On Thursday, February 28th, Mizzou Law will host the annual Small Firm and Public Interest Expo from noon to 2:00 pm in the Reynolds Alumni Center’s Columns Ballroom. Approximately 75+ employers representing over 53 organizations will be in attendance.
What is the Expo? The Expo is an opportunity to network, build relationships with employers, learn about future opportunities, and share your interests and resume with organizations and firms. By talking to a variety of attorneys, you will be exposed to many different practice areas and options that are available. This will allow you to begin to discern where the best fit for you might be.
What is in it for YOU? An Expo is like “One Stop Shopping”, it is an efficient way to talk to many attorneys in one place and learn about a variety of career paths, while making connections for your future.
Who is coming? At this time we have 15 small law firms, 12 federal agencies, 13 state agencies, 2 city/county agencies, 10 non-profits, and one judicial representative registered. A total of 78 representatives plan to attend, 44 of who are Mizzou Law alumni.
Students will find over 20 externships/internships and over 10 paid summer associate positions available at the Expo. There will also be several organizations seeking full time hires. Those who are not advertising an opening at may soon have one and with student resumes already collected, you just might get a phone call!
Students – How to make your connections count:
- Dress Professional – An Expo requires the same attention to attire as an interview. For some, it is a real interview, just a short one. Make a great first impression by dressing for success.
- Greet the attorney/employer – Use a firm handshake while establishing eye contact. Walk up confidently and introduce yourself. Be sure to SMILE!
- Prepare a “30-second commercial” – Create a short intro that explains your career focus, your interest, your background and how it relates to the organization. Your personality and communication skills are being evaluated, as well as your skill set.
- Develop informed questions – Consider what you want to know and have questions ready, for example: “What are the key skills that help a person succeed with your agency?”, “What is a typical day like for an associate with your firm?” Be sure you are prepared to ask and answer fairly standard interview questions. Be ready to articulate your career goals.
- Be independent – Try not to move in groups. Show the employer that you are focused and assertive. Be sure to respect other people’s privacy as they complete their visit with the employer.
Prepare for the Expo – Make a plan before you attend:
- Bring copies of your resume and reference page – Keep your materials in a padfolio or notebook. Be sure your resumes are updated and on resume paper. Have your resume reviewed by the CDO if it hasn’t been recently.
- Review the list of employers attending – Research the organizations coming and decide which ones you are interested in visiting. Research their websites to learn more about them. Compile questions, review the positions they may have open, etc.
- Have a plan – Determine the top 5 to 8 employers you are interested in pursuing at the Expo. Then make another list of employers that you would like to introduce yourself to so you may learn more about them and to solicit advice. You might be surprised to find their potential for helping you begin your career. It is important to visit with your most important employers after you are comfortable and accustomed to the format.
- Professionalism is the key – Conduct yourself professionally at all times. Remember you are on stage even as you stand in line, move about the room, or partake of the refreshments. Remember, you are there for a purpose, not for the food.
Table Talk – Engage the employer:
To encourage more productive networking, the Expo will use a “Table Talk” format used at other public interest fairs. Each organization will have one or two representatives and their own table.
There will be chairs for the employers on one side of the table and one chair for the student on the other side of the table. This will allow for a short, meaningful conversation. Other students will be able to see that you are in conversation and will wait their turn.
- Table Talk is a quick 5 minute opportunity to talk with an employer. It is a “mini-interview”, for you to learn more about the organization and their practice as well as a chance to make a positive impression and begin to develop a contact.
- Generate and maintain interest by using the employer’s name. Respond to questions with specific and concise examples. Keep your voice lively and pleasant, avoid pat answers or clichés. Respond truthfully and paint a positive picture.
- Ask for information and application materials (if appropriate – this would be more for state and federal agencies). Inquire about obtaining further information. Ask about other potential contacts or leads you might pursue.
- “Close the deal”, take the initiative and ask what your next step should be. Ask the employer for his/her business card so you can follow up with an email or a thank you note. Before leaving, thank the employer and offer a handshake.
- Take a moment away from the table to make notes to yourself on topics of conversation, the name of the employer (if a business card was not available) and any other people who might have been mentioned. Organizing your materials will assist you with follow through later.
The Route to Success – Plan who to visit and what to say:
- Select the specific organizations you are interested in BUT be open to visiting with others. For example, if you are interested in small firms, still visit with a few state and/or federal agencies to learn more about opportunities and the job duties in their organization. Also, if you are thinking about public service, be sure to speak to a few law firms that practice the type of law you are interested in.
- Feel free to ask the employers about their career path and what recommendations they might have. They came to the Expo to talk with you!
- Don’t just leave your resume and say a few words. Market yourself and determine whether there might be mutual interests, even if they are not offering a position. You are building your network, so take the time to learn about the employer and the organization.
- Don’t monopolize the employer’s time. Make a connection, sell yourself, make a positive impression and then give the next student the opportunity to do the same.
- Don’t pretend you are interested when you are not. If you find out the organization does not interest you, thank the employer and move on. You may be preventing a student who is really interested from obtaining a chance to make a connection.
Expo Interviewing – Similar to speed dating:
If the organization is offering an externship/internship or full time position, your Table Talk is now a quick interview. How do you let the organization know what you can do for them while creating a positive impression in only 5 minutes?
- Preparation! Know the company/agency. Know what skills you have that would assist the firm. Have specific examples ready to demonstrate how you gained or utilized those skills in the past. The employer wants to know what you can do. Point out transferable skills.
- Have questions prepared. Prepare thoughtful questions that show you researched the company. On the blog under “Small Firm and Public Interest Expo” the list of the organizations attending hyperlinks to the employer’s website.
- Make sure when you hand your resume that your references are included (attach with a paper clip – no staples). Ask the employer if they would like a writing sample, transcript, etc. Then send them the material along with another copy of your resume, reference page and a cover letter targeted to the position. Make sure you mention in the cover letter, that who you enjoyed meeting at the Mizzou Law’s Small Firm and Public Interest Expo. Send the materials a day or two after the Expo.
Follow Through – The fine art of nurturing a network:
- Expo follow-up – Send thank you notes to any organization in which you are truly interested in within 24 to 48 hours. This assertive behavior sets you apart and maintains your professional image.
- A thank you may be an email, a letter or a hand-written note. Making a follow-up phone call within 10 days, to agencies/organizations that offer your ideal position is important.
- If the organization/firm is not offering a position, but they are the type of firm you would be interested in working for, send a thank-you note or email. Then within a week, send an invite to connect on LinkedIn. Once they have connected with you on LinkedIn, keeping in touch on a monthly or bi-monthly basis is good way of establishing the connection. Ask if you might, at their convenience, visit the firm and talk to additional staff members to learn more about their area of practice or more about their agency.
- Networking is a two-way street, so offering to assist in anyway is a positive way to build the connection.