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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

March 27, 2016

Are you too picky?

Julie Q. Brush

It would seem that in an active legal market, finding a new job would be quick and easy…Especially if a candidate had several suitors from which to choose. But reality isn’t always what it seems. And the path to pulling the trigger can be filled with bumps in the road: Some outside one’s control and others self-imposed.

Candidates who churn through…and reject a plethora of job opportunities often wonder whether their lack of success in finding The One is the result of being “picky”. Or perhaps…too picky.

So is it?

It depends. Being picky is not necessarily a negative thing. In fact, being a discerning professional can enhance the quality of your career. But there are circumstances where pickiness is misguided and is the product of ignorance, lack of self-awareness, entitlement, fear and/or unrealistic expectations. It is in these circumstances that a professional can sabotage his/her own ability to move forward in a positive direction…and be happy.

So in order to determine whether your attitude and criteria need an adjustment, ask yourself the following questions:

“Do I know…”

  • Specifically…what qualities in a role will make me happy? What would make me unhappy?
  • Specifically…what qualities in a culture would make me happy/unhappy?
  • What qualities in a role and culture are must-haves and nice-to-haves?
  • My criteria for my next manager?
  • What my career goals are in 3 years? 5 years? And beyond?
  • What type of roles would move me closer to my career goals?
  • …and appreciate what the market is telling me about my marketability for such roles?
  • How much money I want to make?
  • How much money I need to make?
  • If I’m willing to be flexible on compensation. And if so, how flexible?
  • If my compensation and title requirements align with what the market is offering lawyers with my level of experience? If not, what is the disparity and how realistic is it to close the gap?
  • The detailed reasons why the prior opportunities were not appealing to me, and consequently, not “perfect”?
  • If those reasons were deal breakers for my happiness or did they fall in the “nice-to-haves” category?
  • What my biggest fears and anxieties are in the job search process as well as for me professionally?
  • The reasons behind my desire to leave my current job?
  • If I’m really committed to leave my current job?
  • There is no such thing as “perfect”?

The answers to the questions above will shed light on your understanding of yourself, the market…and your place in it. And will clarify whether your criteria are driven by something less virtuous – or if they’re right on target. If the former, you’ll need to adjust accordingly and develop a different perspective using a new lens if you want to better prepare yourself to capitalize on future opportunities. If your assessment demonstrates that you have an excellent grasp of your professional needs and the market – and your expectations are reasonable…then stay the course and move forward with confidence and self-assurance. And do not settle.

Seeking greener pastures can be an arduous exercise for the professional who seeks them. And self-doubt can creep in if finding the right role proves elusive over time…even if the result is by choice. In this scenario, some lawyers question whether their pickiness is the culprit for failure. But in order to truly know, one must go beyond the lip service of the statement and deeply examine whether his/her criteria is compromised…or right where it should be. Either way, the outcome will benefit your candidacy and enable you to get another step closer…to saying “I do”.

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