The Seven Steps to a Successful In-House Job Search

One day not long ago I spoke with the General Counsels of six publicly held companies with capitalizations of $500 million to $1.5 billion. They each were looking to be GCs somewhere else.

These were very talented attorneys. Each had experience in compliance, SEC rules and corporate governance. They each had managed outside counsel in complex nationwide litigation. They each were experienced in negotiating domestic and international transactions, including licensing deals. They each had administrative management roles beyond just the legal department … they were integral members of their companies’ senior management teams.

These were six very smart and successful General Counsels, each of whom felt they were special and uniquely credentialed.

But the reality is that each one was the same as the other. Competitively, they were at parity. There was no way an employer could tell the difference between them. None of these six people had a clear “brand strategy” to differential themselves from their competitors.

These six individuals were all creative problem solvers for their companies, but were conducting very old-fashioned and pedantic job search campaigns.

If you are a senior level in-house counsel, or if you are looking to become one, the competition is ferocious. The quality of the people who are competing for the top legal jobs at companies is extremely high.

In order to prevail over the competition, you need to be doing several things. Here is a quick check list.

1) Have you identified your Unique Selling Proposition? What makes you a better candidate than someone with like kind and quality of experience? If you do not have a clear “brand strategy,” your search will take much longer. You will miss out on interviews for jobs you could have won.

2) Do you have a well-defined Marketing Plan to guide your search? Have you identified your target market, the people who can hire you, the companies where you best fit, and the information sources you need to stay current about changes affecting your potential employers? Have you established a specific methodology for your campaign? If you have not, you are trusting to luck.

3) Are you being creative in your approach to the job market? If you are merely posting your resume on job boards, responding to advertised positions on the internet,talking with recruiters and doing some networking, you are taking necessary steps. But, you are doing what everyone else is doing. Even worse, you are missing out on literally 80% of the available positions. Fully 80% of the jobs that are filled each year are not posted on the internet or listed with recruiters.

4) Do you have a strategy for penetrating the so-called Hidden Job Market? Old-fashioned networking alone will not get you there. There are many tools available if you look for them and know how to use them. As a lawyer, research is part of your skill set – so use that skill to get smart about your job search methods.

5) Do your resume and cover letter show your accomplishments, or simply your duties and responsibilities? Your competitors have had essentially the same duties that you have had. What makes you more attractive than they are? If your resume isn’t showing results you have produced, you are under-representing yourself.

6) Do you have a compelling telephone introduction when calling the CEOs or GCs who can hire you? If your plan for calling the hiring executive is simply to ask if he’s seen your resume and would he like to meet you, your chances of arranging an interview are minimal.

7) Do you have a plan for how to get your resume to companies that are not advertising openings? Only 5-7 per cent of available positions are advertised. But beyond that, if a company’s Board is not satisfied with their current GC, they are certainly not going to post that job on their website!

If you have (honestly) answered “yes” to these seven questions, then we applaud you and you probably don’t need us. But if you have answered “no” to even one or two of these questions, then you are likely to be spending a lot longer on your job search than you need to or want to.

We have guided about 2,000 senior lawyers through successful job search campaigns. Perhaps we can do the same for you.

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