Turn A Setback Into Your Success

Turn A Setback Into Your Success

By: Nicole Desbois and Christine Peake

The news on LinkedIn has been bleak. The LinkedIn feed is inundated with posts regarding recent layoffs. As recruiters, we have certainly seen an uptick in attorneys who are, or expect to be, laid-off.

Being laid off is one of the hardest things some experience in their professional career. Losing a position, particularly one in which you were a stellar performer and possibly held for years, can take a toll on emotional health and wellbeing.

A job search can be long and complicated. Depending on type and level of experience, it can be a full-time job. It is important to stay positive and persistent. It may take months, but most, if not all, attorneys find an opportunity that aligns with their career goals and aspirations. Often, the new position is even better than the one from which they were laid-off! Embrace the journey and know that finding the right opportunity can be a lengthy process, but it is out there!

Do not be afraid to take your time. The worst thing to do is panic and accept a position that is not a good fit. If it is not a good fit, in the long run, it will not work for the employee or the employer.

When starting your search, keep in mind that despite lay-offs by some companies, the legal market in the DC area remains very busy, with many receiving multiple offers.

The single most important thing to do when searching for a new opportunity is network. Lean on your existing network whether that be old colleagues, friends, recruiters, mentors, or professors. Take time to expand your network by attending events and connecting with professionals on LinkedIn. Most people truly want to help and will offer advice and recommendations.

Networking can be terrifying. However, this article will address networking strategies, explain how to develop skills to grow your network, all while enjoying the journey!

How to find success through effective networking is divided into four categories:

  1. Networking is a skill, which can be learned
  2. Join local professional organizations
  3. Prepare for and attend in-person events
  4. Use LinkedIn and professional recruiters

(1) Networking is a skill, which can be learned

Networking might seem daunting. People often worry because they are an introvert, or not fond of public speaking, that networking is simply not an option for them.

Like any skill, networking becomes easier with time, so the important thing is to get out there and start networking! Anyone can learn how to network and, over time, enjoy the process, and its benefits.

You can start small, calling people you already know and letting them know you are looking for a new opportunity. Speaking first with people you know will get you comfortable telling your story. Unless speaking with a close friend, do not be emotional on the call, and try your best to have a positive attitude on what a great opportunity it is to be in a position to find a new and exciting position.

Additionally, reach out to search professionals, either through their company website or on LinkedIn. If you do not know of any, simply conduct an internet search to find placement agencies that work in the legal industry and have a local office. These professionals should be able to offer advice on a job search, and possibly hold the dream job!

Networking and meeting people by attending in-person events is imperative. When attending an event, always maintain professionalism, but remember, the point is to develop connections and relationships with others. Have a positive attitude and a goal of meeting two or three new people. Make an effort to truly connect with the individuals you are speaking with by displaying genuine curiosity and interest in getting to know them.

One of the most important skills to develop when networking is active listening skills. Ask open-ended questions and carefully listen to the answers. While listening, identify areas where you can offer assistance when following up. When you reach out to them the next day to tell them what a pleasure it was to meet, if they like a specific type of food, suggest a restaurant they may like. If they prefer a specific genre of books or movies, or if they are planning a trip to a destination you have visited, offer a recommendation that they may enjoy.

After the initial follow up, it is important to remain in touch to foster and maintain the relationship with your connections. Continue to reach out as topics of interest arise and to check in during significant life events. For example, congratulate your connections on new promotions or reach out when intriguing industry news or shared interests emerge.

Prioritize building meaningful connections over trying to make an impression. Along the way, you will learn a lot and make valuable connections. Many of these connections will likely become life-long friends, enriching your life, not just your career.

(2) Join local professional organizations

Joining local professional organizations is an excellent starting point. We recommend organizations such as the Association of Corporate Counsel, local bar organizations, and other groups that are of interest to you. Becoming a member of local clubs and organizations, which are comprised of hundreds of firms, companies, and professionals, can greatly expand your sphere of “friends.” Many organizations host several events each year, where you can meet other members and utilize your networking skills. Prioritize attending in-person events where you can make meaningful in-person connections. In addition to in-person events, local organizations also provide resources that offer webinars and workshops on career development.

Volunteering to help organize events is another great way to harness the benefits of professional organizations. It allows you to further engage with members and organizational leadership. Moreover, volunteering plays a pivotal role in developing leadership skills, which are heavily sought after in today’s job market.

You can also get involved in local organizations by hosting panels. If you are a subject matter expert in a certain industry, reach out and volunteer. Hosting a panel or seminar is a terrific way to get in front of industry leaders who are looking to hire and may be impressed by your expertise.

(3) Prepare for and attend in-person events

As mentioned above, one of the best ways to expand your network is attending events hosted by local organizations, firms, and/or companies. Keep an eye out for events discussing areas of the law that are applicable to your industry or which pique your interest. We understand in-person events can be scary. But remember, most attend in person events, at least in part, to meet people! Attending in-person events is irreplaceable. Making a connection in-person is much stronger than what can be made over the phone or via email. It is also conducive to meeting a greater number of professionals at one time. If you are too nervous to attend alone, bring a friend or colleague. However, be sure to not just speak with your plus one. Moreover, ensure you do not just speak with one person in general, your goal is to meet new people. Aim for meeting two to three new people at each networking event you attend.

Prior to the event, ask the host in advance for a copy of the guest list. Contact those you know and those you want to know on LinkedIn or via email. Contacting attendees and establishing a connection beforehand can help alleviate nervousness of attending an event where you may not know anyone.

When preparing for the event, practice your elevator pitch. Your elevator pitch should be no longer than 30 seconds. It should cover your passion for the industry, who you are as a worker and a person, your key accomplishments, what your career goals are, and what you can contribute to a future role. Revise your “elevator pitch” so that it is not a lecture, but rather, sparks an engaging conversation. Keep up to date on current events, world affairs, emerging business trends, and even movies so you can start or join in on conversations.

This should go without saying, but dress professionally and bring business cards!

When attending the event, arrive early and leave late. You don’t want to be the lone straggler who walks in on a panelist or host making a speech. As already established, attending a crowded function where you do not know anyone can be intimidating. To overcome the fear of meeting new people or attending an event where you do not know anyone, ensure you are one of the first to arrive at the event. When the next person walks in, you can introduce yourself and you have broken the ice for yourself.

If you catch yourself standing alone, do not pull out your phone. Stand in the food or drink line and strike up a conversation with the person behind or in-front of you. Or walk over to someone who is standing alone and introduce yourself. Another option is to walk up to a pair of people, wait for them to acknowledge you, and with a smile on your face reach your hand out and ask if they mind if you introduce yourself. If someone is meandering around the group with who are speaking, invite them in to join the group and make sure they are introduced to everyone.

If the event is seated, avoid sitting down until it is absolutely necessary. Once seated, the polite thing to do is to introduce yourself to everyone at the table or at least to those seated next to you.

Ask open-ended questions and listen carefully to the answers. Ask your connections about their business and professional career, what brings them to the event, and expand on any other connections you may discover while speaking. Focus on connecting, not impressing.

Avoid being overly emotional when networking; it allows for clear and rational communication, facilitating a professional relationship built upon competence and mutual respect rather than being driven solely by personal emotions. Being positive when networking is also essential because it not only creates a favorable impression but also fosters a conducive environment for meaningful connections.

After you have established a connection, ask for a business card and permission to contact the person. At this point, do not try to set an appointment to meet or speak at a later date. As with any relationship, you do not want to appear desperate (i.e., do not propose on the first date!).

After the event, be sure to follow up with your connections! You should follow up within 1 to 2 business days maximum. Business cards are not like baseball cards, as they decline with age. You should follow up via LinkedIn and email (if you have it). The follow up is when it is appropriate to set up a time to speak further.

(4) Use LinkedIn and professional recruiters

LinkedIn is invaluable in the job search. Almost all professional recruiters and potential employers will evaluate your LinkedIn profile in conjunction with your resume. It is important to ensure that your LinkedIn is not only up to date, but professional. LinkedIn is a professional site, so use professional photos only. Also, include only information on your LinkedIn profile that will further your career. For example, do not include excessive details regarding your litigation experience from 20 years ago if it does not align with your current expertise and career aspirations.

Recruiters use LinkedIn every day to source and evaluate candidates. One of the keyways to find candidates on LinkedIn is by conducting searches. Recruiters use keywords to search for relevant profiles. For example, an effective LinkedIn search for a privacy attorney would include keyword terms such as CCPA, GDPR, or DPA. If these terms are not included on a privacy attorney’s profile, then that profile is not going to appear in the conducted search. Similarly, if there are gaps in your resume or LinkedIn profile, be sure to explain those (i.e., one year sabbatical to care for family or left due to company acquisition).  Lastly, activate the “Open to Work” feature (only recruiters can see it) to let recruiters know you are interested in new opportunities.

When recruiters reach out, always take the call, or at least respond (even if the opportunity they have presented is not a fit). Likely, recruiters may have another opportunity that would be a fit, or an opportunity in the future that will be a fit. If you have made that connection with the recruiter, you are going to be one of the first people the recruiter will think of when new opportunities arise. Responding quickly to inquiries or outreach is also important, as positions are often quickly filled.  You can also recommend a colleague, to ingratiate yourself with the recruiter and colleagues.

Another way to utilize LinkedIn is by connecting with hiring managers or individuals working in your desired fields. For those employed in your ideal position, reach out and see if they would be open to sharing their experiences about their career trajectory and what skills and/or connections helped them in obtaining their current position. Approach these calls as a chance to build relationships and gain insights on how to pursue your ideal career, rather than as a means to secure employment.

Key takeaways

Pressure makes diamonds, and whether you are aware of it or not, this time between positions is an opportunity to develop critical networking skills that will be invaluable throughout your entire career.

These four key takeaways can go a long way while searching for a new opportunity.

  1. Your network is worth so much more than some believe. That is why it is important to hone networking skills, master the art of networking and start by making that first call to an old colleague or friend!
  2. Take advantage of all the local organizations at your disposal. One of the reasons people join local organizations is to meet and hire stellar talent.
  3. When possible, always attend in-person events to make those career changing connections.
  4. Make sure to use LinkedIn and professional recruiters.

If you are currently seeking new opportunities, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Firm Advice. We will help in any way possible.

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