The Top 10 Reasons Why Lawyers Seek Alternative Careers – Part 1 of 2

The law can be a wonderful profession, and it is for many people. But it can also be draining and frustrating. Even for those who love the profession, after practicing for 10, 15, 20 years or more, some lawyers are simply ready for a change. Nowhere is it written that you must stay with one career your entire life.

My colleagues and I have counseled several thousand lawyers on re-careering and job search issues. Based on our nearly 23 years of experience, we have compiled The Top 10 Reasons for Wanting to Leave the Law.

We are going to share 5 of them today. We are going to discuss the second 5 in an upcoming issue, but if you don’t want to wait, just email us at info@careerstrategiesgroup.com and we will send it to you right away.

THE #1 REASON WHY LAWYERS WANT TO LEAVE THE PRACTICE …..

#1: Quality of Life — law firm and solo practice attorneys typically put in 10-12 hour days and often work on weekends. They have little time with their families, and little energy left to enjoy the fruits of their labors. They may be making good money, but there’s no time to do anything with it.  If you are single, the demands of your work make it hard to develop a relationship. If you are married, it’s hard to maintain a relationship. And if you are parent, you miss your children’s Little League games, back-to-school nights and much of their growing up. It is no wonder that many of the people who call us are in their late 30s and mid-40s, and realize the best things in life are passing them by while they write midnight motions and memoranda.

#2: Billable hours — clients often report they are under increasing pressure to produce billable hours.

In some cases, clients say they are under more pressure to produce billables than they are to produce quality work. The system is designed so that you are rewarded for how many hours you bill rather than how well you represent the interests of your clients.

#3. Business Development – People don’t go to law school because they want to be salesmen. Many of our clients like the work of being a lawyer, but do not like the constant reality of having to “sell” their services. The cold, hard fact of law firm or solo life is that you have to get the business to do the business. If you can’t generate a sizeable book of new client billings each year, you will have a hard time being truly successful in your career as a law firm attorney.

#4. Negative, adversarial environment — every day, it’s a battle. Instead of creating win-win scenarios,

there’s tremendous pressure to savage the opposition, and to make simple issues more difficult. There’s needless posturing, bellicosity and pounding of chests when in reality, the same issues could be easily and amicably resolved if both sides were simply reasonable. But that’s not the system. Our clients tell us they not only have to fight opposing clients, they also often have to fight with other lawyers within their own firm. Most disaffected lawyers would prefer to be in an atmosphere that is cooperative and collegial. Wouldn’t you?

#5. Roteness/Boredom — after years of handling similar issues, a “been there, done that” mentality

can set in and, except for rare cases, the work can become no longer challenging. Lawyers, as a breed, are “smarter than the average bear” and have a low boredom threshold. They like “solving puzzles” and being creative, but after 10, 15 or more years doing the same thing, the thrill is gone. Often, you can predict the outcome of a case within a few minutes after reading the file, but you have to go through all of the motions anyway.

So why do unhappy attorneys stay in law firms or private practice?

There are two key obstacles to career change for lawyers. A common concern among attorneys is a lack of awareness of what else they can do besides lawyering. A second issue is a lack of awareness of the types of positions that exist in the ‘outside’ world. Both of these problems can be overcome.

If there’s anything I have learned after so many years of counseling attorneys, it’s that lawyers have the intellectual horsepower to learn just about anything. They have analytical skills, research abilities, problem solving skills and both written and verbal presentation talents —  that’s not a bad platform for a career change. What company couldn’t make good use of someone with those talents?”

We  provide a full range of services for attorneys in transition. Our specialty is career change for attorneys in mid-life who are seeking to explore career alternatives, either in the law or in business, academics or non-profit agency administration.  We serve clients nationally. A boutique-sized practice, we limit ourselves to accepting just over 100 new cases per year.

If you are an attorney thinking about exploring your career options, call Career Strategies today.

Guide to Finding a New Job During the Holidays

There is a myth out there that says that companies don’t hire during the holidays. But it’s just that…a myth. Just ask the jobseeker who was offered a job on Black Friday. Or the one who was invited in for a second interview two days before Christmas.

Putting your job search on hold between Thanksgiving and New Year’s isn’t just a bad idea — it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Like hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” If you’re not looking for a job during the holidays, you’re not going to find one.

Employers hire all 12 months of the year. In fact, many new positions are funded to start with a new budget year — which often coincides with a new calendar year. Other hiring managers have hiring budgets that must be spent before the end of the year — “use it or lose it.” Both of these scenarios offer opportunities for jobseekers in December.

The holidays also offer some natural opportunities to network and spread the word about your job search: there are company parties, social gatherings, end-of-the-year professional association events, and even Christmas cards and letters. Many of these strategies are available whether you’re unemployed or if you have a job but are looking to improve your job situation.

Working on your job search during the holidays may also mean less competition from other candidates who put their job search on hold. Many people wait until January — making it a New Year’s Resolution — to look for a new job. If you wait until January 2 to start — or resume — your job search, you’ll have more competition.

It may even be easier to connect with a hiring manager during December as many key personnel are in the office while lower level staff takes paid holiday time off during the month.

Even if you aren’t offered a job in December, you can lay a lot of the groundwork by making connections before the end of the year, making it more likely that you’ll be hired quickly in the new year.

11 Ideas for Job Searching During the Holidays

Here are some specific strategies you can use in your holiday job search.

Accept all invitations you receive for holiday parties and get-togethers. Whether it’s a social or charity event, dinner party, spouse’s Christmas party, or professional association event, use these opportunities to reacquaint yourself with people who might be useful in your job search, and make new connections. Be sure to follow-up.

Re-connect with old friends and colleagues. Your network can be a great source of information, job leads, and referrals. Get back in touch with previous co-workers and supervisors, people from high school and college, former neighbors, etc.

Host your own holiday party. It doesn’t have to be anything formal or elaborate. Hosting your own holiday open house, dinner party, or get-together can help jumpstart your job search (but that shouldn’t be the focus of your party, of course!). However, extending an invitation is a great excuse to reach out and talk with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while!

Ask for specific information or help. For example, ask if the person knows anyone who works at “x” company instead of asking if they know of anyone hiring. During the holidays, your contacts might have more time to be of assistance, and they might be in a mood to be generous at this time of the year!

Volunteer. There are many opportunities during the holidays to give your time to charities and organizations. Some of these opportunities might also help you build your network, make new connections, and bolster your résumé.

Use holiday cards to connect. If Christmas cards, holiday letters, and e-greetings are part of your end-of-the-year tradition, mentioning your job search (if you’re currently unemployed, or your position is ending) can be a useful strategy. Let people know you’re looking!

Create a business networking card. Develop a business card that lists your contact information and social media links — especially to your LinkedIn profile. You can use this in lieu of your normal business card — or instead of it, if you’re unemployed.

Update your social media presence. If you don’t yet have a LinkedIn profile, now is the time to create yours. If you have one, give it a fresh look. Is it time to update it? Can you increase your number of Connections — or solicit additional Recommendations?

Look for opportunities to get your foot in the door. If you’re currently unemployed, look for temporary or seasonal jobs that may lead to full-time positions.

Connect with recruiters. Many are trying to reach year-end recruiting goals at this time of the year, and you may have just the skills they are looking for.

Set a specific goal for your job search. Instead of setting a goal to get a new job, your goal might be to make a certain number of new connections or to schedule a certain number of informational interviews. Making progress on this type of goal will ultimately help you achieve your goal of a new job.

Make sure you’re reachable. You might be asked to interview at unusual times — for example, the day before Christmas. Keep your phone on — and make sure you’re checking your voice mail and email regularly!

 

Challenges To Overcome With a Holiday Job Search

Conducting a job search in December isn’t without its challenges, however. While some hiring managers are hard at work throughout the month, others may be on vacation. Some companies also close during the week from Christmas to New Year’s Day.

The holidays can also distract you from your job search. Shopping, vacations, family activities, and holiday parties can all take away time from your job search, if you’re not careful.

Check your attitude, too. The holidays are a season of joy and thankfulness, but that can be tough when you’re out of work. However, it’s important to maintain a positive attitude — or at least “fake it until you make it.” Even if you’re not feeling it, “act as if” you are, because employers want to hire positive, optimistic employees.

Also, don’t overextend yourself during the holidays. Be sure to exercise, get enough sleep, and eat well.

And watch out for holiday employment scams. In your desire to make extra cash for the holidays, don’t get caught up in job-related scams — like fake mystery shopping gigs, package processing rip-offs, or work-at-home cons. Check out job opportunities carefully, and never accept payments for work you haven’t done yet. And never deposit a check into your account and wire or transfer payments out before the payment has fully cleared (wait at least two weeks).

Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear anything back right away. Because a lot of people use their accumulated vacation time before the end of the year, you may find yourself waiting a bit longer than usual for a response to your résumé or follow-up after a job interview. Be patient, but persistent.

If it’s your goal to find a new job in the new year, don’t put off your job search just because it’s the holiday season. A job search that starts in December gives you the opportunity to get hired before the end of the year — or to have momentum and a head start on other candidates once the calendar turns over on January 1.

The 21 Questions You Need to Ask in a Job Interview

It’s Not About Me, It’s About You!

[Editor’s Note: Job interviewing is a two-way process; it is not just about answering questions, it is about asking questions, too! The right questions! We are pleased to present this insightful article by Marc Cenedella, Chairman of TheLadders.]

By Marc Cenedella

Ask these questions in your next job interview and watch the hiring manager’s face light up.
It’s time for my twice-a-year update of the best questions for you to ask in an interview.

I’ve put this list together because so often we can forget what an interview’s all about. It sure feels like it’s about you, but it’s really not.

An interview is actually about how you can help your future boss and future employer succeed. It’s about finding out what their requirements and hopes are and matching up your background and experience with what they need.

Overlooking these basic facts about the interview is easy. There’s so much else going on in your work, your life, and in your job search, that you can forget to look at the interview from the interviewer’s point of view. And that’s a shame, because you need the interviewer to walk away from the interview thoroughly impressed.

When I ran these questions previously, commenter “spiderji” wrote in and said:
Marc, I used some of your questions in a job interview today. When I asked how to get a “gold star” on the evaluation, the interviewers faces lit up!” I contrast today’s interview with others I’ve been on where I didn’t have any meaningful questions at the end. This one was electric! I won’t know the results for a couple of days, but if they hire me I’ll owe you a drink! Thank you!

And reader LBRZ shared:
I have to thank you! I had an interview yesterday and it went great. When I asked about his leadership style and reward system his face lit up like a Christmas tree.

After he answered the question “how can I help you receive your next promotion?”, he began to give me advice on how I should negotiate for a higher starting salary.

And that’s exactly the point, Readers. By asking these questions, which focus on the needs, traits, and preferences of your future boss and future employer, you’re demonstrating that you are somebody who is genuinely interested in their well-being. And the more interest we show in others, the more commitment they show to aiding our cause.

With that in mind, here’s the twice-a-year update to my collection of “best interview questions” below. My aim here is to arm you with easy-to-ask, revealing-to-answer questions for you to take with you to an interview:

1. What’s the biggest change your group has gone through in the last year? Does your group feel like the tough times are over and things are getting better, or are things still pretty bleak? What’s the plan to handle to either scenario?

2. If I get the job, how do I earn a “gold star” on my performance review? What are the key accomplishments you’d like to see in this role over the next year?

3. What’s your (or my future boss’) leadership style?

4. About which competitor are you most worried?

5. How does sales / operations / technology / marketing / finance work around here? (I.e., groups other than the one you’re interviewing for.)

6. What type of people are successful here? What type of people are not?

7. What’s one thing that’s key to this company’s success that somebody from outside the company wouldn’t know about?

8. How did you get your start in this industry? Why do you stay?

9. What are your group’s best and worst working relationships with other groups in the company? What are the pain points you have to deal with day-to-day?

10. What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest worry these days?

11. What’s the timeline for making a decision on this position? When should I get back in touch with you?

12. These are tough economic times, and every position is precious when it comes to the budget. Why did you decide to hire somebody for this position instead of the many other roles / jobs you could have hired for? What about this position made you prioritize it over others?

13. What is your reward system? Is it a star system / team-oriented / equity-based / bonus-based / “attaboy!”-based? Why is that your reward system? What do you guys hope to get out of it, and what actually happens when you put it into practice? What are the positives and the negatives of your reward system? If you could change any one thing, what would it be?

14. What information is shared with the employees (revenues, costs, operating metrics)? Is this an “open book” shop, or do you play it closer to the vest? How is information shared? How do I get access to the information I need to be successful in this job?

15. If we are going to have a very successful year in 2015, what will that look like? What will we have done over the next 6 months to make it successful? How does this position help achieve those goals? (This question helps show your ability to look beyond today’s duties to the future more than a year away.)

16. How does the company / my future boss do performance reviews? How do I make the most of the performance review process to ensure that I’m doing the best I can for the company?

17. What is the rhythm to the work around here? Is there a time of year that it’s “all hands on deck” and we’re pulling all-nighters, or is it pretty consistent throughout the year? How about during the week / month? Is it pretty evenly spread throughout the week / month, or are there crunch days?

18. What type of industry / functional / skills-based experience and background are you looking for in the person who will fill this position? What would the “perfect” candidate look like? How do you assess my experience in comparison? What gaps do you see?

19. What is your (or my future boss’) hiring philosophy? Is it “hire the attitude / teach the skills” or are you primarily looking to add people with domain expertise first and foremost?

20. In my career, I’ve primarily enjoyed working with big / small / growing / independent / private / public / family-run companies. If that’s the case, how successful will I be at your firm?

21. Who are the heroes at your company? What characteristics do the people who are most celebrated have in common with each other? Conversely, what are the characteristics that are common to the promising people you hired, but who then flamed out and failed or left? As I’m considering whether or not I’d be successful here, how should I think about the experiences of the heroes and of the flame-outs?

I hope you find these questions useful in your interviews, Readers! Have a great week in the job search!

Marc Cenedella is the Chairman of TheLadders, an on-line job-matching service. Follow Marc on Twitter at @Cenedella

Thoughts on Barbara Walters’ Retirement

When I was going to have dinner with Barbara Walters, my plan was to rip her a new one, to excoriate her, and show her to be a light-weight pretender. This was back more than a few years ago. I was a columnist with millions of readers in 82 newspapers around the U.S. I was going to expose this heartless fluff bag. The $3 million woman, my rear end! I was out to get that shark, the person who belittled, embarrassed and trod all over a real journalist, the widely respected Harry Reasoner.

OMG, as they say today. Was I ever wrong. I mean seriously wrong. Barbara Walters was a fascinating dinner companion. She was intelligent. She had a tremendous grasp of all sorts of issues. She was kind. Most surprisingly to me, she was gracious and genteel; very far from shark-like. She was entertaining and engaging.

I was fortunate, because of my position, to have been able to dine with some very well known entertainers, business leaders and politicians. Barbara Walters would have to be right at the head of my list of truly memorable people. She won’t remember me at all (I was, after all, a print journalist, not a broadcast one!) but I think I became a better professional through what I learned that night.

Back in those days, there was still such a thing as journalism. People who reported the news as accurately, and objectively as they could. People who actually strove to separate fact from opinion. People who tried to find and report the truth. Barbara Walters was one of those. And one of the best of them.

We wish her well on her retirement. She will be missed.

6-month, interest-free financing now available! No need to use your credit card or checkbook!

Now you can take advantage of Career Strategies’ expertise and resources without having to hit your bank account or credit card. We are extremely pleased to announce we have been accepted as a Pay Pal / Bill Me Later merchant. Bill Me Later is not a credit card but is like one — it provides six-months of interest free financing to qualified persons, and offers even longer payment terms at a very reasonable interest rate. Very few people have “career counseling and job search assistance” in their budgets. This has made it difficult, sometimes impossible, for clients to retain us to help them in their career development. Career Strategies is not a bank — we are career counselors — and typically over the last 21 years of our practice, all we could manage was to allow clients to put down a meaningful deposit and pay off their balances in two or three months. That put us out of the reach of many people who wanted to use us. Since people can now purchase our services with a small down payment and long-term installment plan, that problem largely goes away. Our goal has always been to help people find jobs — the best jobs they can command, at the best salaries, in the best organizations. This new Pay Pal / Bill Me Later program will make it possible for us to help many more people — perhaps you!

Career Strategies Receives A+ Rating From the Better Business Bureau

White Plains, NY — Career Strategies is proud to announce that it has become a BBB Accredited Business and has received the highly coveted A+ Rating in Career Counseling and Outplacement.

In bestowing the new honor to Career Strategies, the BBB noted, “Your BBB Accreditation status makes a powerful statement about your commitment and consistent efforts to maintain a strong sense of accountability and responsibility. As a BBB Accredited Business,” they continued, “you work to uphold the trust and respect of your customers.”

According to the Better Business Bureau, the Accreditation and A+ rating is based on 16 different factors, including advertising, sales practices and service delivery, among others. Being granted Accredited status, said the BBB, “demonstrates your commitment to truth in advertising and gives consumers an assurance of your business’ commitment to stand behind your products and work.”

“We are deeply honored to be recognized by the Better Business Bureau,” said Bruce Blackwell, who founded Career Strategies in 1992. “We are especially proud to be given an A+, the BBB’s highest rating.” The rating system, like many schools, goes from A+ down to F.

In the all of New York State, only two Career Counseling and Outplacement businesses have been given Accredited status by the BBB. “This is a very rare honor indeed,” said Blackwell.

Accredited businesses are required to meet all applicable standards for the BBB’s Code of Business Practices, advertise its services honestly, ensure that all written materials clearly and accurately describe its services and “approach all business dealings, marketplace transactions and commitments with integrity.”

Career Strategies provides career testing and assessment to help clients identify their viable career options. It also assists job seekers by preparing resumes and marketing materials, creating personal marketing plans, distributing client resumes to companies and recruiters, and providing interview preparation and job search coaching. The company has served several thousand executives and professionals in career transition.

Career Strategies is located at 188 East Post Road, Suite 304, White Plains, NY 10601. Main line: 914-437-9230. Fax: 913-437-9229. Website: www.careerstrategiesgroup.com.

Branding — Are you a better candidate than another lawyer?

A key to success in marketing is to have a clear brand strategy — to create an understanding in the marketplace about how your product is different from, and a better value than, another similar product.   Without a clear brand strategy, you will not be successful in the marketplace. This holds just as true for job seekers as it does for consumer product marketers.

Back the day, when General Motors was the leading car company not only in America, but in the world, each product line had a unique brand strategy. Chevrolet was the budget model. Pontiac was the fun, sporty model. Oldsmobile was the conservative model for our parents. Cadillac was for the rich. Over time, GM amalgamated all of its models, and you couldn’t tell a Chevy from a Pontiac or an Olds, and even Cadillac dabbled with less expensive models (remember the Cadillac Cimmaron? It was just a re-badged Chevrolet!). They were all parity products build on the same platforms, with the same look and same engines.

The result? Market confusion and a loss of brand identity. So what happened? GM lost its supremacy in the world market. It is not even America’s #1car maker anymore. Pontiac and Oldsmobile have disappeared. GM simply couldn’t compete against the other car makers whose products were easier to define and whose value was more apparent.   The same concept holds true for attorney job seekers. How is an employer supposed to tell the difference between legal job applicants who have the same experience in the same practice areas?  They can’t. This makes it much tougher for an attorney to prevail against the competition in the job market.

I have spoken with literally 20,000 attorneys over the last 20 years. That’s about 20 per week, week-in and week-out. They all claim to have the same core skills.   What are you good at? Write down 5 or 6 things on a sheet of paper, then come back to this blog article. (roll theme music from “Jeopardy) … OK, ready? Here’s what many of you will have said are your core talents:

1. research

2. writing

3. analyzing

4. problem-solving

5. advising

6. learning new things quickly

7. negotiating

If this is the best you can come up with, you need to do better. There is hardly a lawyer out there who cannot say that they lack any of the talents listed above. You can’t triumph against your competitors if you are making the same claims as they are.

I am not saying that these are not valuable skills. But you need to offer more. A Chevy and a BMW both have four tires and a steering wheel, and both will get you to work in the morning — but which would you rather drive?  If you think you are a BMW-level attorney, are you positioning yourself in the market as a Chevy?  If so, start doing some serious thinking about your brand strategy so you can gain a competitive edge in the hunt for a new job.