As I explained in my last post, law kids are encouraged to use everything they can to show that they are capable of undertaking a legal job. Most of us work in a non-legal role of some sort (whether paid or not), so you might be wondering how to write your applications in a way which convinces the reader/potential employer that you have what it takes to do the job they are hiring for.
Click for some tips to assist you in explaining that experience on your resume and demonstrating it in your cover letter:
Your resume is your profile. It should outline everything you have done to date, including any extra-curricular activities, volunteering and projects. In an upcoming post, I will be giving you some tips on how to make your resume much more reader friendly. For now, let’s talk specifics.
For legal jobs specifically, I would structure your resume as follows: separate out the legal and non-legal experience, rather than putting everything in the one column. You want the most relevant experience to be at the top and the not-so relevant experience later, as opposed to just listing your positions in chronological order. Then you want to list your extra-curricular activities near the end. If you do not have any legal experience that is fine, just everything under the one heading of ‘experience’.
Importantly, your resume should not read like a cover letter, it should simply list your duties and responsibilities. For example, suppose you worked at a supermarket. You might list your duties as:
- Assisted in opening and closing the store
- Undertook cash handling duties such as counting the register at the beginning and end of the shift and processed transactions
- Performed customer service duties such as greeting customers, responding to queries and solving complaints
- Performed to KPIs via upselling methods, offering deals and specials and complimentary purchase items
Now, suppose your applying for a Paralegal role. Here is an excerpt from a job description for a paralegal position with the key skills underlined:
- Be able to problem solve and think for yourself
- Be self-motivated and able to exceed expectations
- Strong attention to detail and a high degree of drive and initiative
- Be able to prioritise, multitask and meet deadlines
- Enthusiasm and willingness to learn
When applying, see if you can find similarities between the skills of the Paralegal position and the skills of your supermarket position, rather than the duties. Note them down (side note: if you don’t have all of them, don’t lie, but don’t not apply either).
Your Cover Letter
Now to the crucial part – demonstrating why you think you can do the job. You need to be able to make a connection between the skills you gained from your non-legal role and the legal role at hand and convince the potential employer that you can do it.
As an example, one paragraph might read like this:
My previous position as Team Member at Coles had me answering customer queries and complaints [problem-solving], whilst sticking to store KPIs [self-motivation, meeting expectations], and processing transactions accurately [multi tasking]. As a result of these skills I have gained, I believe I can step into this role with ease and I am willing to refine those skills whilst attaining more in the new environment [enthusiasm].
The paragraph above will hopefully convince the reader that you are a) excited to undertake the role and b) have the skills to get started in succeeding in it.
I hope this helps those of you applying for legal positions, if you have anymore suggestions on how to use your non-legal jobs to apply for legal roles, let me know in the comments.
The [Pre]Lawyer in Black