“I’ll think about it later…”
This is what I hear many students say when I ask them about their plans for after graduation. The idea of what life holds next can seem overwhelming, particularly when you are just getting your head around student life. But the world out there is competitive and a qualification on its own is no longer enough to find employment.
So what can you do to stand out in a competitive employment market?
Learn a language
I would like to argue this is essential. A second language can be a great asset to many employers, whether it’s an international law firm, a company or a charity. Knowing another language certainly helps to expand your options!
Become an Expert
You might already have an area of interest that is unique to you and could help you in the future. I spent some time in the Middle East and took a great interest in the United Arab Emirates, and in particular Abu Dhabi. I wouldn’t call myself an ‘expert’, but not everyone knows about the Middle East and this has created some unique opportunities for me.
You could volunteer to be on the board of your local sports club, help out at a community legal centre or work with a charity that you’re passionate about – it feels great to give back, and provides skills and experiences that can help you in your career.
Also, if you’re looking for that first job and don’t have any professional references, volunteering can be a useful way to begin building your CV and meet possible referees.
Do it with a purpose, if you can. This can mean learning a language, volunteering or working for an organisation that relates to your degree. Activities such as these will provide you with skills, referees and work experience that will help to set you apart from other job applicants.
Be an entrepreneur and get creative
If you know the kind of job you would like to have or the company you would like to work for, go and create it. This might mean setting up your own business, or it might mean researching the company you want to work for, finding their recruitment needs and approaching them directly. Remember that just because you have a qualification in law, it doesn’t mean that you might not be the perfect candidate for a non-legal role, particularly if you can persuade a prospective employer that you have valuable transferable skills and relevant experience.
Do a Masters
I know you’re probably thinking ‘ugh - more study?’, but in some parts of the world a Masters degree can be the minimum requirement for employment, particularly as more students in Europe and the US finish university with this higher qualification. Even if you’re not planning to work overseas, postgrad study can help your CV to stand out. I think it is an excellent option because you automatically create a niche for yourself.
Amy Ward is a lawyer for the South Australian Government. She previously worked in private practice as a criminal defence lawyer and then for two international law firms in the Middle East. Amy has a Masters in International Development and moved to Syria in 2011 to learn Arabic before spending time in Lebanon, Jordan and the West Bank working in the international development sector. Amy currently consults to indigo foundation an independent community development organisation based in Australia.
This story was adapted from an article that first appeared in the University of South Australia Law Students' Association's Careers Guide. Reprinted with the permission of USALSA.
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