As a lawyer, navigating your career path can be a challenging and introspective journey—and each step can have big consequences for your future. That’s why, if you find yourself at a crossroads, it’s important to be deliberate about your next move.
So how do you answer the question: “What’s next for my career?” Take the time to weigh all the factors, both personal and professional. Does it make more sense to seek promotion within your current organization or look elsewhere? What do you value most in your current role, and what are the must-haves for your next one? Consider details like upward mobility, compensation, flexibility, job security, and culture and what each of those means to you.
Understanding why you are looking for a new career opportunity will help you focus your search. If you desire more flexibility or want to change industries, those must-haves will impact the opportunities you consider. If your goal is to gain more responsibility or a new title, those, too, will affect the specific roles you explore. Moving just because you think you should, doesn’t usually result in the outcome you hope to achieve, so take the time to consider why now is the time to move and what that ideal opportunity will look like.
Once you’ve pondered these questions and set some goals, it’s time to get to work.
Expanding Your Reach
How to strengthen your social media presence
The value of LinkedIn (LI) in the job search cannot be overlooked. This powerful platform allows you to browse and apply to job openings, research potential employers, grow your network, and connect with recruiters. Many organizations use LI to find potential candidates, so think of it like an always-visible resume. People are paying attention—whether you’re actively looking or not.
To catch the eye of recruiters and hiring managers, your LI profile should be optimized to focus on these sections:
- Profile photo: Profiles featuring photos are 14 times more likely to get views. Get a professional headshot done, if possible. If you do it yourself, focus on good lighting, professional attire, and a nondescript background.
- Headline: Your headline should make it clear what you do and what you have to offer (and don't be afraid to make it memorable). Include keywords that reflect the terms employers use to search.
- About: Write in the first person, giving a synopsis of what you do. Include specific details on the things you excel at and what you as a professional bring to the table.
- Experience: Describe each role and the skills you utilized—the more details, the better! Use keywords throughout, highlighting your specific job titles, location, and qualifications/certifications.
- Education: Consider including your law school graduation year. Most of the time, employers set minimum years of practice requirements for each vacancy. A recruiter may not reach out to you if they cannot quickly determine whether you meet the basic requirements for the role.
Also, let recruiters (and others in your network) know you're open to new job opportunities. You can do this by activating LinkedIn's Open to Work badge. Hint: Turn it to “Recruiters Only” if you’re trying to be discreet.
Growing your professional network
When your LinkedIn profile is done right, the jobs will start finding you. However, you can make it easier by taking certain steps:
- Make your profile public, not private.
- Use keywords to help your profile appear at the top of search results relevant to the role you’re seeking.
- Actively build your network by sending invitations to connect to people you know and anyone with whom you’ve had a professional connection. This includes past and present colleagues, supervisors, and mentors.
- Engage with your network by posting status updates, viewing people’s profiles, and liking and commenting on other people’s posts. Recommend and endorse others. All these activities create links back to your profile, cultivate goodwill and reciprocity, and inspire people to want to get to know you better.
- Expand your reach even further by publishing blog posts. This gets you in front of a lot of eyes, quickly. It’s a great way to get seen beyond your immediate network and demonstrate your insight and expertise.
- Join and be active in LinkedIn groups, especially those that interest you professionally. This will help you build even more relevant connections.
- Connect with recruiters. They may not have a role for you right away but, if you connect, they are more likely to keep you in mind for future opportunities.
Resume and Interview Success Tips
How to look great on paper
When you’re in the market for new opportunities, you want your resume perfected, polished, and ready to send out at a moment’s notice. Below are some quick tips for crafting a goals-accelerating legal resume:
- Ensure that your resume is clear, well organized, and easy to read. Stick to traditional fonts and formatting.
- Tailor your resume to the job you’re pursuing. Highlight transferable skills to show you understand the specific responsibilities of that role.
- Provide clear and concise bullets detailing your experience, with 1-2 lines per bullet. Remove bullets from roles not relevant to the positions you’re applying to.
- Include specifics, like the size of transactions or deals you’ve directly worked on or a list of favorable verdicts. If you are applying for a supervisory role, remember to mention the size of teams that you’ve managed in the past.
- If you include a candidate summary, make it count. Incorporate keywords that relate to the role you're applying for and avoid rambling; 3 to 4 sentences are a good rule of thumb.
What about a cover letter? They’re nice to have, but generally don’t make it passed the first gatekeeper. If you include one, use it to explain a shift to a new practice area or a gap in your work history.
Acing the interview
So, your stellar resume landed you an interview. What now? The first thing you’ll want to do is research the employer. Explore the company’s website, social media, and recent news clips. Talk to friends and colleagues who may have insight into the organization. If you know the names of your interviewers, check them out on LinkedIn ahead of time.
These tips can help you make a winning impression in the interview itself:
- Wear appropriate business attire.
- Bring copies of your resume.
- Arrive at least 10 minutes early (but no more than 15 minutes early).
- Ask open-ended questions early on. This shows your interest in the position and what it entails. Plus, the answers you receive can help you tailor your subsequent responses.
- Be honest about your experience; do not oversell or undersell your skills and qualifications.
- Be transparent about your compensation, timing, and commitment expectations.
After your interview, send a short thank-you note to everyone you met (ideally, within 24 hours). Thank them for their time and reiterate your excitement about the opportunity. Should there be a delay in the hiring process, continue to check in periodically. If you’re working with a recruiter, make sure they know the role is still on your radar, even if some time has passed.
For a phone interview, check that you have a stable connection and sit in a quiet spot with no distractions or background noise. Similar rules apply for video interviews. Choose a clean and tidy area of your home (such as a home office) and make sure the lighting is adequate. Test your video software ahead of time; a wired connection is always your safest bet. And, of course, the clothing you wear should be similar to what you’d wear to an in-person interview.
Negotiating and Closing the Deal
Having an offer in hand is the goal—but it’s not the final step. This is your opportunity to ensure you’re receiving fair and appropriate compensation for the work you'll be providing. Here’s how you can secure a package you’re happy with:
- The pre-offer stage: Before you even get the offer, be prepared. Know your current compensation (salary, benefits, intangibles) and what you’re aiming for in your next role. Research similar organizations and positions to get a compensation benchmark. Here's where a recruiter can be helpful. They often have an "eye behind the curtain," understand market trends, and know what the market will bear.
- The offer stage: When you get the offer, thank the hiring team and let them know you'll review the information and follow up with them promptly. Don't hesitate to ask questions if you need clarification.
- The counter-offer stage: Don’t counter-offer just for the sake of it. If you’re not satisfied with the original offer, make only one counter-offer that includes your bottom line non-negotiables. Be prepared to provide justification for your requests.o Make sure you truly know what you want to get out of a counter-offer before making or accepting one. Do you really want to stay at your current organization and are just hoping to make more money? Or are you looking to make a move for more responsibility, more flexibility, or a better workplace culture? Will staying help you achieve those goals? Take a beat to consider what you are trying to achieve.
- The decision stage: Once you have your final offer, think about the opportunity and assess whether it aligns with the things you value most in a job. If it does, congratulations! If not, it’s ok to say “No, thank you,” and move on in your search.
Finding the right opportunity is both an art and a science. Persistence and patience are key. With a well-planned strategy, and perhaps the assistance of a savvy recruiter, you’ll be on your way to a future that’s everything you envisioned.