Any work experience is relevant

One candidate came to me during 2011 with her cv and we reviewed the work experience section together – mainly 3 holiday jobs working in a shop, a restaurant and a lettings agency. I asked whether she thought that any of this was relevant experience for an application to be a trainee solicitor, and her answer was “not really”. So I asked her to describe the types of activities involved, which led onto a discussion of the skills that she had developed – by the end it was clear to us both that her experience was very relevant.

Let me explain – this candidate had:

1. worked in a mobile phone shop, which involved discussing with customers about their requirements and then advising them on the type of contract to take out
2. managed the process of getting a tenant to sign up to a tenancy, juggling the landlord, inventory, credit checks, deposits etc.
3. dealt with difficult customers in a busy restaurant, and taken responsibility for writing up procedures and training up new waiters and waitresses on procedures

So we rewrote the experience section of her cv under various headings such as “Stakeholder Management” “Client Advisory” and “Project / Document Management”.

Then I asked the question again: “Do you have any relevant experience for the role of trainee solicitor?” – Answer – “YES”.

So I take away from this that any holiday job can be helpful in developing skills that are relevant to the role of being a successful solicitor. It also gives a candidate the chance to show that they understand what skills are needed to do the job well – that’s important.

Finally, I’m not always that impressed by candidates who have not done any holiday jobs except legal internships. Don’t get me wrong, these legal internships are very useful – in fact that was how I landed an offer from a large City firm. It’s just that the better candidates have done other jobs as well and can talk about the positive transferable skills that are relevant to being a solicitor – it just needs a bit of creative thinking.

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