It’s graduation season. An exciting time of celebrations, fresh starts and…stress over finding that first “real-world” job right out of college.
When I graduated from college (which feels like many moons ago at this point!), I was not completely sure what I wanted to do with my hard-earned degree. I eventually found myself interviewing for an entry-level position in the marketing department of a law firm, which was a role I had never known existed. I was offered the job and, lo and behold, 10 years later, I am still happily entrenched in legal marketing at the same firm.
I do wish I would have had some better insight going into that initial interview — what to know about the legal marketing world, tips to ace the interview and the right questions to ask the interviewers. If you are a recent college grad looking to get your feet wet in legal marketing, or someone with more experience who is seeking a career change, here are five tips to help you land and ace your first interview for a legal marketing position:
1. Rethink your resume. We have all heard it many times: A well-crafted resume is vital to catching an employer’s attention and getting the firm or company interested in talking to you. When you are interviewing for a marketing position, this holds even more truth. If you cannot successfully market yourself in your first communication with the potential employer, then how will you ever be able to market a law firm? Put real time and effort into tailoring your resume for the role at hand, making sure to:
- Make your work experience work. You may not have any legal marketing experience, but tie in the job experience you do have as closely as possible to the role you are interviewing for. For example, do you have retail or sales experience? Include less on your resume about operating the register or ordering inventory and more about things that link to marketing, such as creating promotional displays, tracking ROI on products or organizing the store’s social media campaigns and communications with customers. The same goes with making the educational and community involvement portions of your resume relevant. That chief marketing officer you are interviewing with may not care if you played tennis in high school, but she or he would like to see that you actively participate in your city’s hunger relief programs or that you led a student organization in college.
- Proofread. And proofread again. When I look at resumes and notice typos, I immediately question the person’s attention to detail and begin to lose interest. Not to mention, if you should be offered a legal marketing position, you will be working with attorneys who will notice any and every typo in your work product. A great resume starts with clean formatting and lack of typos. Simple as that!
2. Network in advance. You have probably heard the saying, “It’s all about who you know,” more times than you could count. But in the legal industry, this adage really rings true. Our businesses revolve around fostering client relationships, connecting with decision-makers, building a valuable network and giving and receiving referrals. A robust network directly correlates to the success of an attorney’s practice, and the same is true for us as legal marketers. Our professional networks are so essential to helping us bring value to our firms. Getting a jumpstart on building that professional network can help you when it comes to finding a legal marketing role.
Is there a Legal Marketing Association chapter that holds events near you? Look into attending. These programs are often low cost or complimentary and guarantee you a chance to mix and mingle with legal marketers of all different experience levels. Of course, there are a number of other marketing-related professional organizations out there that offer great avenues to meet marketers in your area as well, and college alumni groups are also an excellent source of getting connected with young professionals who also attended your alma mater. Not to mention, social media makes it easy to identify, connect with and converse with the right people. A plethora of legal marketing LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, blogs and more exist out there. Just a simple Google search will point you in the direction of a number of them. Doing a little networking while you are job hunting will not only help you meet people who may be valuable to your career path, but will also go a long way toward impressing any future boss you interview with at a law firm.
3. Do your homework. You thought you were done with homework when you put on that cap and gown? Not so fast. When you are interviewing, do some info-gathering in advance. If the human resources professional at the firm does not tell you who you are meeting with, ask him/ her for the names and positions of the interviewers. Look up the interviewers on the firm’s website and/or LinkedIn and get to know more about them and their roles. Do some research on the firm itself. Almost any law firm out there has general information on its website, such as a firm overview, office locations, practice areas, number of attorneys and more. Scope out recent articles and press releases on the firm’s website and make note of big news (office openings, changes in management, big wins for clients) that may be topics for conversation during the interview.
4. Show genuine interest. When meeting with a firm, be ready to ask the interviewers some questions. You do not need to wait for those last moments of the interview and the expected prompt of, “Do you have any questions for us?” You can offer up some questions throughout the meeting by weaving them into your responses and being conversational. Think along the lines of, “What do you find most rewarding about your job?” “What is the most exciting project you have handled for the firm lately?” “How long have you been part of the firm, and why do you enjoy working here?” These types of questions show curiosity, interest and a desire to learn more about the firm and its people — all of which are good things!
5. Smile. Seems simple enough, right? I am a real believer that smiling and presenting yourself as a friendly, amicable individual goes a long way in the professional world. Just as our firms’ clients want to hire attorneys they like, being an approachable, optimistic person in an interview will speak volumes about the type of employee you will be, as well as how you will interact with the marketing department’s clients — the attorneys.
Again, though you may not have specific experience working in a law firm, talk about why it excites you; reiterate your eagerness to hit the ground running; express your desire to work hard and be part of the marketing team at the firm. Reaffirm to the interviewer that you want this opportunity and that you would be thrilled to get started in the industry.
Above all else, be yourself and be confident that you can land that ideal first job out of college. You can and you will! And when you do, I have no doubt you will feel as fortunate as I have to become a part of such a dynamic, evolving and impactful industry.
Liz Boehm is the director of business development at Benesch, where she manages and provides strategic oversight for business development efforts for the global business law firm, Liz served as the 2013 president of LMA’s Ohio Chapter and was named LMA International’s 2014 Rising Star. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-363-4613.