Looking for a new job…and finding The One is not easy. It’s a tall order that requires proactivity, organization, preparation, confidence, managed expectations and self-awareness (to name a few). Qualities not every professional possesses…all at once. And when a deficiency exists during a job search, frustration can emerge. Anxiety can ensue. Fear can creep in. And anger can create a demoralizing experience.
Another one of today’s legal market realities is that finding a job takes patience. And despite the rapidly increasing number of job opportunities for lawyers, you’re going to have to kiss some frogs before you’re ready to settle down with the job that is right for you.
While this might sound arduous and perhaps a bit daunting, kissing a lot of frogs (or exploring a multitude…and variety of opportunities) is an important part of a lawyer’s job search process. Why? Because it provides exposure to a wider spectrum of employers, company and/or law firm leadership, job responsibilities and culture. It helps you understand – and place your finger on the pulse of the legal market, which provides perspective on your expectations and…your place in this dynamic market. It also hones self-awareness regarding priorities, must-haves, nice to haves and will-nots. And can spark contemplation of issues you may not have previously considered. Finally, exploring several opportunities creates momentum and leverage for a candidate – by building confidence, producing additional options during an offer negotiation and/or mitigating anxiety with a pipeline if desired opportunities don’t work out.
So for the legal professional engaged in a job search or about to embark on one, I recommend that you cast a wide net when considering opportunities and carefully assess each one before, during…and after the interview process. This doesn’t mean you should throw your hat in the ring for roles you know with certainty you would not accept (i.e. comp is a non-starter, geography and/or position level won’t work etc.). That would be a waste of time for you and the employer. But for those positions where you’re not quite sure? Explore them. And after each interview, ask yourself the following questions:
- What did I learn about this role and its responsibilities that I did not previously know? Does it now appeal to me more or less? Why or why not? Does this new information dispel or confirm any assumptions or beliefs I had before the interview(s)? Is there anything more I want/need to know?
- How does the role align with my core values? Are there any aspects of it that would require me to be flexible with my requirements? Am I willing to consider this? If so, why?
- What is my impression of the hiring manager (if you have met him/her)? Do I have a sense of his/her management style and how well I’d work with this person? What qualities does s/he have that demonstrate this? What about others with whom I’d be working?
- What more do I know about the company/law firm’s business and financials? Does it impact my interest – or lack there of in the opportunity? Why/Why not?
- What’s my impression of the culture of the company/law firm? What is attractive about it to me? What’s not appealing? Are any negatives deal breakers or do I have flexibility on them? Is there anything more I want/need to know?
- To what degree could this opportunity advance my career? How, specifically?
- Is the commute doable? If not, would flexible hours make a difference if offered?
- How does this overall opportunity differ from my current position (if employed)?
The depth of your answers will depend on the stage of the interview process. Regardless, when you come out the other end of your inquiry, you’ll gain valuable insight about yourself that will provide greater clarity as you assess your opportunities going forward. You may even be surprised with what you discover and the direction you take.
Many professionals enter the job market with a firm, and sometimes narrow set of ideas about employers, job opportunities, the process and themselves. This can compromise a job search by closing minds and icing out opportunities that might prove valuable to a search effort. By casting a wide net and striving to truly learn from each opportunity, a lawyer can reach the best and most informed decision…with no regrets. So prime your pucker and get ready to kiss some frogs on your way to a happily ever after career.