You just took the bar exam. While your first priority is to relax and celebrate (which you should do), you should also use this time to polish you resume and focus on your career. Here are five tips to jump-start your job search.
1. Get some business cards.
If you don’t have business cards already, you should invest in some cheap ones (even if you don’t have your bar results back). They’re not expensive; for about $20 you can order business cards online. You need to have some sort of card to leave with people you meet. Remember—you are not an attorney yet, so just list yourself as a JD. But having some sort of business card will help you look professional and follow up with any contacts you make. This is especially important for those in New York and California, who have to wait almost four months for their bar results. You can do a lot of networking in four months!
2. Get out and meet people.
After you have given yourself some time to recuperate from the bar exam experience (see 5 below) you’ll want to get out and meet people. This can be done a number of ways. You can set up informational interviews with people who do the type of work you are interested in. You can attend events hosted by your law school or bar association and meet working attorneys. And you can set up lunch or coffee dates with friends who have been practicing for a year or two and talk with them about their work and any connections they might be able to introduce you to.
While you are waiting for bar results is a great time to re-connect with your legal community. And everyone likes a good bar exam story! Remember—all lawyers have lived through the exam (and waiting for bar results) so it is likely they will give you plenty of sympathy and even swap some bar exam horror stories. (One I heard today was that a guy in the testing room two rows up from someone I know had a seizure and paramedics had to come into the exam room to take him away.)
But remember everyone’s time is valuable, so if you set a date with a connection, don’t forget to show up!
3. Make sure your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile are up-to-date.
If you got a little lazy about updating your resume and cover letter, now is a great time to do so. You need to have everything ready and in good shape so you can send it off at a moment’s notice. You need to make sure that your resume is free of typos and looks its best. That means feedback on your resume from career services, family, friends, and colleagues. Just having one person look at it is likely not enough. You need to have multiple sets of eyes review you resume to be sure you’re putting your best foot forward.
Don’t forget about your electronic resume either. Your LinkedIn profile should also be up-to-date. And it should include a professional picture as well. You don’t want your professional online persona to be a picture of you at a friend’s wedding. So if you don’t have a professional picture of yourself, go get one taken professionally or try to get a friend to take one. Put on a suit jacket and look professional. These days everyone is going to Google you before a meeting, so be sure your online profile is in great shape.
4. Volunteer (legal or non-legal).
If you can get a paid gig while waiting for bar results (as a contract attorney or other temp job), that is great. But for many, waiting for bar results is a time of unemployment. If you are finding yourself at home twiddling your thumbs, check out some volunteer opportunities. Call your bar association and inquire about any volunteer gigs that are available for recent grads. Or volunteer for a non-legal organization that you care about. Ironically, I have met a number of awesome lawyers doing nonprofit work that has nothing to do with the law. The connections are still valuable though!
5. Relax and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
Waiting for bar results is extremely stressful. There is really nothing else to say. The waiting time can be emotionally draining and frustrating. So while you should get out there, meet people, and make the most of your time, you also need to relax and be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself so you don’t get too stressed while waiting. It is a tough time, but you are wise to make the best of it.