Building Your Career: Make Your CV Give the Right Message

Building Your Career: Make Your CV Give the Right Message

We all know that competition for training contracts and pupillages is fierce. On top of this, we know that recruiters are looking for more than just stellar academics. They help, but they are not the be all and end all. So what else is needed? Legal work experience. Mooting. Client interviewing. Essay competitions. Commercial awareness. All of these are essential ingredients to building an awe-inspiring CV.

In this article I will list some general tips I believe are necessary to develop your CV. I am using them to achieve my goal of becoming a barrister at a leading London commercial chambers. I haven’t got there yet, but I can see that implementing these tips are working. I have two mini-pupillages at two leading London chambers coming up, an interview for a BPTC scholarship as well as lots of other interesting experiences. Hopefully some of these tips will help you as I feel they have helped me.

The first tip is fairly obvious: set yourself a goal. Without a goal you have nothing to work towards. If you have nothing to work towards you will find it harder to find the motivation to keep building your CV and more difficult to find the correct components that employers look for.

The thing to remember when setting a goal is that it needs to contain some details. Think about what you want to do and where exactly you want to be when you finish your studies. This leads me neatly on to my second and third points:

Know your enemy. Research the areas of law you think you want to go into and the recruiters in those areas. It will really help you to develop an idea of where you want to be. It will also indicate the level of achievement expected of pupils or trainees. This is what you want to aim towards, in your own way. This is where the third tip comes into play:

Know yourself. Take a good look at your CV. See what is missing, what can be improved, what would make it ‘pop’. Then take this knowledge and use it. This is where you need to:

Get involved. This is so important. I cannot stress it enough. Jump on opportunities. If there aren’t any, make them! You will hear everywhere that being a lawyer is not just about stellar academics. It certainly helps, but when reading recruitment material it becomes clear that they want a well rounded, interesting person, not just an academic whizz.

When you see an opportunity, go for it. Whether that be mooting, client interviewing, attending a talk from someone in the legal profession, making a speculative application to The Student Lawyer about becoming a careers writer… There are so many things out there ready to be grasped. The most important thing to remember when doing this is don’t wait for opportunities to fall in your lap. Find them yourself and make the most of them. Use these opportunities to plug the gaps in your CV. Use them to build a CV that makes you proud. And don’t stop. Look at your CV as a living organism. Feed it with interesting experiences and it will continue to grow, as will your chances of getting hired. It also allows you to adapt your CV with different experiences depending on the firm you are applying to.

This can be difficult, particularly when you are studying, working a part-time job and trying to have a social life. This is where a very important tip lies: organisation.

Organisation underpins everything you need to do to achieve a career in the legal profession. Another way you may see this described in recruitment material is time management. This is much easier than it may seem. I recommend keeping a diary. Write all the deadlines, upcoming holidays and other events you have in it. That way you will have one place to look to see all of your plans and free time. Then, when you are looking at whether to take advantage of an opportunity, look at the diary and see if anything clashes. Where it doesn’t, book it in. Keep doing this whenever an opportunity arises and soon you should have a range of upcoming CV feeding activities.

If you follow these steps, I am confident you will build a CV to be proud of. More importantly, by doing this you will show to recruiters that you have at least three of the core skills they look for: Motivation, organisation and commitment. That’s before they even look at the individual items on your CV. Remember though, sometimes despite your best efforts some recruiters may not invite you for interview or offer you a vacation scheme or mini-pupillage. This is where the final bonus tip takes effect:

Always maintain a positive mental attitude. This can be difficult in the face of numerous perceived rejections, but it is so important. Remember, we all know competition for a career in law is fierce. Consequently, most of us are going to experience knock-backs. The key is not to let those knock-backs keep you down. Look at them as opportunities. Look at them as reminders that you need to feed your CV. In the words of Rocky: ‘It ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward…that’s how winning is done’. If you do this you will start to develop another key characteristic recruiters are looking for: resilience.

Hopefully, this article has been of some help to those of you looking to get out into the big bad world of legal employment. The tips within have certainly helped keep me going through the slog that is CV building.

Stay classy TSL readers.

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