Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Don’t Let Shyness Derail Networking Opportunities

By: Joe Bucher, career counselor at San Jose State University

Sweaty palms…warmth in your face….a choked up throat. Is this how you feel when you hear the word “networking?”

It is well established that networking is probably the best and most efficient way to get a job. Yet, just like we know that going to the dentist or doctor consistently is a good practice; many of us neglect things that we should do.

You may get nervous entering a room of people that you don’t know. In fact, you may even avoid networking situations. In my work, I constantly ask students “How are you looking for work?” After they tell me the various web sites that they are using my next question usually is, “And?” For which I tend to get a quizical look.

My take is: we may have fear or anxiety that keeps us from doing the things that we need to do. I understand this because I have always felt anxiety surrounding networking events or interactions because I am shy myself.

Here are some simple tips and strategies I have employed to help myself in the networking process:

Have a purpose

For some shy people, it is much easier to interact with others when you have a reason rather than going in “cold”.

A few examples of “having a purpose” at your networking event:

Volunteer-My favorite type of networking events were when I would volunteer at workshops, conventions, etc. I felt that if I had a purpose, such as maintaining a certain area or providing customer service, then it was easier to engage in conversation with others. In fact, people will seek you out because they may need your assistance. As a shy person myself, the initial approach is a huge source of my anxiety; volunteering at an event cuts down the probability that I will have to be the initiator.

Network via social media before an initial meeting- If you are going to a conference/event try searching Facebook to see if the event has a group page or even do a twitter search to see if others are talking about it. You may even want to pose a question yourself via twitter so that others may reach out to you. Point is, meet people before the event and get to know them a bit online. Then set up a time or place to meet at the networking event.

Be strategic

Being a shy person, networking situations may be easier if you have a plan of action.

Here are some keys to help you:

Search for the “easy win”: While you should never take a networking situation lightly, you can increase your chances of having favorable networking encounters. Reach out to everyone you know-friends, family, classmates, and professors and let them know that you are looking for work in your industry.

Create your one-minute commercial: The one-minute commercial is essentially your verbal portfolio. It should be used to create some structure for when you introduce yourself to people. Generally students can include their name, major, class projects, related experience, and your short-term career interests. This should be used as more of a loose guideline than a memorized script.

Start small first

If you are a shy person, think about what might be a realistic goal for yourself in terms of meeting people and then try to reach it.

A few examples would be:

Do the little things well: Use your listening skills or observational skills when interacting with others. Remember, non-verbal communication typically has a larger impact than what you actually say. Ask people that you meet for their business cards and initiate a follow-up email or other type of response.

Seek out others like yourself: Try approaching someone who is standing alone. You might even start by acknowledging the fact that you are not the most comfortable at these types of events. Gauge their response. They may have feelings similar to you and this may help in networking with a fellow “novice”.

Position yourself well: Find a place where people are gathering. It could be the refreshments area, near some demonstrations, or in a resting area. Perhaps you may find a more quiet area that you feel more comfortable in to approach others. The point is to find an area where you will be comfortable and there are opportunities to interact.


Networking is a skill like any other and it takes practice and effort, but over time even someone who views them-self as shy can become an effective networker. The key is to remember that networking is a two-way street and you want to offer a mutually beneficial relationship to someone.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

You Can Do More

by: Kelly Cuene, career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

What are you doing in your job search? In an economy like this one, it’s easy to throw up our hands and say we’ve submitted hundreds of applications and nothing is happening because no one is hiring. Or, job seekers will talk about all the competition – that there are more experienced candidates applying for the same positions, so they have no chance.

Job searching can be trying. It can be draining and full of rejection. So it’s easy to make excuses.

Sticking with the feel-good strategies

Too often we rely on short-term options in our job search. Things like looking at company websites to see what’s posted, searching job boards, and submitting our resume online. These strategies have their place in a job search, but they should not be the only focus.

Short-term strategies have the allure of ease and an immediate sense of accomplishment. Even though we know the odds are against us, we rationalize the single focus on these job searching behaviors so we don’t have to step outside our comfort zone. We can tell ourselves we applied at hundreds of places, so it’s not our fault we aren’t getting interviews or haven’t landed a position.

If you’ve ever read Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, you are familiar with the way in which he divides tasks into four groups: important and urgent (like returning an employer’s call), important and not urgent (building relationships with people), unimportant and urgent (often times interruptions from other people), and unimportant and not urgent (spending hours tracking down your ex on Facebook).

Doing more in your job search means working on the important but non-urgent tasks that are aligned with your true priorities (like getting a job!).

Do more

Most job seekers can benefit by investing in more long-term strategies to find job opportunities. Things like inviting people out to coffee or lunch, posting and answering questions on LinkedIn, reaching out to new contacts on Twitter, and attending social events outside our normal social circle. How many real life, offline interactions have you had lately? How many new contacts have you made? Who have you helped recently?

The payoff for these activities is less clear. They also require job seekers to risk rejection or to ask for help, neither of which are easy. They typically do not come with the feeling of making tangible, quantifiable progress in our job search.

Students who are reading this blog and other personal branding or career advice websites are above average. Make your job search above average. Do more. Risk rejection, face your fears and invest in long-term strategies for job search success.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Working a Room

by Steven C. Bennett
(The National Law Journal)

For many junior (and even some senior) lawyers, the prospect of walking into a room full of strangers, striking up conversations, and coming away with some real business value, can seem daunting, and even anxiety-producing. But "working a room" is one of the staples of business development. And it can be learned. This article offers a few initial insights.

What's The Point?

The Johnny Appleseed myth suggests that working a room means spreading out and making as many contacts as possible, handing each new acquaintance a business card, and then moving on. Resist that myth. The real object almost always is to find a few good quality contacts, and to spend enough time with each to learn about their needs and interests, and leave a favorable impression. Consider these tips:

Do some research. Get the guest list in advance, if you can. Look for anyone you know, and anyone you might like to know. Consider whether any of your current acquaintances might help introduce you to some potentially valuable contacts.

Budget your time. Don't expect more than one or two meaningful conversations in any 60-90 minute gathering.

Identify a personal goal for each encounter. For example: identify one interesting fact about each person you meet. Ask at least one meaningful question about each person's business, or background. See how much you can get each person to talk about themselves (a 60/40 them/you ratio, or better). These kinds of personal goals can keep you focused, and give an impression of interest and enthusiasm.

Plan Your Approach, Before You Start

The terrain of a room (or rooms) will often determine the strategies most appropriate to satisfy your goals. A quick stroll and survey of the scene, before you begin, can help you organize the campaign. Consider:

Crowded rooms tend to produce clumps of people, often difficult to penetrate. Look for opportunities on the fringes of the room, or in the entrance hall.

Some locations naturally draw individuals, more available for conversation. A check-in table may be ideal, as is the bar. You need not stake out these locations, but when at liberty, you might gravitate toward them, to increase your chances of striking up another conversation.

Do not sit down. Sitting reduces your profile, for others to recognize and engage with you. If you must sit down (for a meal or formal program), pick a spot early, and place a coat or some other token of your place-holding, at a largely empty table. You can invite others to join you at "your" table, or pick up and move your belongings, to join an interesting table companion.

Mind Your Appearance

First impressions are important. You want to display confidence, interest and approachability. Consider:

Wear a smile. Maintain eye contact. Feel free to enjoy yourself. When in doubt, say something positive: "What a swell party." "Wow, I have learned a lot at this conference." Stay upbeat.

Dress neatly. Over-dress, if you're unsure. You can always remove a tie or jacket, if the ambiance seems more informal.

Don't over-load on food, or drinks. Eat only bite-sized appetizers while standing up. Drink alcohol in moderation. Keep your drink in your left hand, freeing the right hand for handshakes (without the chill of ice on the skin).

Develop Standard Approaches To "Cold" Rooms

Even in the "coldest" of rooms (where you know virtually no one) you can use some standard approaches to begin conversations:

Greet the host (or person who invited you). Give a "thank you," and ask to be introduced to guests who might share your interests.

Greet the guest speaker(s), before the presentation, and ask whether one of your interests will be addressed in the talk.

Approach other "singles" in the crowd. Be candid: "I really don't know anyone here. Do you?" Again, ask for help with introductions.

Make sure you have your 20-second self-description ready for everyone you meet: "I'm Jane Smith. I'm a tax lawyer at Smith & Smith. What brings you to this event?

Plan Your Exit

Good quality conversations usually take 15-20 minutes. After that time, both you and your conversation-mate may begin to feel some pressure to disengage. Make the process comfortable for you both.

Give a thank you, and suggest a follow-up. "I really enjoyed talking with you. May I have your card?" If appropriate, suggest a specific step: "I'll give a call next week about _____."

Give yourself a legitimate excuse to leave. Carry a near-empty glass, and break off for a re-fill or note that you really must say thank you to the host before the event ends. Do not constantly scan the crowd, looking for a better companion, and abruptly depart.

If possible, offer help to your companion before you go: "Would you like me to introduce you to John Jones?"

Close The Loop

Even the best introductions serve little purpose if you do not follow-up. Give yourself assignments, to be performed after an event:

Write some brief notes on everyone you met, including any significant discussions you had.

Enter contact information in your contacts list.

If the contact is a potential client, run a conflicts check. Speak to your firm colleagues about the contact.

Follow up, promptly, with a note, call or email. The message need not be more than "great to meet you." Keep track of contacts, and regularly send them invitations to events of interest, and offer to send publications in their focus area.


First meetings in group settings require a combination of planning and a recognition that "meet and greet" events involve a healthy element of random activity. You never know who you might meet, what interests you might share, or the strength of the connections you may make. Have fun. Enjoy the adventure. Surprise yourself.

The author is a partner at Jones Day in New York City. The views expressed are solely those of the author, and should not be attributed to the author's firm, or its clients.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tips for Summer Associates

By Daniel J. Nichols, Attorney at Law, Gordon & Rees LLP, J. Reuben Clark Law School (Class of 2005)

On my first day as a summer associate, I was astonished to find out that I would have my own office. You may chuckle at my naïveté, but your first “real” law job will have its own surprises. Fortunately for me, a senior associate took me under his wing and shared some potentially job-saving advice. In my colleague’s honor, here are some tips that I collected over the years and dispensed to summer associates.

Always take a pad and pen into an office. Whenever you are called into any attorney’s office, always take something to write with and on. It may just be a social chat, a complicated assignment or a social chat that turns into a complicated assignment. You will look silly asking the partner to scrounge around her desk for a pen and paper that you should have brought.

Confirm assignments in writing. When you return to your office after receiving an assignment, write an e-mail to the assigning attorney (1) thanking him or her for the assignment; (2) restating the assignment and (3) restating or proposing a deadline for the assignment. Quite often, this e-mail will prompt the assigning attorney to offer some helpful clarification or direction on the assignment.

Honor deadlines. Obtain and respect deadlines for all projects. If you cannot meet a deadline, tell the assigning attorney ahead of time that you cannot meet the deadline and propose a new deadline. You should never receive a phone call from your supervising attorney wondering where an assignment is and when it might be done.

There is no such thing as a “rough” draft. No writing project, however preliminary, should look sloppy. Most lawyers simply cannot ignore a misspelled word or poor grammar. Submit only good-looking work product, even if it needs additional research or input from others. Every document sent to an attorney, including e-mails, should look professional and tidy.

If your answer is not what the attorney wanted, find other solutions. After careful research, you may determine that your attorney’s argument is simply not supported by the law. Season this bad news by suggesting some approaches that meet the client’s ultimate goals notwithstanding the roadblock you have now identified.

Appreciate and incorporate feedback. If you are fortunate enough to receive comments on your work, express gratitude and integrate the advice into your work. Before you turn in your next assignment, review the criticism you have received and ask if your work reflects the feedback.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Symplicity Access & Important Dates

We hope you are having productive summers, and we are available at any time to answer questions or give help. The summer will pass quickly, so we want to give you important information and upcoming deadlines that will help you prepare if you plan to participate in one of our interviewing programs.

All applications are submitted online through the Symplicity System, so in order to avoid potential problems:

Please try accessing Symplicity NOW to insure that you have access—the link is found at https://law-byu-csm.symplicity.com/

o If you did not attend the required mandatory March Fall Recruiting Meeting you won’t have access, so go to https://www.law.byu.edu/Law_School/Recordings, watch the “Fall Recruiting Meeting 3/25/2010” recording, and email your notes to the office secretary to get Symplicity access.

o If you did attend the meeting, but don’t have access, please email the office secretary indicating that you did attend and need access. The secretary will confirm your attendance and grant access.

Upload your resumes and apply early to avoid last minute problems because if you miss a drop deadline, there is no way to drop late!

Application deadlines (11:45 p.m. on the following dates):

o New York/DC Early Interviewing Program: Tuesday, July 6
(The date will change, if necessary, to accommodate co-curricular selections)

o Southern California Job Fair: Monday, July 19

o On Campus Interviews: Saturday, July 31

o Las Vegas Job Fair: Monday, August 23

Event Dates:

o DC Early Interview Program (in Washington, DC): Monday, August 2 – Tuesday, August 3

o NY Early Interview Program (in Manhattan): Thursday, August 5 – Friday, August 6

o Southern California Job Fair (in Irvine, CA): Saturday, August 14

o On Campus Interviews Begin: Monday, August 23 (the first day of school)

o Nevada Job Fair (in Las Vegas): Saturday, September 18

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We look forward to seeing you when you return!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How to Work for the United Nations or Other Inter-Governmental Organizations

Today’s post on possible career routes into Inter-Governmental Organizations like the United Nations comes from Sara Rakita, Associate Director of the Public Interest Law Center at New York University School of Law. Sara has worked extensively on human rights and the rule of law, primarily in Africa. Before joining PILC in 2006, she served as a long-term consultant to the Ford Foundation, where she was responsible for piloting and setting up TrustAfrica, a new African grant-making foundation that is now based in Senegal. Sara spent five years as an Africa Researcher at Human Rights Watch, including two years as the organization’s representative in Rwanda. Sara has also consulted for Amnesty International, Global Rights, USAID, and the Austrian development agency. Sara holds a J.D. from NYU, an M.I.A. from Columbia University, and a B.A. in international studies from The American University. She is fluent in French and has a working knowledge of Spanish and Russian.

Lots of people would love to work for the United Nations or other Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGOs), but it’s not always apparent how to get there. Indeed, there is no single path. In an effort to demystify a process that is not always transparent, this post will explain some of the main channels into IGOs.

As a baseline, it helps to have a background in international law, foreign language skills, and experience working and living abroad. But, even with all of this, this is still a VERY challenging sector to break into. Getting a job at IGOs or the UN takes a whole lot of networking, persistence, and creativity – with a measure of luck and being in the right place (and often knowing the right people) at the right time.


Most agencies recruit interns – see http://www.state.gov/p/io/empl/ for a list. These internships can provide great opportunities, skills, and connections you can use in future IGO/UN job searches. One rather important caveat: IGOs typically have a rule that interns cannot be hired as employees in the six months following completion of their internships. Still, internships can help position you to get a paid job later. Furthermore, the prohibition only applies to the specific agency; you are eligible to apply immediately at many other agencies – so if you intern, for example, at the International Criminal Court you could apply for jobs with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia which is also in The Hague. Interning is a great way to get your foot in the door, get to know an agency, prove yourself to potential employers, build your resume, and make contacts!

Entry-Level Programs

Many UN agencies and IGOs have organized entry-level programs for “young” and “junior” professionals. These include programs for young lawyers and others for law-related positions that focus on development, human rights, refugee protection, etc.

The best way to get hired by the UN Secretariat (the main UN Headquarters) is through the Competitive Recruitment Exam. People hired through this channel get permanent employment contracts. The exam is offered annually in certain fields for nationals of certain countries – but the nationalities and fields change each year. In recent years, Americans have occasionally been eligible to sit for the exam in Legal Affairs, Political Affairs, Human Rights, and Economic Affairs. The process was put on hold in 2009-2010 while the UN tried to clean up its roster of candidates, but is set to resume next winter. For details see http://www.un.org/Depts/OHRM/examin/exam.htm. Getting hired this way can take at least a year, so it’s not always the best option for your first job after law school but it is good to get the process started. Also note that some other agencies have separate examination programs; the UN High Commission for Refugees is at http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c497.html.

A number of governments also sponsor two-year JPO Programs for young professionals from their countries (or in some cases developing countries) to work with certain agencies; information about JPO programs is available from sponsoring governments is at http://www.jposc.org/content/programme/other_programmes-en.html. Opportunities for US citizens are limited, but can be found at http://www.state.gov/g/prm/c25774.htm.

In addition, the UN sponsors a UN Volunteer (UNV) program that often hires young lawyers for positions with peacekeeping missions and other offices in developing countries. Don’t be fooled by the word volunteer – UNVs typically receive stipends and generous per diems. This program can be a great way to get experience and get a foot in the door. See http://unv.org/ for more details.

A few points to keep in mind:

Entry level programs at IGOs are highly competitive and many require a minimum of two years prior experience. To boot, they often have age limits of 30-35.

Some agencies, like the World Bank, prefer students with LL.M.s.

Passports matter. It helps to be from a country that is “underrepresented” in that agency. Good news: the United States is currently underrepresented in the UN and, after years of resentment against Americans for not paying our dues, we are all paid up. But other nationalities may still get preference in some offices.

Networking is always helpful in getting these positions.

Application processes can be very lengthy – it can take up to a year, sometimes much longer, from the time of application to starting a job.

Application Tip: When applying, it is best to go through formal channels listed on the organization’s website and also to use personal channels (networking) to make sure they actually consider your application.

Full-Time Positions

Many positions are listed on the main UN job site, http://careers.un.org/, and at http://www.unsystem.org/jobs/job_opportunities.htm. The State Department publishes a bi-weekly list of international vacancy announcements http://www.state.gov/p/io/empl/.

But don’t stop there! Every agency from the African Development Bank to the International Criminal Court to the World Trade Organization has its own website and its own employment page (a good list of links can be found at http://www.state.gov/p/io/empl/125507.htm). Most of these organizations have satellite offices based in other countries, some of which have region or country-specific websites – e.g. UNHCR mission in Sri Lanka or the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Bosnia, of which the US is a member – where they may post jobs that do not appear on the central websites. Not all positions are posted publicly and some may only be posted internally.

Confused? The UN job system used to be (aptly) named Galaxy – it often felt that applications went into a black hole. In my many years of doing international work, I can count on one hand the number of people I know who just applied for a position from the website without contacts and actually got the job, though they do exist. While the UN has made efforts to improve the process, perhaps this is another good time to mention that networking will usually be the best way to not only find out about job opportunities, but also to make sure that your application is looked at.

A word on job categories: professional positions at the UN are labeled with P: P-2 positions are considered entry level, though they really require at least 2 years experience, and with more experience you can progress to a P-3, P-4, etc.

Contract and Consulting Work

Outside of these formal channels, IGOs often hire professionals on a fixed-term or short-term contract basis. They may become available when a staff person goes on maternity leave or on mission overseas. These jobs may also materialize if there is a big new project that an office needs help with. Postings may be labeled “Consultancies,” “Consultants,” “Short Term Contracts,” Experts,” “Project Vacancies,” etc. Networking is the best way to find out about these opportunities, as contract and consultant positions are not always posted.

It can be stressful to take these short-term positions (believe me, I know), but if you really want to get there these can be your best option. Why is it worth it? You will start to make good contacts, giving your networking a huge boost. And you can often apply for other positions as an internal candidate once you are in. I have known many people who started on a short contract but are still there years later. The UN can be sort of like the Hotel California in that sense, once you check in you can never leave…

About that Networking

So, as you have gathered, it really helps to have contacts on the inside! But how can you find these contacts? Internships of course are a great way. Also be sure to ask your international law professors who they know. Bar and other professional associations can also be helpful – International Law Weekend at the New York City Bar (held every year in October) or the American Society for International Law’s annual April meeting in Washington, DC are both excellent. You may also consider joining the UN Association of the USA.

In conclusion, the UN is not an easy nut to crack. But for those of you who are determined to get there, I hope this serves as a useful roadmap to a highly sought after destination. I don’t necessarily recommend that you focus a job search solely on IGOs, but it is definitely worth pursuing along with other options. Good luck!