For many applicants, a vacation scheme is a significant part of the journey to obtaining a training contract. Always remember, a vacation scheme is a two-week interview. During your vacation schemes, law firms will be assessing how you act in a professional and social environment at all times. While the main point of a vacation scheme is to get a training contract offer, it’s a real opportunity to shine and build key relationships at the firm you would like to start your career at. Below are some simple tips to ensure you have a successful vacation scheme:
Dress the part
It is a known fact that first impressions are sometimes formed before someone has even started to speak! Make sure you dress appropriately at all times and always dress in business attire on the first day. If it does become apparent that associates in your team do dress casually, you can tone it down (slightly!) but at all times dress appropriately. Not dressing in business attire gives the impression that you are too relaxed and may make you look like you aren’t taking the opportunity seriously.
Know the structure
All vacation schemes will be structured. On the first day of your vacation scheme you will be given a calendar with the dates and times of any talks, projects, training or meetings you need to be at. Remember to check this calendar at the beginning and end of every day to make sure that you know where you need to be and at what time. Additionally, you will be given times for team meetings, asked to attend associate or trainee training sessions and possibly client meetings. Make a note of all of these appointments and add them to the existing schedule you have been given. Missing sessions and being late for meetings does not give a good impression at all! Make sure you are always on time.
There will be many opportunities to work with different associates in the team you are sitting in and during your scheme you will meet various associates, trainees and partners at the firm. An enthusiastic vacation schemer makes a lasting impression. Make sure that you take the opportunity to say hello to members of the team you have been introduced to and ask what matters the other team members are working on. Additionally, there will be times you are giving work which isn’t interesting but you must always appear willing. Helping out on a matter by doing a tedious task (for example photocopying, bundling or reorganising documents) can really make a positive difference to an associate who is under pressure.
Be friendly but stay focused
There are many social events during your vacation scheme and while you may be competing with the other vacation schemers for a training contract you still need to be friendly. You may also have to work on projects or tasks with other vacation schemers as well. Use these events as an opportunity to assess what the other vacation schemers are like as you may end up working with them during your training contract. In my personal experience, you can make life long friends with people you meet on your vacation scheme but you need to remain focused. Do not become overly social or drink too much even if the graduate recruiters or trainees aren’t around. Everything that happens on a vacation scheme makes its way back to the firm and even the team you are sitting in. Stay on your A game at all times as you do not want to be the subject of the team gossip the next morning.
It is easy to be intimidated during a vacation scheme. Sometimes, if you feel you are different, you can become slightly insecure. Do not do this! You are on the scheme because you are just as qualified as everyone else who is on the scheme. Do not allow other vacation schemers to make you feel isolated or not good enough. Remain confident at all times and be true to yourself. It really doesn’t matter how different you feel you are from the others you should not assume that your differences make you less qualified and instead use them to your advantage.
Regardless of how it goes, you have done extremely well to get on a vacation scheme – always remember that!
20 April 2016
Natalie A Carter
Reed Smith, London