5 Focus Areas for Difficult Circumstances

Attorneys looking for a new position right now face a landscape full of uncertainties. If you’re comparing your current job search to the market before the COVID-19 pandemic began, you’re likely anticipating an uphill battle—understandably so.

It’s worth remembering that plenty of job hunts in “normal” times can be fraught with unique challenges due to circumstances in individuals’ lives or practice areas. In over a decade of coaching attorneys, I’ve supported clients in finding new positions amidst a range of hurdles, such as moving across or out of the country, lacking a sizable book of business, grappling with family issues, and returning to the workforce after a long hiatus.

On a positive note, one thing that all job-seekers benefit from right now is a sense of understanding from colleagues and employers regarding the difficulties presented by these unprecedented times—a benefit that those facing obstacles in a less-challenging environment lack. I have seen clients triumph over many kinds of adversity; the following five approaches may help you, too, find greater success in your journey to landing a new position.

1. Put yourself out there—even when it’s uncomfortable

In my experience, most job-hunting successes depend at least in large part on attorneys’ willingness to utilize their networks. Yet some attorneys dread the word “networking”—it can feel time-consuming, arduous, and even uncomfortable at times. You can overcome this awkwardness by shifting your perspective: networking is not about you asking people for favors, but about building relationships for mutual gain. You have your own valuable experiences and resources to share, and the people you know will be eager to share their own resources in turn—such as details about a firm or company you’re interested in, an inside track to meeting an influential decision-maker, or intel on potential openings. At the very least, networking can lay the groundwork for job leads when the market picks up and build ongoing relationships that will serve you and your colleagues well throughout your careers.

2. Remain open to feedback

You know your own strengths, experience, and value—but what do others see and value in you? Attorneys who are willing to solicit outside perspectives on their professional profile—and incorporate that feedback into their manner of engaging with others, marketing materials, and online presence—gain a valuable opportunity for self-improvement. While it may feel outside your comfort zone at first, ask for input from peers, friends, and supervisors about how they see you, what sets you apart, and in what new role they believe you would most excel. As you listen to the words they use to describe your strengths (and potential weaknesses), reflect on how you might continually improve the way in which prospective employers perceive you—and how you can most effectively showcase your strengths.

3. Get social

Everyone is connecting virtually these days—but even before the age of physical distancing, the attorneys I work with have found that developing their online presence improves both the reach of their networking and their profile in the eyes of employers. Know that potential employers will Google you and search for you on LinkedIn—so think about how you want to appear to others online. Search your own name online (using a “private browsing” window so you will see the same results others would see), and examine your LinkedIn profile. Take steps to optimize your online presence, and use social platforms to build relationships.  Likewise, be sure that your online presence shows the “you” that you want others to see.

4. Give back

Looking for a job can make you feel isolated and stagnant—cut off from the camaraderie of colleagues and the professional development opportunities that work brings. An excellent counterbalance is to volunteer your time and expertise. The attorneys with whom I work find that seeking out volunteer opportunities—such as joining the board of a nonprofit or getting involved in a legal aid organization—helps them keep their skills sharp (and even develop new ones). Volunteering is also an excellent way to grow your network, both for career advancement and the personal gratification of connecting to others.

5. Invest in yourself

Attorneys invest significant time and energy into the success of their firms and their career paths there. When you’re between positions, it’s time to make that investment in yourself—obtaining additional certifications, getting training in new practice areas, and even exploring lofty career dreams. Another important way to invest in yourself is to cultivate your personal brand. This consists of managing your professional reputation and cultivating how you present yourself (especially to prospective employers). For more on personal branding, take a look at this blog post, which goes into more detail on the topic. At the end of the day, investing in your greatest resource—your own skills and reputation—will pay dividends both right now and long into the future of your career.

When you’re in the midst of navigating an incredibly imposing job market, it can be useful to reflect on the fact that the journey to landing a new position may be full of barriers, even in the best of times. Adopting approaches that have helped so many other attorneys realize success in the face of various challenging circumstances can put you on solid footing as you make your way toward your next position.