It is no secret that lawyers as a group are an unhappy lot. I could give my own explanation for this but today, after we have just sworn in a President who is starting a new career, I thought I would share a few thoughts about career changes and career happiness (I’ll save my political comments for Facebook).
Once upon a time (i.e. back in the 1980’s when I was coming into the workforce), career professionals were quick to tell college students to follow their passions. The idea was to identify a career that inspired you and that was consistent with your skills and vocational interests. If you followed this path, career success was sure to follow.
If marketing is important to your professional success, then you know the drill. Other professionals are hard to reach. You want to connect with potential referral sources. You want to build your relationships with current and past clients. You know how important it is to take the time to have coffee with individuals in your network. But if you are like me, you also know that no one answers their phone and email messages often go unanswered. Read more…
It’s the New Year and if you are like many successful professionals, expect the headhunter calls to increase in the coming weeks. Simply put, we in the recruiting business know that this is a good time of year to connect with talent. Many people take stock in their careers around January 1. Read more…
Barack Obama took a lot of flack for that comment in 2008. On the one hand, he was marketing to his supporters and he struck a chord. At the same time, he managed to alienate a significant part of the electorate. Obama was on the right side of history, but when Hillary came out with her basket of deplorables quote, it hurt her in a significant way. Read more…
Good marketing involves good story telling. This is true whether you are marketing yourself as a candidate for a new job, marketing your company to a prospective hire or marketing yourself as a professional looking to generate new business.
Telling a “good” story is not always easy for analytical professionals. Lawyers, for example, are accustomed to “documenting” and being “thorough”. But good storytelling is not about being thorough. If you want to craft a good story, one that will make your point and one that will be memorable, it is important to be selective. Give the details which make your point. Avoid the facts which dilute or potentially contradict the message. It’s okay to be selective as long as you don’t distort the truth. Read more…
What does “integrity” mean in an interview situation? Certainly, you have the obligation to tell the truth during a job interview. But having an obligation to tell the truth does not imply an obligation to to share every sordid detail of your past with prospective employers.
The current election has reaffirmed my belief that integrity matters alot in our personal and professional lives. So where should you draw the line? Click here to read an article from my archives.
The holidays are a time to remember the needy–those who are struggling to pay for basic necessities. We are all compelled to do what we can to help those less fortunate than us and the holiday season is a good reminder to act. Whether that means volunteering in a homeless shelter or simply writing a check to our favorite causes, there is a lot we can do to help others.
But what about the professionals in our lives who have a different kind of need. What about the many individuals who won’t go hungry or homeless because they have family resources to fall back on. Instead, these are the people who are unemployed, underemployed or simply unhappy professionally. Are you doing everything we can to help those individuals?
It is easy to ignore networking requests from people who we don’t think we can help. If we are busy in our own lives and jobs, then those obligations need to take priority. On the other hand, people who are out of work are feeling particularly vulnerable this time of year. And with minimal effort, we can all do our share to help elevate the spirits of these individuals. Maybe we can actually offer valuable feedback or other contacts who might be able to help that individual.
I have to remind myself to do this because it is the right thing to do. But the truth is that at different times, we all need help. As Mark Knopfler of the 80’s and 90’s band Dire Straits once sang “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug”.
So in the holiday season, make time to help those in professional need. Your willingness to give your time will be greatly appreciated and some day, you may be on the other side of the desk.
In my last post, I suggested that changing industries is easier said than done for many professionals. I also suggested 2 ways to overcome industry bias: 1) find opportunities through networking and 2) when it is feasible, accept positions on a contract basis.
For attorneys who work in a law firm environment, there are several additional options to consider.
If you have established yourself as one of the “keepers”, then it may be possible to shift your work assignments within your firm. If you are more interested in biotechnology than financial services, for example, see if you can be proactive about getting work from partners who service those clients. If your firm serves both industries and partners serving the biotechnology clients are busy, your firm may let you make an internal move rather than lose you.
I’ve even seen law firm associates make complete practice area changes (i.e. not just a change in the industries that the associate is serving). During the dot.com boom, for example, I counseled an environmental associate to ask to be moved into the corporate department at his firm. The firm was happy to keep this individual and he was able to retool, despite his lack of corporate experience.
If making a change internally is not feasible (either because your firm is not busy enough in that department or the firm doesn’t have clients in the industry that interests you, then it may be time to consider a lateral move. Mid-level corporate and real estate associates with large law firm experience are in great demand right now so take advantage of the market conditions to get your career moving in the direction you want. It will only get harder as you get more senior.
I’m starting to get into my year end marketing mode. December tends to be a slower month for hiring simply because it is harder to get hiring managers to focus. But as I’ve said before, the holidays are a good time for relationship building and a good time to queue things up for the New Year. This is true for job hunting and for business development.
If you are actually looking to hire talent for your company, the same is true. December may not be the easiest time to assemble hiring managers and get them to schedule interviews; but in a tight job market, you want to be ahead of the curve. December can be a good month to use creative ways to fill your pipeline with talent or strengthen your bonds with good prospects.
With a tight job market, one area where recruiters can be creative is to look more actively at talent without industry experience. There are clear instances where this is not a good strategy (Think “Heck of a job Brownie” after Hurricane Katrina). There are many jobs where industry experience is clearly important (e.g. I recently worked on 2 searches for lawyers with licensing experience in the life sciences but steered clear of lawyers who only had licensing experience in the software industry–the business terms in each industry are very different). But in many other instances, a smart person has transferable skills which could easily be applied to a different industry.
On top of this, there are some fallacies about hiring from within your industry. Industry experience may translate into a deeper understanding of the particular problems that your industry faces. At the same time, the mere fact that someone has been doing a particular job for a long time does not mean they have been doing the job well.
In addition, someone who has done the same thing for the same industry for 20 years may be bored.
In contrast, hire someone who is coming from outside the industry and you may end up with a superstar who is much more motivated to learn and much more excited to be there.
Hiring managers are always going to display some conservatism when considering talent from outside of their industry. As I said in an post last week, no one wants to be blamed for making a bad hiring decision. But a tight job market will give you some cover. And maybe you’ll be responsible for recruiting the next superstar.
Right now, many parts of the country are enjoying relatively low unemployment rates. In my home state Massachusetts, for example, the rate is 3.3 percent, the lowest in 15 years.
For anyone contemplating a career move, this should come as good news. As workers get harder to find, employers need to be more creative in hiring talent. We counsel our clients all the time to consider candidates who have transferable skills from another industry and this should be a good time for anyone hoping to make this kind of move.
The reality, however, is that industry barriers persist. In much professional hiring (certainly in hiring legal talent where I spend most of my time), hiring managers have a strong preference for seeing resumes of candidates who have industry experience. This is particularly true in the bio/pharma space, an important sector in my region.
For highly technical jobs, the barriers are not simply arbitrary. Having a good understanding of how a particular business functions can be critical to doing an effective job. But for many job functions, the particulars of the industry are relatively easy to pick up.
So why do so many employers insist on industry experience? In my opinion, it has to do with managing risk. No one wants to be responsible for making a bad hire. If you hire someone and they prove ineffective in their role, the last thing you want to have to do is justify that you hired someone who had never worked in the industry.
Does this mean we are all forever stuck with whatever industry hires us in our first job? Of course not. Many people change industries (including lawyers and other professionals). But what are some of the things you can do to increase your chances of making the move?
Probably the most important thing you can do in trying to make an industry change is to network effectively. If you rely only on posted jobs and submit resumes and cover letters without any follow up, you are limiting your chances of breaking through the “noise”. Instead, if you want to switch from financial services to the life sciences, for example, find people you know who work in life sciences. Use your network to get introductions. Connect with people who already know the quality of your work and your reputation. Leverage your contacts to get in front of hiring managers who are in a position to hire you. If you get introductions from people who can vouch for you, the hiring manager will be more likely to overlook the fact that you have not worked in their space.
While it may not be feasible for everyone, filling a role as an independent contractor is another way to gain industry experience. Employers tend to be much less strict about requiring industry experience when they hire on a contract basis. Find a good contract role at a good company and suddenly you become someone with industry experience.
Relatively speaking, times are good now. If you are thinking about shifting gears, take advantage of the economy. But don’t just fire off resumes. That may not be enough to get you in the door.