The leaves are falling, and so are your job prospects. So you didn't score an on-campus interview? Don't despair. The best jobs don't always grow on trees, and finding them often requires a nose like a bloodhound and teeth like a cheetah. It takes pluck and imagination to land the job of your dreams, especially when you're out by your lonesome in the middle of the jungle -- a place where the recruiters don't call and can't find you.
Here are a few suggestions to find that dream job when it doesn't come looking.
At New York Law School, where I teach, most successful job hunters do not wait for the phone to ring. They're doing the ringing themselves.
Take one student, whom I'll call Justin, who sent out 122 letters and received 116 rejections. Refusing to take no for an answer, he worked the phones, calling the sister of an ex-girlfriend who was an associate at a big New York firm and a gym buddy whose uncle worked at another top corporate firm. Both of them got him interviews. Eventually, he got cheeky and called the recruiting coordinator directly at the corporate law firm where he wanted to work. She told him that the firm had completed its on-campus interviews and was not accepting new résumés. But he persisted, volunteering to come in to the office the very next day, a Friday. As a result of his enthusiasm, he not only landed the interview but he got the job. According to the recruiter, he had her at hello.
Adam Hahn played the stalker, waiting outside on-campus interview rooms with his résumé in hand. During breaks, he begged the interviewers for five minutes to speak with them. Ninety-five percent of the time, he says, they acquiesced, and eventually, he landed his big-firm job that way.
Other students I know call alumni; network through former employers, friends and family; and even crash law firm cocktail receptions. It may not be pretty sticking your toe in the door just as it slams -- but it sure stops the door.
These students know a truth about guerrilla job tactics: Partners want to hire associates who want to work for them. A good attitude and a lot of enthusiasm go a long way, especially after a stack of plain-vanilla résumés and candidates.
If there's one thing a partner wants to know when it's time to finalize a brief or bind a prospectus: Whom can she count on, and who will retreat for the hills?
My own experience with guerrilla job tactics happened accidentally, but out of necessity. When I returned to New York after a four-year absence in which I attended graduate school and got engaged, the headhunters could barely land me an interview. I was suddenly unemployable and desperate, dependent on the kindness of my fiancée and my parents. Was there anyone I knew? a headhunter asked. Anyone who could help wedge open the door? I got my first interview at the firm that would eventually hire me when the hiring partner happened to recognize my name on a résumé: He had recruited me at another firm as a summer associate. I got my next job at CBS Corp. with the help of one of my best friends, who directed me to his cousin, who made a phone call to the head of litigation on my behalf. And so on.
Since that time, every job I have been offered has come about as a result of a personal connection, including my current position at New York Law School -- arising from my days as a graduate student at the University of Iowa, when I became acquainted with the future dean of NY Law, who was on the Iowa law faculty at the time.
Some of the connections have been tenuous -- six degrees of separation -- but I have worked the phones (and now the Internet) to stay employed and well-fed.
In the end, no one can really afford to wait to be hired. We've got to plunge into the wild, beat on the drums and hope we don't get eaten first.
Writer, lawyer and professor Cameron Stracher is the author of "Dinner With Dad: How I Found My Way Back to the Family Table," (Random House, 2007).