Vitally, dont delay your visit to your university careers service until you know what you want to do!
Do find the careers service at your university. Every institution has one! They are very different in the way they operate from Connexions (the careers organisation you may have used at school), and have extensive virtual and physical resources at their fingertips to guide you.
Some are better resourced than others with many careers advisers and information facilities, but all are keen to help you work out what you want to do after your time at university.
As prospective lawyers it is especially importantly to get moving early in your second year, to discuss your options, possible career interests, and to work out a strategy for yourself.
Helping students with that decision is one of the prime functions of a careers adviser, and with law you cant start too early. Indeed it is recommended to starting researching as early as your first year at university.
Why? Many employers look for evidence of motivation, often shown by gaining work experience at the end of your first year (see below). Such experience helps you to decide what you want to do too.
Increasingly law firms, careers services and other organisations, are running events for first year students. Look out for these. The competition is strong and you need to make yourself competitive in the market, whichever area of employment that may be.
These are some of the core services that you careers service will offer
Short discussions with an adviser (10/15 minutes)
These set things in motion. They may be bookable, or in many placesyou just drop in. Ring you careers service to check the system. See your university home page to find the details, or google the name of your university and careers. Often the first item that comes up will be the careers services homepage.
Long discussions (45 minutes)
Book these to have an in-depth discussion on your strategy. Many places ask that you have a short discussion (see above) first.
Talks in your faculty
These are often timetabled, but others will be one-offs. They may be generic, ie How your careers service helps you, or specific to career opportunities for your subject.
Careers services organise occupational talks on different areas of practice, eg legal aid, City and regional, public law eg, the Government Legal Service, etc.
Have you produced your CV yet? How good are your application writing and interview skills? Maybe youve never had a real job interview, many students havent. Your careers service will run training sessions to help you to develop these vital skills.
Most law fairs run between mid-October to late November. Nearly all of these are organised by careers services; check for details of when your own institution is holding it’s next law fair or indeed general careers fairs. Should you have missed yours call in to the careers service, or research on the website, to get the programme. These often contain lots of useful information. The events diary on www.lawyer2b.com lists full details of all law fairs and other careers-related events.
As mentioned above gaining some work experience is an increasingly vital stage in getting a real job. All careers services have vacancy sections on their websites with details of vocationally relevant opportunities, and many have Job Shops. These will advertise basic money getting jobs, which may be relevant too.
Most law firms will not allow first years to apply for vacation schemes; so do some informal work shadowing or placements. Use www.solicitors-online.com to find details of law firms in your home area.
Many careers services wont advertise training contract or pupillage opportunities on their websites as the legal directories provide this service. They do, however, advertise lots of jobs from all sectors of employment.
These provide a wealth of resources, including: background reading on occupations, reference books, professional training materials, maybe even student feedback on their application experiences, and contacts with former students.
All careers services will have take away free copies of the legal directories on opportunities and newspapers like Lawyer 2B.
All services have these; find yours and explore the wealth of information they contain on all the aspects mentioned above, and more, eg, further study, working abroad, and links to other useful sites.
Careers services are there to be used so make sure you get the most out of yours.
Dick Lidwell is a careers adviser at Oxford University