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Back To Basics

by Linda Green Pierce

Again I return to the thought that what happens in my business as a recruiter directly translates to what happens to lawyers and to the legal business in which I recruit.

Things are tough. We are in a recession. Career planning, career focus and job pursuits can be frustrating and disheartening in these times.

In the spirit of "when the going gets tough, the tough get going", I find that returning to basics and the root of what you (and I) do is the right course.

I review the building blocks of what a recruiter needs to do every day: Plan your day the night before, network, make recruiting calls, make client calls, do database entries using excellent notes, interview candidates in person and by telephone, pre-screen, test both candidates and clients as to their potential for accurate matches, and take references. Each of those blocks, and there are certainly many more, make up the completed recruitment process. In my early days as a recruiter, I was instructed not to focus on the end "placement", but to put one block down at a time, cement it to the next block and -- viola -- in time there was a completed block structure: the solid placement.

Lawyers in the job market must also return to the basics in order to arrive at their own solid job placement. First, review the reasons why you became a lawyer (see a prior article on the NWLS site about this issue) prior to moving forward to a new position. More importantly, make sure you are looking for a job that marries those reasons and your values, even if you have to take a more entry-level role.

Another basic is your resume. It should be concise and up to date. A resume is an introduction document to who you are and your skill set. It shouldn't be a laundry list of everything you've ever done. I recommend a one-page resume for lawyers with under 10 years of experience and no more than two pages for more experienced lawyers. Employers never get around to reading five and six-page resumes (and they round-file them.) Lawyers have a tendency to add on and add on, rather than editing their resume. Make sure what's on your resume is relevant to who you are today and the positions you are pursuing.

Another point about resumes: Too often candidates write, rewrite and redo resumes, asking me to critique the third or fourth version they have sent me, and ask if their resume is the reason they are not getting interview call backs. While sometimes this is true, if a resume is long or ill prepared, more often the lack of call backs is a result of a passive pursuit of job opportunities and lackluster interviewing. The past market has brought jobs directly to lawyers; we could even be a bit arrogant in that old market and, at certain success levels, pick and choose on our own timetable. One could be more passive in job pursuits.

That time is over. The market is extremely competitive and requires aggressive and daily efforts. Those efforts may mean reaching out of your comfort zone to include such things as pursuing network meetings, giving a practiced and polished one-minute pitch of your career essence (who you are, what you do, what you want to do) and getting friends and family to network for you. (Don't roll your eyes on the family thing.)

Lastly, do not forget "the look" for an interview. There's no need to spend tightly-budgeted dollars on a new wardrobe, but it's essential to update. The right outfit can increase your confidence and make a lasting first impression in an interview. Bear in mind that interview outfits today are less casual than in recent years.

A suit, if less than four years old, should suffice with a clean and press and with the possible addition of a new shirt or blouse, for example. No frayed edges anywhere; you will need spanking clean shoes and shirt or blouse, and neat nails. A recent haircut and teeth cleaning are essential.

Make sure the chosen outfit fits, is in good shape and is in a flattering color. Make this your 'go to' outfit for interviewing so that you have it ready to go. Being ready to go means your energy will focus on the interview and not what you will be wearing.

Stand out to an employer by your very best efforts on these basics.