by Camille Edwards Bennehoff
So your spouse just got orders, and you are going to make a permanent change of station (PCS) to a new state or country. How do you find a job? Networking may be your key to employment.
Prior to my first PCS move, I had lived and worked in Southern California my entire life. I was heavily involved in the local legal community. I was active in the local bar associations, volunteered for the Legal Aid Society, was active as an alumni of my law school, went to all the networking events, and knew a lot of people from school and from my many clerkships during law school.
Then we learned my husband was to be stationed in the District of Columbia (D.C.) area. I had never lived anywhere besides California, and most of my legal connections were in California. Although I heard that D.C. has a lot of jobs for lawyers, I was worried about my job prospects. From personal experience as both a job seeker and one helping others get a job, I knew the importance of networking and knowing people in the area.
I started networking once I knew we were moving. I researched the area, consulted more experienced attorneys, reached out to my MSJDN network, and consulted with my school’s career services. I started applying for jobs before the move, and was fortunate to have some phone interviews scheduled before the move and some in-person interviews lined up for when we arrived. We PCSed in mid-March, and I thankfully accepted an offer less than three months after we moved to D.C.
The importance of networking cannot be overemphasized. So many jobs go unadvertised or they are filled because the candidate knew someone at the organization. Networking has helped me obtain so many job opportunities and assisted friends in getting jobs. In my most recent experience, I learned of unadvertised jobs through friends that work(ed) for the organization or was placed at the top of the resume pile as a referral. I even got a paid clerkship during law school because a friend remembered that I was interested in tax and told her friend who owned a tax law firm about me and sent him my LinkedIn profile.
According to the MSJDN 2015 Annual Survey, only 20% of military spouse attorneys reported finding a job within 6 months of a PCS. Let’s bring that percentage up!
Here are some of the networking tips I learned for a successful job search before/during/after a PCS, either through advice or through trial and error.
Networking Before and After a PCS
1. Your Networking Begins As Soon as You Know You’re PCSing
Once we had orders I began networking. Before we moved I was still attending networking events, but my elevator pitch changed; I was now telling people that I was moving to the DC area, and was asking who they knew in the area or if they knew of job openings. I talked to people who had lived in the area previously or knew someone there and gained some valuable contacts.
If you’re not comfortable saying that you need a job, you can pose the question as “I’d love to make new connections in the area.” Moving to a new area is hard, and it’s always good to meet people with common interests who can show you around town.
2. Reach Out to Any Alumni or Friends Working in the Area
One of the first things I did when I knew where we were PCSing was ask friends, acquaintances, and coworkers who they knew currently in the area or who had worked in the area. I posted on Facebook asking who knew anyone and also privately messaged/emailed people I knew in the area. Several friends provided valuable contacts or gave me advice about the peculiarities of a job search in DC. It’s very important to learn what you can about your new legal market.
Since I knew a few people from law school living in the area, I planned meetups with them for after the move. My friend Maggie from law school actually referred me to my current job.
3. Business Cards
Order some generic business cards to handout when you meet people. Always have a couple in your pocket or purse. The card should have your cell phone address, personal email, that you’re an attorney (or in progress), any specialization or other graduate degrees such as a Master of Laws, and the URL for your LinkedIn account. I would recommend against listing an address so you can continue to use the cards as you move to different locations and accumulate bar memberships (so far just California and District of Columbia for me, knock on wood!).
Collect business cards from people you meet. I find it helpful to write notes that about shared interests or something we discussed on the card. This helps me remember the person, and then work that into a personalized follow-up email or message on LinkedIn. For example: “Mary also has a cat and volunteers at a cat shelter.” People will like that personalized touch and it helps them remember you as well.
Also carry around a small notepad and pen. If someone has forgotten their business cards or does not have one, have him or her write down an email address
4. Utilize LinkedIn
Before I moved I used LinkedIn to connect with alumni of my law school and friends of friends in the area. I was able to make an online introduction, and then I later met some of these people in person.
It’s very important to try to make that in-person connection with people you haven’t met before. People feel more invested once you’ve met them for a coffee date and won them over with your many accomplishments and winning personality!
After I PCSed I used LinkedIn to keep in touch with people I met at various networking events.
5. Consult with Your Law Schools’ Career Services and Alumni Networks
Consult with your career services and alumni association. Career services may have reciprocity with the career services of law schools in the area and may be able to provide you with access to their job listings or career services consultations. The alumni association can provide you with a list of alumni working/living in your new home. Being from the same law school is a great icebreaker and an easier way to start a conversation (versus cold calling and asking for jobs).
6. Attend Local Networking Events After the PCS
So now you have PCSed, hopefully the movers didn’t lose or break everything. Now you need to be attending every networking event you can! Join local bar associations, and attend networking events. See if you can get discounted bar membership or discounted event fees. Bar associations often have discounted membership if you’re unemployed.
7. Targeted Networking for Your Desired Employer
If you have a specific firm or organization in mind, try targeting your networking to that organization. See if anyone you know works there. If it’s a firm or organization with multiple locations, a friend or acquaintance who works there doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same location as your new home. He or she may be able to refer you to specific jobs, introduce you to a hiring manager, or can give you important information about hiring practices.
For example, I was looking at a national defense contractor, and a fellow MSJDN member living in San Diego referred me to a hiring manager and gave me valuable tips for my resume and cover letter.
8. Utilize Your MSJDN Network
Perhaps most importantly, reach out to your MSJDN network. There are hundreds of military spouse lawyers (and future lawyers) in our membership spread out across the globe, in a range of industries and practice areas. Chances are that there are other MSJDN members who live/have lived in your new home, know people who live there, or work/know people who work for your desired employer.
Post on the Facebook group or on the website in a forum. Ask what people know about the area, who they know, and for job leads. MSJDN also has a job board at https://www.msjdn.org/jobs/.
MSJDN provides discounts to members such as a discount for American Bar Association and Women’s Bar Association of DC membership. Check https://www.msjdn.org/discounts/ for the discounts that may help you in your job search.
MSJDN also hosts or promotes job search events, including the annual Making the Right Moves event, this year in Washington, D.C. on October 21st.
Making the Right moves is a career development conference created for the specific needs of military spouse attorneys, and the agenda includes networking and job search and resume writing advice. Tickets are still available at https://www.msjdn.org/rightmoves/.