5 Tips to Advance Your Career This Winter Break

Winter break is a perfect time to relax with friends and family and to recharge for the upcoming semester. However, setting aside some time during the coming weeks to focus upon your career after law school can pay dividends. Here are five tips to help you get ahead in 2016.

1) Reconnect with past colleagues and professional contacts. With the demands of law school and jobs, it is sometimes easy to let professional relationships take a back seat to more immediate concerns. The end of a calendar year is a perfect time to make a list of those with which you have worked over the past months and then reach out. The outreach can be as elaborate as a paper “Happy New Year” card with a short note, or as simple as a few-line email reminding the contact of the nature of the relationship (e.g. “It was wonderful meeting you earlier in the year at the bar association event.”), wishing that person a Happy New Year and then stating that it will be great to stay in touch.

2) Create a list of alums whom you don’t know but would like to meet. There are many sources through which you can find JMLS alums, and your career services advisor can direct you to some of the most useful. LinkedIn can be a great starting point; simply search the practice areas in which you are interested and you will likely see a variety of “2nd” connections, some of which are bound to be alums. After you have created the list and tracked down emails from websites, reach out to several alums and invite to buy them a cup of coffee sometime in the new year and chat about their respective career paths. Oftentimes, more experienced attorneys will be in their offices the week preceding New Year’s Day, and may have more time to entertain these requests, or at least to reply.

3) Find a “home base” from which to conduct your career strategy sessions this break. Whether you wish to devote several hours, a day, or several days of your break to career strategy, it is often best to get out of the house. Coffee shops are prime places to set up a laptop, and the JMLS Library will also be open beginning on December 28, other than from December 31 through January 3. If you are able to focus at home, that is great, but many students find that heading to a neutral location can mean more productivity and focus.

4) Tune up your resume and elevator speech. Now is a great time to reflect upon your achievements for the year and then ensure that both your resume and networking elevator speech reflect the “new you.” Remember, jobs often materialize very quickly, so being prepared is key. Winter break additionally affords you the luxury of time that you don’t have during the busy semester.

5) Do your research. Whether you’re a 1L who has yet to have a legal job, or an experienced 3L who has worked in multiple legal settings, there are bound to be areas of law–as well as alternative legal careers–with which you are unfamiliar. Though your Career Services advisor can always assist you during the year, winter break allows you to spend some time on your own, reading websites, setting up informational meetings with attorneys in various practices areas and browsing the career section of the JMLS library.

The legal market is a vast one, so using this time to learn the contours of the industry can be very beneficial as your career progresses. Even if you are able to do several of the items on this list, you will find yourself better positioned to begin the new semester and pursue new opportunities when they are available next semester, the summer and beyond. And, don’t forget to relax and enjoy yourself as well!