A long time ago, in a galaxy far away…
Okay, so the last time we conducted “normal” outreach to employers was only 7 months ago, but it feels like a different world now. Back then, the CDO regularly connected with employers and potential employers by phone and in person, meeting them where they were: in their offices and at bar events. Last year, I attended the annual conferences of the Virginia Bar Association, Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys, and Local Government Attorneys Association, and monthly luncheons and cocktail parties of the Metro Richmond Women’s Bar and Richmond Bar Association, where I shook hands with attorneys, reconnected with old friends and recent alumni, and introduced myself and law students to potential employers [see photos below]. Little did I know that on March 5th, the Richmond Bar Young Lawyers Section social at Triple downtown would be the last such event for the foreseeable future [see photo above].
As COVID-19 shut down our normal way of doing business, it also created an opportunity for the CDO to reset our employer outreach efforts. The pandemic and subsequent economic struggle faced by many employers (and their clients) has changed the timing and pace of the hiring process. For some employers, their typical hiring cycle is out the window, and whether they will hire at all for 2021 remains an open question.
So the CDO is doing what we tell students to do for their own career development plan – identify strengths and value, create an evolving target list, systematically and regularly reach out to potential targets, build and maintain relationships, ask who makes hiring decisions and when – all in an effort to be the employers’ radar when they are ready and willing to hire for summer or post-graduate positions.
We tell students to start their networking with individuals with whom they already have a connection. For students that might mean family friends, professors, former supervisors, or alumni from undergraduate or law school. For the CDO, that means we had to create a list of employers who regularly hire Richmond Law students, employers who hired in the past, employers who solicited applications, adjunct faculty, and – of course – our alumni.
The postponement of traditional interview programs left us all with some uncertainty, but we are resilient. The CDO is taking advantage of the time this semester to systematically strengthen our relationships with employers. We are sharing stories (by Zoom) about the professionalism, personality and skills of our students, and the new initiatives undertaken by the law school in the last year. We are listening to employer stories about how they have coped over the last 7 months and their anticipated hiring needs for the future. Stay tuned to future columns to hear what we have learned.
In the meantime, enjoy these photos from another galaxy (last year) when we could enjoy networking in person and even shake hands!
by Carole Yeatts
Director, Career Development – Employer Outreach