SPRING CLEANING (A Career Checklist)

It’s springtime (finally) and that means spring cleaning is upon us.  Clean the house, box up the winter clothes and donate what you are never going to wear again (remember that lime green jacket you have – you’re never going to wear it again, trust me).  So while you are dusting, organizing and thinking about the future, why not take a moment to think about your resume and your career?

Dust off the resume

You can’t really think about where you want to go before you can say where you’ve been.  Find that old resume and take some time to thoughtfully update it.  Use your LinkedIn profile (you’ve been keeping that us, right?) as a guide, but remember that the reader of your resume will want to know more about what you do than the brief summary you have online.  Don’t underestimate the persuasive power of a good resume or the ability to turn an employer away with a poorly-crafted resume.  Spend some time really working on the document.  If you are unclear about how your resume should look, seek help from a resume expert.  At the very least, have several people review your resume for readability, grammar and spelling.

You should have a current resume at all times – even if you are not looking for a job.  When that dream job suddenly appears, you want to be ready, don’t you?  It’s not polite to tell opportunity to come back later when you are ready.

Think about your current job

Before you can think about changing jobs, you need to assess what you like and don’t like about your current job.  Do you like the flexibility?  Is there too much/too little depth in a particular practice area?  Is the compensation fair?  Is there something about your firm that makes it harder or easier to market to clients when compared to other firms?  Take some time to carefully examine your situation.  It may not be as bad as you think.  If, however, you make the determination that your current firm isn’t a fit for you, then it’s time to move on in the checklist.

Think about what you need in a new job and talk to people about where you can find it.

Too many attorneys fail to take this step.  They make the determination that their current firm isn’t a fit and seek another position without spending time thinking about what they are looking for in a new firm.  Hoping that another firm is simply the opposite of your current firm is a bad game plan.  This is where you need to rely on industry experts.  Talk to friends, colleagues and legal recruiters.  They may know more about the various firms that interest you than you can glean from your internet research.

Far too often we hear of people taking positions and landing at firms that are not a good fit when the mistake could have been avoided by picking up the phone and contacting someone.  Most legal recruiters will speak to you (confidentially, of course) and they know the firms in their market.  Call them, even if you think that you have no need to use their services.  Recruiters worth their salt will speak to you out of professional courtesy and may even offer some suggestions of firms you hadn’t considered!

Take the first step.

Occasionally the phone will ring and a recruiter will be on the other line to discuss a fantastic opportunity that is perfect for you.  More often, however, YOU have to take the first step.  Committing to the job search requires you to set aside some time each week to do the research, talk to people and refine your resume.  Successful attorneys are busy and often lack time.  Some attorneys can rely on friends, family and recruiters to do some of the heavy lifting for them (identifying target firms, reaching out to contacts, etc.) but more often attorneys must set aside time each week to send out resumes and connect with potential employers.   Take the first step and plan your job search.  Don’t leave it to chance.  Put it on your calendar and stick to it.  Make reasonable goals that can be clearly articulated (like ‘this week I will explore firms A, B & C’) instead of just putting ‘research firms” in your calendar.  You are far more likely to stick to the plan if you have specific tasks listed in your calendar.

Keep going!

Now that you have a job search plan in place, keep going!  If you run out of steam, schedule a coffee with a trusted friend and ask for advice.  Reaching out to your network is a great way to increase your “reach” and stay motivated.  Remember, when someone knows that you are looking for a job, they are looking for you, too.  They may hear of an opportunity that your research didn’t uncover.  The more people that you speak to, the more opportunities you are going to hear about!
Spring is a great time to look for a new position.  The current job market is rebounding and both firms and in-house legal departments are busy.  Follow these basic steps to the job you’ve been dreaming about all winter!

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