing yourself personally and professionally. This isn't just about finding a job; it's about your own long-term wellbeing, too.
If you're struggling to make yourself sound interesting, don't fake it. Here are some simple personality-building ideas you can try right now.
Extra-curricular activities will have featured high on your personal statement for UCAS and your CV. It shouldn't be any different at graduate level. But just stating that you play netball isn't enough. As a recruiter, I like reading about a candidate's hobbies because it shows aspects of their personality that can't be demonstrated by qualifications and work experience. Think about the relationships you've built and maintained through your interests, and the skills you've gained that will lend themselves to a career in law.
You need to be genuinely interested in the activity or group for it to benefit your employability. If you have time, think about running for a position of responsibility - social secretary, treasurer or president, for example. Anything that shows you're willing to take on extra responsibility and put yourself out there will help enhance your employability.
Collaboration, communication and ambition are just some of the qualities that these kinds of activities can illustrate - all of which significantly improve your employability.
Volunteering not only looks great on your CV, but it feels good too. Shoosmiths supports every member of staff to do a minimum of one paid day of volunteering per year. I volunteered for HULA Animal Rescue in Milton Keynes, for the Milton Keynes Foodbank with Shoosmiths' trainees, and also for the local Air Ambulance service along with the whole Shoosmiths HR team. Volunteering shows that you have interests outside of uni or work, and that you have an awareness of the world around you. We really encourage an interest in corporate responsibility at Shoosmiths, so it's something that I like to see candidates getting involved with before joining the firm.
Remember to think about the skills you've gained from your volunteering experiences and how these can be transferred to a career in law. Taking initiative, sharing values and delivering results are some qualities which you might develop through volunteering activities.
Reading is a great way to learn about other cultures, different ways of thinking and new concepts. But when you're studying for a law degree, the idea of reading even more can be a little daunting. Ask your friends for recommendations or join a local book club so you can start to read more outside of your usual choices.
Recently I discovered Audible, an app that enables you to listen to audio books. I do a lot of driving between the Shoosmiths offices, so listening to books while I'm in the car is perfect for me. I've listened to many more books in the three months of having Audible than I've read in years!
Awareness of others and the ability to develop new ideas are some qualities you could gain by broadening your library.
Not only does learning a new language make travelling abroad easier, it's a great skill to have on your CV, too. It shows a dedication and commitment to something in your personal life, where you had to step outside your comfort zone to learn something new. Don't just think of the end goal as becoming fluent in your chosen language; consider it a great journey of learning and meeting new people. You can talk about it on your application or at interview.
Adaptability, expertise and having a positive attitude are values you may be able to show through learning a new language.
Going travelling shows that you're willing to take a risk and open yourself up to new experiences. If you get the opportunity to volunteer while abroad, or get some paid work experience, that will improve your employability further. You'll certainly enjoy some amazing experiences which will shape you into a well-rounded candidate with lots of interesting stories to tell.
Planning, reliability and confidence are skills you're likely to develop while travelling and experiencing new things.
Business development is important to lawyers and it starts with networking with the people you already know. Businesses and employees now understand the benefits of networking online, and LinkedIn is the number one network for careers. When you create your profile, think about your personal brand and what you want to be known for.
Add business contacts you already know, follow firms you are interested in working for, and join groups that encourage conversations about securing a career in law - such as Careers in Law UK. Position yourself as an expert by starting conversations in groups online. You could even write some short blog posts to share what you're learning on your journey into a career in law.
While you're at it, set up a Twitter account too. Tweet about things that interest you and join a Twitter careers Q&A. Tweet a firm's recruiter or one of the partners and ask them some questions. Post a photo of you at their event or law fair stand to get noticed.
Innovative thinking and commercial awareness are skills you can show from building your personal brand online and taking part in industry-specific conversations. Take a look at the Shoosmiths’ training contract application form here to see how you can let your personality shine in your answers.
*According to the Law Society Early Trends
Samantha Hope is the graduate recruitment manager at Shoosmiths. She writes about graduate recruitment, careers in law, technology and social media. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and have a look at her blog The Inbound Recruiter.
This article was first published on Sam’s LinkedIn profile.