Recently, I’ve become obsessed with the HGTV show House Hunters. Have you seen this show (or one of the many similar shows) where people are on the hunt for their new home? The buyers go in with a list of all their must haves, sticking to their guns and unwilling to deviate from their vision of the perfect home. Unfortunately, no one house ever has everything they want, so they are forced to make choices, deciding what really are “must haves” versus merely “like to haves.” They have to figure out what compromises they are willing to make.
I always find it interesting to watch them go through the process. They start out unable to live without hardwood floors, a two-car garage and a five-minute commute to the office. Then as they look at house after house, they realize more often than not that some of those things they thought they “must have” really are just “nice to haves” and there are other qualities that matter even more. What I find most fascinating about the process of house hunting is that I see the exact same thought process happen when helping lawyers search for a job and organizations hire lawyers.
Candidates will say they badly want to go in-house, for example, but they have to be in a specific metro area. In both the house hunting and job hunting scenarios, location always seems to be a big deal breaker at the outset—usually for the same reasons (family and connections). But both sets of people come to realize other things actually matter more than location. I often ask candidates, “What matters more to you: Do you want to go in-house/be a GC or do you want to continue to live in X area?”
The reality is that there are only so many positions (or houses) in a specific area, at a specific point in time. Especially if you want to break into the competitive in-house counsel or General Counsel club, you may have to ask yourself if location should really be your sticking point. Think about it, if obtaining a Fortune 500 GC position is a must have, then you need to consider that there are only 500 companies on that list and they are spread out over various states, so chances of getting a Fortune 500 GC position for which you are suited in a particular location are pretty low.
What both job seekers and home buyers need to recognize is that this job or house is most likely not your last home or job (depending on where you are in your career). You will likely move on at some point down the road. You won’t necessarily be there forever. You don’t need to have all your boxes checked. Your goal is to build some equity—in the house or in your career.
For my clients, the hiring companies, the same type of “must have” list develops quickly, asking for a sitting GC or specific industry experience at the outset of the search. However, as they review resumes and meet with candidates, they discover that other qualities matter more—especially EQ skills. I’ve seen many times where a company says they must have a specific quality like industry experience but then falls in love with someone that doesn’t have industry experience but instead has terrific EQ skills and can pick up the other skills. Someone who is a fantastic cultural fit ends up being more important—and they realize that the rest was not as important as they thought.
When house hunting, people will fall in love with a house that has a lot of potential and has enough of what they need to get started; they can “renovate” the rest to get it where they want it to be. The same is true for people. Finding a job or a job seeker that checks all the boxes is rare, and if the perfect unicorn comes along, it’s often outside your budget. Something is going to have to give and you are going to have to make tough choices. Recognize when you have enough of what need in a potential employee, employer or house to make the choice that will allow you to start building equity in a bright future.