Updated: May 24, 2020
As the world continues to address the coronavirus pandemic and we struggle with social distancing, working from home, and economic stresses, it is natural to feel a loss of control over your personal and professional life. However, the pause imposed by COVID-19 can allow you time to reflect on your professional accomplishments, think about the work you enjoy doing, and analyse what steps you should take to reach the next step on your career ladder. Here are some practical tips on getting this process started, so that you are ready to seize opportunities once the legal industry ramps back up.
I. Polish Up Your Curriculum Vitae
The perfect place to begin analysing your career and your accomplishments is your CV. This is the time to dust it off (or update it!) and take a fresh look at what it says about you. Your CV is not just a standalone document that lists your job experience, but rather, it is the first important step in communicating who you are to your future employer. Does your CV highlight the unique characteristics and talents that you would bring to your next position? It is essential when drafting your CV to identify the story you want to tell about your work history and the challenges you have faced and overcome. Remember, employers want to hire individuals who can demonstrate that they are hardworking, willing to overcome obstacles, unafraid of failure, and who will do whatever it takes to reach the team’s goals. By developing a clear narrative of who you are as a professional, which begins with your CV, you will be well prepared to highlight these strengths when you move on to the interview stage.
II. Practice the Art of the Interview
Interviewing is a critical skill to be mastered, and everyone can develop their skills with practice. No matter how many accomplishments you list on your CV, an interview requires you to succinctly present your strengths and convey your personal story in a thirty-minute window. An interview is a performance. If you are more naturally introverted, you may have to venture outside of your comfort zone and overcome your natural shyness in order to connect with your interviewer. My philosophy has always been that if a company reviews your CV and is willing to interview you, then you are positioned to close the deal with the interview. Of course, no one gets every job that they interview for, but you can be prepared with the story of what makes you a unique candidate and why you are the right person for the job. Preparation is the key to giving a great performance: the interview itself is not the time to be thinking about what you want to share about yourself! Start early and develop your interviewing skills now by doing as many mock interviews as possible—so that your performance is polished by the time you are interviewing for real.
III. Don’t Forget the Importance of Networking
At a time when legal hiring has slowed down, reaching out to people with whom you have a connection is critical to developing relationships and identifying potential advocates for your future job search. How can you expand your network? Look for alumni from your university or law school; counsel you worked with on past deals or litigation; or other professional or community connections; and then reach out to them. Many people are willing to set up virtual coffee meetings or Zoom chats, even in the midst of social distancing. When reaching out to your contacts, make sure to highlight the connection that you share and let them know that you value their advice as you think about your career. I have found that if you make the right request, most people are happy to carve out a half-hour window to share their experiences and answer questions. It’s critical that you prepare for these meetings, just as you would for an interview, and stay in touch after the meeting. One of the people you connect with today could be key in helping you get a new job down the road.
Despite the current dislocation in the legal job market, if you stay positive and focus on each of the above steps, your legal future will be bright.
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About the Author
Stephen Lable, Founder and Managing Director of the The Lable Group, has over twenty years of experience as a practicing attorney, in-house law firm recruiter, and office administrator. Stephen now works as a consultant and legal recruiter in Hong Kong where he helps attorneys and law students around the world navigate challenges in their careers.