Thursday, 15 September 2011

Is your skills bank account in credit or overdrawn?

By Matt Oliver [guest writer]

If you are serious about your applications for vacation schemes and training contracts then you must have gone through the skills bank account exercise or similar.

If you don’t then its often a sign that you don’t want to see the results for some reason. Usually this is because you feel that you don’t have enough skills or that you don’t have the relevant skills.

Without doing the brainstorming exercise and committing these things to paper then you will never know. Often candidates will do this exercise thinking they don’t have enough skills and experience and when they are finished they are pleasantly surprised and much more confident about their applications.

Once you have done the exercise you will get a good bird’s eye view of yourself as a candidate and be able to see whether your skills bank account is in credit or overdrawn.

If you feel that you are light on skills and/or experience then the best time to do something about that is now. It is never too late. Do not become one of the applicants who knows there is a skills/experience shortage on their CV but buries their head in the sand and hopes they might get lucky with their applications.

You will hardly need telling that the job market is very competitive at the moment. Therefore you bury your head in the sand at your peril. The good news, however, is that there are a large number of applicants who will not even have this knowledge let alone be doing anything about it.

Therefore if you can take positive action now to top up your skills bank account through additional experience you will increase your chances of success significantly.

Even if your skills bank account is looking very healthy, until you secure a job it is advisable to continue to seek out experiences, activities and interests that will allow you to use and develop skills which are relevant to the job of a solicitor. This will not only give you a bigger pool of things to use on your applications but also more things to use in interviews as a way of backing up what you are saying about yourself. It also shows that you are a pro-active person who is keen to be taking on new challenges and learning new things which always goes down well with law firms.

This article is an extract from the eBook "21 Secrets to Successful Applications" written by Matt Oliver of Trainee Solicitor Surgery. Get a free copy of the full eBook here: FREE EBOOK

Monday, 12 September 2011

No mean tweet..

Law and education journalist Alex Aldridge caused a minor uproar amongst twitter's elite legal community when he published this article in The Guardian on Friday. The furor was sparked chiefly by what many perceived to be an attack by Aldridge on twitter regular, former TC hunter, current prospective trainee and all-round nice guy Ashley Connick - in particular: "Connick has found himself increasingly short of interesting things to tweet about now his hunt for a graduate job is over".

Founder of Twitter
I joined twitter just days before I read this article; when I first started reading it I was intrigued, even excited by the idea that I could further my profile and, what's infinitley more important, widen my job-hunting strategy via this relatively new and wondrous medium.

Blawging magnate Charon qc yesterday said of Connick: "[he] almost certainly got his training contract in a ‘magic circle firm’ by hard work and having the right qualifications – rather than his ability to tweet". While I don't doubt this for a minute, I feel it is inevitable that setting up shop in an arena where firms and other employers have a presence can get you/your blog noticed, for better or for worse.

That employers are looking to recruit via Twitter is a concept alien to me, and while firms might not be actively recruiting this way, making yourself known to them can't hurt. To my mind, what any prospective employer ought to look for is honesty, passion [of some kind], humour, and intelligence in tweets [as far as one can demonstrate intelligence in a 140 character snippet], and it is perhaps a sign of the times that suspicion is aroused when someone is also courteous and amiable on a social networking site; what's his game? what's he trying to get out of this? I am not speaking for Mr Connick here, indeed I haven't consulted him [nor anyone else] on this issue, but from my perspective, there is a discrepancy between being aware of your audience and modifying your online 'persona' to indulge or register with others.

I doubt this was mere posturing on Mr Aldridge's part; he seems smarter than this, and is in my opinion an excellent and incisive writer. But, on this occasion I disagree with him, as from what I have gleaned from my week as a twitter newbie, Mr Connick is a thoroughly interesting chap with plently to offer those who are wise enough to engage with him. If, as is being suggested by Aldridge, Connick's tweets were more insightful and interesting prior to the sun setting on his job-hunting days, then it is regrettable that I did not know him then.

If Connick tweeted then in the same manner he does now, it can only have been to his advantage. And while there is scarcely a substitute for hard-graft and sacrifice, at a time when the active, nosey kind of job-hunting is essential, we're all looking for new avenues to exhaust. This might be one of them.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Inbetweeners

I am leaving law school, dying in original sin, and am waiting to be eternally damned by a firm of lawyers. I'm in limbo. I am an inbetweener. And nothing on this planet is quite as wasting as the time of an inbetweener. What is an inbetweener to do?

Uncertainty is the state of existence of an inbetweener. Since I finished the LPC, the recurring thoughts are 'what on earth am I doing'? and 'should I reassess and do something else'? Is it a blessing in disguise this period of longing, lingering, lamenting? Maybe its us inbetweeners who are truly privileged. Maybe we're the ones who have the chance to have a real go at life, the ones who have the time to step back and ask 'what do I really want to do'? After all, a man finds himself when he gazes into the abyss. Or maybe we're the ones being left behind with the dregs of society; maybe we are the dregs. You can understand what I mean about uncertainty.

When you're an inbetweener you want to be employed, for neither luxury nor comfort, but for your own sanity. Finding a TC is difficult, but finding a hold-over job, an inbetweener job, is arduous because they are precisely that: jobs. We have paid our way through university and law school, endured the bad tidings of countless PFOs, shook hands with people we will never again encounter, availed ourselves as best we could of the wisdom of practitioners, and have wrestled to harbour our confidence and self-belief. Not for a job, but for a career. Not for the thing we land in, but for the thing we want.

As an inbetweener, the most stress-inducing aspect is the need to put the pursuit on hold, to an extent at least. I still send applications, attend an interview here and there and do this and that for mr and mrs legalease, but I can never immerse myself in this pursuit; I have to keep my eyes above the surface so I can see what else is out there.

Life as an inbetweener is frustrating, dull, confusing, mind-numbing and often solitary. But this could also be the most important period of my life. It is a period of, and I say this grudgingly, desperation, but also one of reflection; the two are discordant but reflection is involuntary. 'Reflection': do I simply mean I am thinking about doing something other than law? It is a more holistic kind of reflection; the French writer Chamfort wrote “a man should swallow a toad every morning to be sure of not meeting with anything more revolting in the day ahead.” Well this is toad swallowing time.

Waiting. Thinking. Grinding my teeth. This is how its going to be until my day of damnation. Damn them.