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Trainee lawyers and recent graduates, as yet unaffiliated with a firm or organisation, are establishing powerful personal reputations on social media, and interacting with potential future employers in a way never before possible. Lyndsey Jefferson explains how early social media engagement can boost your chances of securing the job you are looking for.
In these competitive and uncertain times, it is up to graduates to innovate new ways to get noticed and social media provides the perfect platform on which to do this.
In their infancy, social media networks were perceived as little more than a tool used by a few individuals to document the behaviour of their favourite celebrity. However, the recent and explosive growth of social media, has resulted in a shift from “push media” to “pull media” giving users, no longer satisfied by simply receiving information, the ability to seek out the information they want.
While the use of social media sites clearly has many advantages, it comes with a big sign saying, “user beware” and this is particularly pertinent to those who would use them for job hunting and networking.
2012 saw an increase in the amount of public complaints received by the Crown Prosecution Service from social media users claiming to have been the recipients of messages detailing violent or abusive behavior towards them. Keir Starmer, the director of Public prosecutions for England and Wales issued guidelines stating: those making serious threats will be “prosecuted robustly”, while those just making tasteless jokes and comments will only face prosecution “if they cross a high threshold”. The maturity of the accused is also a deciding factor.
Yesterday, in Scotland, the COPFS confirmed it has no plans to publish prosecution guidance on offensive comments made on social media.
While there are numerous social media sites available, there are three primary sites that graduates should consider: LinkedIn; which was established as a business networking site; Facebook; originally intended primarily for social use, and now regarded as a key player in allowing businesses to engage with new and existing customers and Twitter.
For me, as someone who is keen to interact with my peers, it is Twitter that has afforded me the most opportunities and is, in my opinion, the social media tool which all graduates should embrace. Twitter’s simple concept makes it ideal for receiving and forwarding news quickly and concisely and, as a result many law firms have already joined the Twitter elite, regularly commenting on and sharing points of legal interest.
Twitter provides a streamlined, concise platform on which graduates can communicate with a vast range of individuals. The effective use of social media requires a degree of consistency, consideration and commitment: these skills, applied correctly, are surely desired in trainees by any firm in a position to hire.
So how do you use Twitter successfully and find these opportunities? Simply opening an account is no good. You need to regularly review and comment on topics of professional interest. That said, there is no need to tweet every hour, no one cares what you had for breakfast, (boiled egg and coffee in case you do!). However, making a quick tweet about a recent article that either interests or reflects upon the type of roles you want to enter within the future will certainly stand you in good stead. Start following specific people, to demonstrate your interests and intent to remain current with the relevant news and information.
There are three tips I would give any graduates out there in relation to Twitter success: First; I got started by tweeting something very simple, “law graduate interested in criminal law, any ideas for blogs to read?” From there, I had other users suggesting blogs and who I should follow. The response was amazing.
Second, be engaging and grow your network. Talk about law, current events, whatever you are passionate about, be the person other people would want to work with. Don’t be afraid to show your personality.
Finally, if the opportunity presents itself, take it offline. Being Twitter acquaintances is a great start, but, where possible, arrange to meet offline and invite them to coffee or lunch. Take the time and build a professional relationship; it’s worth the investment.
In the past week, I have been made aware of three trainee vacancies all advertised solely on Twitter and which, had I not been quick to follow up on, I would undoubtedly have missed.
This is not to say that being active on Twitter gives applicants the upper hand. On 7th December this year The Law Society published research carried out by Ipsos MORI, which showed that, out of 500 lawyers, the most popular social network tool was LinkedIn. The highest usage of social media was among trainees and newly qualified solicitors. Those at partner or senior partner level were the least likely to have used any social media channels to communicate.
As a direct result of Twitter, I have made new friends, been afforded the opportunity to shadow Counsel in a high profile murder trial, and been asked to write a number of articles about the current reforms in the Scottish Justice System and I can categorically say that these opportunities would have never happened had it not been for my presence and self-promotion on Twitter.
I would genuinely struggle to think of another platform where I could so easily ask for help and advice from such a pool of talented lawyers, people who I genuinely respect and who one day hope to work alongside. It is with great pride and sincerity that I nail my social media colours to the mast: Twitter is the best social development tool and I would encourage all graduates to increase their profile by using it.
After all, what’s 140 characters between friends and potential employees?
Lyndsey Jefferson is a law graduate who tweets as @LawIsNowBlonde
Image Credits: SmartHomeFamily.au/Lyndsey Jefferson