I always emphasize the importance of remaining optimistic when coaching lawyers on the topic of job hunting. And, lawyers being lawyers, I always need to provide some reason why they should remain upbeat.
I have a simple answer: The job market is actually much less competitive than you think when you consider that so many other job-seekers make fundamental mistakes.
Mistake One: Failing to Thank Your Network. Most new jobs are the result of networking, yet many job candidates make the basic mistake of failing to say “thank you” to those who take the time to help them. Although networking might be “free” to the job-seeker, it is a valuable donation of time by the person who agrees to network with you.
I am frequently asked to network with job-hunters and, schedule permitting, I’m happy to meet them for coffee and share what I know about opportunities in the legal job market. When we’re finished, most people will orally thank me for my time. Less than half, however, will set themselves apart from other job-seekers by thanking me again in some other way. While not necessarily looking to add to my collection of Starbucks gift cards, I do expect a follow-up email or a written note. After all, if I have taken 30 or 60 minutes out of my schedule for them, that person should be able to take a few minutes to show appreciation. Those who do so can count on my help in the future. Those who neglect their manners won’t be so lucky. I’m not the only one who feels this way. People are predisposed to help those who express gratitude.
Keep in mind that networking efforts do not stop with the conclusion of your first meeting. Ideally, people in your network will continue to think of ways to help you find a job and pass on leads. Saying “thank you” and demonstrating appreciation is the cheapest, least time-consuming and most-effective way to ensure that you stay top-of-mind. It’s simple: Those who say “thank you” get more leads than those who do not.
Mistake Two: Failing to Thank Those Who Actually Interview You. The importance of extending thanks to everyone you meet throughout the interview process may seem fundamental. Despite this, my experience suggests that not all job candidates follow this basic protocol. The underlying rationale for extending thanks in the interview setting is a bit different than in the networking setting. Interviewers are not giving away their time; they are doing their job to make sure they are hiring the best person. In this case, a “thank you” gesture reminds interviewers that you are a quality candidate.
The Etiquette of Saying Thanks. When asked whether a “thank you” should be sent by email or snail mail, I advise both. When you use email, your thanks can be delivered almost immediately. When you use snail mail, you impress those who still appreciate the old-fashioned missive. And no, it is neither overkill nor duplicative to send both.
- In a networking situation, the email should be very brief: “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me.” The follow-up note should repeat this statement, tell the person why you appreciated his or her time, and remind them you are willing to help them as well. Networking, after all, is about mutual assistance.
- In an interview situation, the email should briefly state: “I enjoyed meeting you and am very excited about the opportunity.” The follow-up note should repeat those sentiments with the addition of a few sentences indicating why you are the best person for the position.
Even in a crowded job market, many lawyers arrogantly or negligently forget some of the basics of job hunting. That’s reason enough for optimism! A simple “thank you” can set you apart from the competition and increase your chances of finding a truly optimal position.