Are you Emotionally Intelligent? 5 Soft Skills to Show Off in Your Summer Law Job


Fairuz Abdullah and Annabrooke Temple imageWe’re excited to welcome back Annabrooke Temple and Fairuz Abdullah from the UC Hastings Office of Career and Professional Development. They recently shared with readers four tips for summer law job success. Annabrooke and Fairuz are back to talk about five ways to make sure you show off your best self during your summer law job.

Welcome back!

Emotional Intelligence and Your Summer Law Job

What can you do to bring your A game and make the most of this summer’s job? In addition to excellent work product, show that you are an emotionally intelligent colleague with soft skills.

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the ability to effectively manage yourself, and your relationships with others.

Jessica Sisco, Talent Manager extraordinaire at Reed Smith LLP in San Francisco, sums up the importance of EQ and soft skills at work beautifully:

“Staying aware of social situations and how you are impacting others helps paint you as that well-rounded associate that every hiring committee dreams of landing.”

Employers–no matter what the practice sector or setting–want problem solvers who are also sophisticated communicators, humble, proactive, and nice to be around. Some people seem to have these EQ traits innately, but everyone can learn them.

Here are five important soft skills to develop and show your employer this summer.

1. Be a Good Communicator

You hear it everywhere: to stay happy with your significant other, you must be a good communicator. This applies to your professional life as well. Your ability to observe and listen before you express yourself (verbally or in writing) makes a difference in how effectively you respond, and how you are perceived by others.

When you start a new job and are unfamiliar with the culture, it’s best to get the lay of the land by observing the interactions of your colleagues and asking thoughtful questions about the work.

If you’re unsure about an assignment, sit down with a supervisor and get an understanding of their expectations, and develop a timeline for when you should complete your assignments. An open line of communication with your supervisors will allow you to identify, and correct, problems as they begin, and asking more questions than you answer can show curiosity and humility.

2. Be Humble

Now that you have a few semesters of law school under your belt–maybe you’re even a certified law student–you may feel ready to take charge of the entire case or project before you. But you have yet to demonstrate your ability to your employer.

You may be assigned to do document review or deal with other tasks that you find tedious.

Fear not: these are building blocks, not only for your skill set, but to prove to your employer that you are willing to learn how to build a case from the ground up. Mastering, and showing your willingness to do the basics will open up opportunities for you to do more complex, challenging, and rewarding work.

3. Take Initiative

You finished your assignments for the day or the week, now what do you do? Go online and start reading about the latest celeb break up on TMZ, or troll your friends on Facebook? Tempting, but not the best use of your time.

Ask for an assignment to show you are interested in a new challenge.

Suggest a project idea for something you are drawn to and would like to work on. Demonstrate intellectual curiosity when seeking out work. Go beyond what is happening day to day. Develop an understanding of your practice area. Keep up with new regulations, case law and legislation that impacts the work of your employer.

Your employer is more likely to give you interesting work when they see your curiosity, drive, and enthusiasm for your work.

4. Ask for Constructive Feedback

Many times students come to the end of their summer job without much input from their employers, only to find out they didn’t receive an offer, or made a critical mistake early on.

Constructive criticism can be as uncomfortable for a supervisor to give as it is for you to hear, so you may have to ask for it.

Getting tough feedback gives you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes, and demonstrate maturity and resilience to your employer. So seek it out: set up a bi-monthly or mid-summer check in with your supervisor. Ask how you can improve your work product.

Cultivate a growth mindset so you won’t take the criticism personally, but as a learning opportunity.

5. Cultivate Emotional Intelligence and a Growth Mindset

Emotionally intelligent people are often optimistic, receptive and approachable so opportunities tend to come their way. People with a growth mindset usually work well under pressure and take challenges in stride because they are problem solvers, and see those challenges as opportunities.

Jessica says,

“We all know that producing solid work product and excelling in competencies like research, writing and communication skills are hands down necessities for landing an offer of full time employment. But those aren’t the only things that your future coworkers and hiring decision makers will be looking for. Your self and social awareness will also be on display at all times–when interacting with support staff, chatting with a partner in the hall or enjoying a happy hour with colleagues…”

So make sure you are putting forth your best, emotionally intelligent self this summer!

Not there yet? You can incorporate small steps that have a big impact, like smiling; it is a simple gesture that impacts your overall outlook.

Coming up with solutions to a problem rather than complaining about them shows that you’re resourceful, and can improve your outlook.

Bringing a sense of gratitude for the work you are able to do, the clients you serve and what you can learn, puts you in positive frame of mind that will help you succeed this summer, and beyond.

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Thanks, ladies! Great tips for an emotionally intelligent summer job experience.

Fairuz Abdullah and Annabrooke Temple practiced law for a number of years before deciding to focus on coaching and counseling law students and lawyers. They joined the UC Hastings Office of Career and Professional Development in 2010.

Fairuz counsels and advises students and alums committed to public interest and judicial clerkships. She develops programming and provides tools for applicants to carve out successful career paths for themselves.

Annabrooke not only counsels students and alums on multiple practice areas but orchestrates career and professional development programming and events. Annabrooke is skilled at cultivating professional relationships with alumni and members of the legal community. Both are passionate about helping people find the career paths that are right for them in and outside of the legal profession.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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