Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Using social media in the training contract hunt

As published on Legal Cheek

actual footage
Earlier this year I got a training contract at a small, reputable firm in Buckinghamshire. To break this down simply; I met my recruiter on Twitter. The firm, like many others, is looking to expand and give substance to its online profile. And that’s why my experience as a blogger became relevant. My use of social media made me an attractive candidate so I made an application to the firm – three competitive recruitment stages later, I was offered the job. 

Getting into Twitter was a pretty odd experience. Following people and having others follow you is one thing. But trying to become a familiar name within the circles you care to be known is akin to joining a new school. Except no sniggering children. More decorum. More thinking about coming across as smart and someone in the know. My babbling blogging escapades, I had hoped, would help give me at least a little weight in this faceless arena. There were a few kind folk (@legalaware, @traineesurgery and, yes, @AlexAldridgeUK to name some examples) who helped make my entrance into the legal twittosphere less mucky and embarrassing than it might’ve been.    

Twitter in turn helped make my blog a more meaningful one; I became increasingly bothered by what people thought of it. And so from its jokey, na├»ve, often cringe-worthy origins it evolved into something better researched and more thoughtful – at times anyway. I gave more care to my content; hardly ground-breaking or even quality writing, but that was never the goal. First glimpse and it’s all about sharing my experiences, offering ‘tips’ and ‘tales’ to my struggling compadres. To a significant extent this was its purpose. But what it really did was enable me to join the dialogue and colour with humour the dull, boring, repetitive and dispiriting grind of training contract hunting. And its role as a means for getting me noticed by law firms developed as my readership grew.      

It would be wrong to say I got the training contract through using Twitter and by blogging alone. So too would it be wrong to say I would’ve seen success without using them. Twitter and blogging are not substitutes for aptitude, enthusiasm and genuine passion for law. But what I think I’ve shown is that they can be viable platforms for reaching what many are dead-set can only be reached through the obvious, well-trodden routes. I know this approach isn’t appropriate for every person, nor every law firm; but in 2012 - this most testing of years for getting a training contract - sticklers for the norm might find their luck fast dwindling.
twitter's maverick COO

Right now I’m a trainee at the kind of firm I want to be part of. But a training contract isn’t the first job my blog and Twitter helped me net. I also worked as a full-time blogger for a firm in central London. Hadn’t I brought a blogging background to the table I can’t imagine the firm would’ve taken me at all seriously.

More and more firms are modernising; sculpting, shaping themselves to fit into a market which doesn’t seem to know itself yet. The only way you can survive the training contract hunt in such unholy an environment is if you too modernise with the firms and look for the new opportunities in the new industry.