Every day we talk to attorneys who are unhappy, or perhaps just unfulfilled, with their day-to-day work. Most, if not all, of these attorneys believe that they would jump at the “right opportunity.” But how many of them, and of you, even know what that opportunity would look like?
Actively pursuing a career change, or even just being open to one, requires some advance planning and thinking. Below are a number of simple steps that you can take to make sure that you are ready to move forward when the time comes, or in the event that the perfect position just happens to land in your lap.
- Create and maintain a resume: So many attorneys fail to maintain a current resume! In fact, it is not unusual for attorneys to pull out their law school resume, the one used for on campus interviewing, when they decide it is time to look for a new position. The problem with this approach is not only the time and effort required to update the resume, but also the fact that human memory is not fool proof. Instead, we suggest updating your resume quarterly or every six months, or if/when you gain experience from a significant case or transaction. An updated resume is not only a must-have for a job search, but can also be a great client marketing tool.
- Know thyself: Take some time to regularly assess what is and is not working for you in your current position/firm/company. Everyone is different, and there are environments that are suited for some of us better than for others. Do you thrive on the excitement and adrenaline of intense time-sensitive deals? Are you happiest when you are advising your clients on day-to-day business situations and analyzing business issues? Is it private practice that you don’t enjoy, or would a smaller or larger firm, or one with a different client base, be a better fit? If you don’t spend the time thinking about what you really want to change about your current situation, then you may find yourself bouncing around, never really landing in a new position that fulfills your needs and wants.
- Crunch the Numbers: At the end of the day, we all have to live within our means. If you haven’t yet done the math to figure out what your salary requirements are, then do it now. It is critical that you know what you need to earn in order to meet your obligations, as well as to save and/or meet other goals that you have set for yourself. While it isn’t always possible to gauge a specific salary when starting the interview process, having an idea of the range that will work for you is important.
- Answer the phone/talk to people: Attorneys are busy, and many bill by the hour, so we understand that your time is a precious commodity. However, you have to be in it to win it, as they say. You have to put yourself in a position to hear about new opportunities. This means taking recruiter calls, and maintaining your network of legal and business contacts. Hop on LinkedIn and connect with some former colleagues. Make sure your profile is up to date. Be a connector – if you hear about an opportunity that is a good fit for a friend or colleague, pass that information along. Keeping yourself “in the know” is a great way to stay on the radar screens of both recruiters and those in your network.
- Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity: This probably seems counter-intuitive, but waiting for the perfect job is usually not the best strategy. Instead, focus on positions that meet most or many of your wants and needs. Don’t pass up interviewing for a great position because it is located in the suburbs, for example. Or because the compensation is slightly below your desired salary (consider the benefits, as well). Not only will you gain valuable interviewing experience by putting yourself out there, but you will continue to broaden your network of contacts. The parameters of a position are not always set in stone, and you may find yourself much more interested in a position after having an initial interview.
By keeping in mind the five steps outlined above, you can put yourself in the best position to hear about new opportunities as they arise, and to pursue the right ones.