January 22, 2018

Keys for a Successful Job Search

Timothy Regan

Whether you are just starting to test the waters or if you have suddenly been thrown into the deep-end due to a reduction in force, here are three important considerations for a successful job search to keep in mind.

Before You Begin – Take Time for Self-Reflection

The majority of lawyers make only a few career moves. When it is time for one or one is necessary, every attorney should spend time going through an ¬honest self-assessment. Attorneys who take the time to think thru where they have been and what they have accomplished, will not only be able to make some course corrections if necessary but may open themselves to opportunities they otherwise would not have considered.

A good self-review gives you the opportunity to pinpoint any areas of dissatisfaction and those where you derive pleasure. Armed with this information, you can determine what is important in your next employment opportunity focusing on what will drive you to your most productive. This may mean you look to change your practice area or type of employer or focus on leaving the practice of law altogether.

Consider how each position you have held has challenged you. What were your dislikes and were those things you should have better managed? The three main considerations in any job leading to overall job satisfaction are:

    1. The work – how sophisticated and challenging is it?
    2. Money – most people will tell you not to consider money as a motivating factor but, realistically this is a major factor.
    3. The People for and with whom we work every day.

Blending great work, good pay and great people results in the perfect job. However, you will likely face compromise as there are few unicorns in the world of jobs.

As you dive deep into your personal motivations, think about what drove you to become a lawyer in the first place. Some attorneys went to law school to better the world but after graduation took a much different path given financial realities they had never considered. Don’t let that hold you back now. Yes, life has only become more demanding as you have far greater responsibilities. However, there may be other ways to achieve our original goals. If you haven’t represented the types of clients you once believed to be of critical importance, are you able to work for clients who make the impact you desire to make? Are there pro bono opportunities or an interest outside of law such as a charity or a civic organization that can add balance and perspective and provide another avenue for fulfillment? Spend some time thinking far outside of the box.

The perfect job may not be able attainable, but after a good self-assessment, finding a position that is more in line with your career objectives will result in greater satisfaction. And who knows, maybe you are the attorney who catches the elusive unicorn!

Don’t take it Personally

Attorneys aren’t familiar with failure and don’t process it well. As you walk thru a job search, you will perceive failure, but know this is simply part of the process. Rejection from one job is not failure of a job search. You will experience rejection and hear “no” in many forms, but understand and remind yourself constantly that this is part of the job search process, unfortunately, and while you may become dejected, you must preserver. Consider:

    1. There is typically one open position and many candidates.
    2. It’s not you it is them. Though you may think of yourself as perfect, there are many others out there who are just as qualified or more qualified than you. Remember, you don’t know your competition or when they started the process.
    3. This is not something you can control. Though you are used to controlling things, this is mostly out of your hands.
    4. If you are rejected, you likely won’t receive feedback as to why. If you do, take it for what it’s worth and move on, don’t let it fester if it is something you don’t want to hear. Someone somewhere will be interested in you.
    5. Keep moving forward. When you think you have applied for the perfect job, find another just like it. You don’t know when you will find a job until you have accepted a job. If you think you have looked and found every possible job, start looking elsewhere.
    6. Network network network! Remember, everyone is a potential lead. Yes, even the clerk at the grocery store may know someone.
    7. Be gracious even after a rejection. You don’t know if you just missed the mark and, if something changes, they may revisit your application. If you fail to be gracious, you give up that opportunity.
    8. Know rejection will come in the form of actual rejection via a letter or email and it may take the form of silence. Don’t let either dissuade you from your search.

Finally, don’t take it personally. Selecting and hiring a particular candidate is a business decision. Many factors went into a hiring decision that made up the overall “fit” for the position. The employer believed they found the candidate best able to perform the job. A rejection does not reflect upon your worth, or necessarily upon your abilities as a lawyer. There may have been a candidate whose experience was a more precise fit or the position may have simply closed due to factors you will never know.

Persistence Required!

Lawyers are almost always conservative by nature. Though they zealously represent their clients, when the need to represent themselves arises I have seen even the best lawyer cower in the corner. However, just as with business development, a job search requires you to make yourself uncomfortable if you desire success. Put aside the belief that hearing “no” from someone equates to failure. You will hear no over and over again both in business development and during a job search, but it only means you have hit one dead-end – not reached the end of the line.

Most important in this process is continuing to send resumes and continue your planned reach outs. Pushing ahead again and again no matter how introverted you are is a must for success. As you move forward, remember to finetune your approach. Go as far as recording yourself during phone calls and write a variety of emails while monitoring success rates. The more confident you become the more the process will become second nature and the chances of success will increase.

Take the time to find relevant contacts at companies and firms with attractive opportunities. Doing your research will greatly increase your chance of receiving a response from prospective employers. Before you do the research, you should ask yourself if this is a job you are qualified for and desire. Applying for 100 positions without much thought is worse than applying for 1 position with a well crafted resume and well executed plan.

Once your resume has been sent, follow up! You won’t get anywhere without follow up and though painful to think about, it is a must. Do not believe that because someone did not respond to your call or email that there isn’t interest. Life and work are extremely busy and things are missed or simply put off.

Knowing when to follow up is tricky. Think to yourself, how much time would I find acceptable if someone sent me an email or left me a voice message and then followed up with another. Allowing for a reasonable amount of time is a must, but do not let too much time go by either. Typically, a good rule of thumb is waiting roughly two weeks prior to following up.

Lastly, do not think as follow up as moving from civility to annoyance. Many of your overtures will not solicit a response. But do not assume this means there is no interest on the part of the recipient. You can not know why you haven’t received a response as the possibilities are endless. Do not be dissuaded. Remember, life is busy and email inboxes are always overflowing. Many of the people you are targeting have been in your shoes and while they may ignore you once, likely they wont ignore you twice!