Becoming a brand ambassador: is it worth it?
As a student you’re often in competition mode, trying to outdo your friends for training contract gold. Hard as it might be to imagine, law firms are also in competition mode, trying to attract the most able students they can.
As part of that, more and more firms are hiring students as brand ambassadors, to promote the firm around campus and act as link between potential trainees and graduate recruitment teams.
Although brand ambassadors do not get any favourable treatment when it comes to training contract and vacation schemes at the firms they represent, there is a natural advantage which comes from getting to know the processes behind law firms’ trainee recruitment and organising events in tandem with them. It also demonstrates to other graduate recruitment teams that a student has the soft skills to succeed as a trainee.
“Once on board, brand ambassadors are representatives of Baker & McKenzie out on campus,” says Baker & McKenzie graduate recruitment officer Rebecca Ryalls. “We look for someone enthusiastic, personable and who has a genuine interest in working for a commercial law firm and hopefully for us in particular.
“We have a thorough recruitment process in place to ensure that they are a good fit for the firm. We also have a dedicated training day so that our brand ambassadors have all the tools and knowledge that they need about Baker & McKenzie as a firm, our opportunities and their role on campus.
One student who signed up to be a Baker & McKenzie campus ambassador is Rebecca Bland. “During my first year at university I began to realise how competitive it was to secure a training contract,” she says. “This motivated me to start researching the kind of firm I would like to join. I recognised that becoming a brand ambassador would not only enable me to start building a relationship with a firm but would also enable me to identify the types of skills and attributes firms look for in their trainees.”
The attributes firms look for in trainees are mirrored in their search for brand ambassadors. Soft skills take precedence, with enthusiasm and confidence listed by graduate recruiters as being of utmost importance.
“We are looking for students who are self-starting, motivated and proactive,” says RPC graduate resourcing manager Ellinor Davey. “We would expect them to be active members of university societies, sports teams and clubs who have built up a diverse network of students on campus.”
In addition to publicising a law firm’s brand on campus, brand ambassadors are also a useful way for firms to measure student attitude and learn more about campus activities. “They can be our eyes and ears on campus,” says Ryalls. “They have extensive knowledge of their university, which can be hard for the graduate recruitment team to obtain.”
Not only do firms require their brand ambassadors to be sociable and well connected on campus, they also need them to be able to organise and promote events. “My organisational skills have hugely benefited from this role,” says RPC brand ambassador Alex Algazy. “I held a careers evening and networking event for the firm, which required careful planning and organisation.
“Building up a network of society presidents and faculty members to assist me with my campaigns has required me to use my communication skills. In turn, my name has become better known within the law faculty. This has opened doors for me to get involved in more law events and programmes on campus than before.”
In addition to developing key soft skills, brand ambassadors learn more than the average student about how firms and the commercial world functions.
“The obvious buzz word I encountered when filling in training contract applications was ‘commercial awareness’,” says Bland. “I think I gained a much better understanding of this concept, deeper than the explanations given on websites and defined by graduate recruitment staff.
“By being a brand ambassador I had the opportunity to see it working in practice and appreciated that this term was universal.”
For Algazy, the greatest benefit of being RPC’s brand ambassador was being able to identify the firm’s strategy. “As an ambassador, I got to understand RPC and their values as a firm on a greater level,” she says. “By talking to students at law fairs and promoting the firm through social media, I was able to identify RPC’s unique selling points.
“The role also gave me an insight into where the firm is going in the future and its strategies for growth. Getting to know the graduate recruitment team well has enabled me to pinpoint the traits of a successful candidate and what RPC looks for at each stage of the process.”
Being able to decipher a firm’s brand and distinguish what makes them different from every other firm is great practice, whether brand ambassadors apply to their firm or other firms.
“The greatest benefit of being a brand ambassador was the relationship I was able to build with Baker & McKenzie,” says Bland. “I began to recognise what set them apart from other firms, and this became invaluable when I later went through vacation scheme and training contract interviews.”