Career Tips For Justice And Legal Students
Over the years as a Justice Adjunct (Sessional) instructor at various institutions I have been asked by many a student on how to get a ‘foot in the door’ in the justice or legal profession with a vast majority wanting to join a law enforcement agency.
Overall, the persons asking the questions are already on the right path, they have embarked on further education at a higher education facility such as a TAFE (In Australia) or a Community College (USA) or some other form of justice or legal studies at private institutions and the like. This is the first positive step and is the foundation for hopefully securing a position in an area that interests them. However, furthering their education is only the first step and it is here I wish to pass on some tips which I believe may assist you in securing a career in a justice or legal environment.
Having ticked the box of attending a reputable college, ensure that whilst at college you adopt a professional attitude to your studies and apply yourself as best you can where you are not afraid to seek assistance should you need it in your studies. Justice and legal careers are all about:
- Hard Work
- Ability To Work Under Pressure
- Tight Deadlines
Completing your studies at a high standard not only reflects on your ability to adapt to all or most of the above it also prepares you for the workforce where reports, submissions and projects are required on time and completed to the best of your ability.
Most courses have a ‘professional placement period where students complete several weeks work experience in a justice or legal field. It is here where I advise students to ‘seize the day’ and make the most of every opportunity on placement. A positive and professional attitude on placement is a perfect start to what may become a professional relationship with a person or persons within that organization. This professional relationship may lead to you gaining some valauble advice of recruitment drives etc within that organization.
Additionally, whilst on placement complete all your tasks no matter how menial some tasks may-be. Yes, you may have a placement at the police mounted branch stables ‘mucking’ out the stables, however, sworn police officers do that task daily and so should you if asked to do so. The same applies to other placements, where you may be asked to photocopy for days on end. Once again take the task on and complete it with a professional attitude. As a police officer and even as a lawyer I have spent days on end photocopying thousands of pages of briefs of evidence and the like where generally such tasks are part of a team environment and an integral part of the ‘team’ securing a successful prosecution. No task on placement is irrelevant no matter how menial it appears.
Always remember your supervisor is analysing your attitude and professionalism and willingness to undertake tasks and will generally be completing a workplace report on your time there. Furthermore your supervisor may be on the interview panel should a position become available at that organization and if you apply for the position I am sure you would want that supervisor to remember you for your hard work ethic. Even if your supervisor is not on the interview panel the HR department may call on him/her to report on your time there.
Placements are also a great area to network at and as such it is here you should consider establishing a networking strategy before taking on a placement.
Outside of work placement you should be networking at every opportunity you get and a few simple steps can have you underway with a networking strategy that reflects that you have an interest in the field you wish to be employed in.
One particular platform that is really taking shape in Australia with regards to how professionals network is Linkedin where over 175 million professionals use Linkedin to exchange information, ideas and opportunities.
A social media video link is attached to this blog post and it highlights how approximately 95% of employment agencies that review Linkedin use Linkedin to hire staff. That is a staggering figure and identifies how important it is too slowly build your professional profile over time. Yes, students have said to me that I have attended multiple Universities and have completed several degrees and the like in addition to a solid and varied work history in justice and law. However, we all have to start somewhere and my advice is to review my profile and where you see my reference to subject areas I have lectured in, I suggest you place on your profile in dot point form all the subjects you have completed. Once you do this you will see how your profile is really taking shape and highlighting for all to see the depth of units you have undertaken.
Ensure you keep adding all relevant professional details and link with as many people as you know in your field of interest. Once you start doing this you will see your profile is truly reflecting your experience and network in the justice and or legal fields. Don’t forget to add your work placements and any volunteer work you may undertake.
I would like to reinforce that you keep your Linkedin professional and continually link with people you have met through your studies and work-placements.
Once you have established a profile you have to ‘work it’ and by working it I mean go to the ‘Groups’ tab and join groups you have an interest in. As you can see from my profile I have joined the maximum of fifty groups and to to start with I suggest you consider joining three for four groups in key areas that you are passionate about. Once you join the groups, you must participate where you can. Participation may be just a comment on a discussion forum to even starting a discussion forum.
Once you make a few posts you will see in the right hand column of the group ‘Top Influencers This Week’ and it is here your name will appear and therefore will be seen by all in the group as a ‘contributor’. This is where potential employers may start seeing your name and this can assist in your application in that you are seen to be active in the particular area that you are seeking employment in.
About two hour per week or so on Linkedin will not only make you proficient in using it but will also provide you with valuable information as you navigate around its news posts and subscribe to areas that interest you so you get regular updates in your field of choice. (Great for future assignments and any other research).
Overall the more you can read and research in your field of interest the more knowledgeable you will become in that field and this will reflect in your interview at a later date.
One other area that is starting to gain traction in the ‘self promotion’ area are ‘about.me’ Splash pages. About.Me is a FREE service where you create your own one page that is all about YOU!
I strongly suggest you consider having an ‘about.me’ page focussed solely on your field of choice. Feel free to have a look at my ‘About.Me.’ page and most importantly look at the ‘Featured Directory’ located at the top of my ‘About.Me’ page where you will see some inspirational pages. Some just have two or three paragraphs and links back to the persons professional pages such as Linkedin etc.
The best part of about.me is you can put your ‘about.me’ in your signature block on your email so all your emails have a link to your profile.
Employers want to know you really are interested in the area you seek employment in and it is a competitive field in justice and legal and you must have a point of difference to cut through all the applicants.
Done right and with a professional approach you should establish a profile that reflects your passion in the field.
Looking Outside The Square
Don’t know where to go at the end of your studies? Or is the field you have an interest in not recruiting? Have you missed out on your first attempt at gaining employment in that field?
Do not despair the justice and legal areas are massive areas to gain employment in and all have a variety of departments where you may find positions advertised. Also once you are in government you can apply internally for positions across all government agencies for positions that may not be advertised externally.
First of all create a free subscriber account with an online careers search engine like ‘Seek’ or My Career’ (Australia) or Monster (USA). Place all the ‘buzz words in your search terms, and I mean all of them, this is where you look back at your unit outlines and key in dozens of terms. For instance just recently the traffic camera contractor was looking at filling dozens of casual positions for speed camera operators to sit in cars 2-3 days per week and the rate of pay was quite extraordinary considering once you set up you could plug your lap top in and study…..
However if you did not have an account that captured the terms in the advertisement you would most probably not have seen the positions. ASIO too recently were hiring base entry ‘Analysts’ and again you need to have all such terms registered in your account.
One tip, create a dedicated email account so your everyday one does not get bombarded and check this dedicated email two to three times per week or so.
Suggested Areas To Keep An Eye On
The following areas in the justice and legal fields are just some of the areas you should actively search your employment search engine but keep in mind some only advertise on their own web site and you should consider creating a ‘career’ bookmark tab to bookmark all the respective web sites so you can check regularly.
All of agencies listed below this role list have some or all of the following areas within each organization:
- Investigations Support
- Computer Forensics
- documents Control Units
- Property Officers (Seized)
- Legal Officers
- Legal Assistants
- Legal Analysts
- Risk Assessment Officers
- Risk Managers
- Freedom Of Information Officers
- Compliance Officers
- By Laws Officers
- Law Enforcement/Justice Liaison
- Information Officers
- Intelligence Officers
- Social Media Managers
A great example of an Intelligence Analyst’s role is in this video and it is well worth watching.
Dozens of departments exist in Australia and for overseas subscribers to this blog similar agencies exist in the USA, UK, Canada and the like.
Here is a list of just some of the agencies your should consider outside of the everyday police service and or law firm for justice related careers. All of the the below terms are in ‘Google’ and will link you to the web sites.
- Victorian Taxi Directorate
- Departmetns of Justice
- Attorney Generals Department
- DPI (Fisheries etc)
- Australian DOD (Dept of Defense)
- Australian Customs Service
- IMMI (Dept of Immigration)
- Defense Signals Directorate
- Protective Services (Both AFP and Vic Police)
- ACS Security (Airport Passenger Screening Section)
- Office Fair Trading
- Department of Transport (Federal and State)
- Tiger Airways
- Local Councils
- Vic Track
- Vic Rail
All of these agencies have a variety of positions as mentioned previously and it is imperative you have the broadest search tem list created in your search engine so you capture a position as it is advertised. Remembering some only advertise on their own web sites so you have to keep checking back.
Your Social Media Profile
Finally, your social media profile is important and it is here you must consider tidying up your Facebook, Twitter and any other accounts you may have. Employers are starting to search the web to see what your profile is like and whilst it may be ‘private’ you cannot control what your ‘friends’ on forward.
Social media is important in todays employment field and the following video will not only highlight its power but also reinforce the power of Linkedin as previously mentioned.
Remember, “Once In Cyber Space, Always In Cyber Space”
I hope this has been assistance to you and guides you to establishing a great network and hopefully a career in the justice or legal environment.
One final piece of advice for those seeking employment in a police service, try and gain employment whilst you are awaiting to join in areas that give you advanced people skills, ie customer service areas and the like and I strongly suggest against gaining employment in hotel security, overseas paramilitary organisations (mercenaries etc) and the like as the risk of injury and or civil or criminal action is fairly high and you do not want court matters pending if you have a police application underway.
If you feel you have benefited from this post, feel free to pass this post on to any friends that are seeking a career in justice or law.