New Year, New Job: Starting the Search for the Job You Actually Want

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by Katie Mastaler

Katie Mastaler is the newest member of the Lateral Hub team, as VP, Programming & Operations.  Before joining Lateral Hub, Katie served as the Director of Recruiting at Katten Muchin in Chicago and Crowell & Moring in DC, and most recently worked at Amazon managing outside counsel relationships.   Katie is a legal recruiting “lifer,” having joined the industry straight out of college.

The start of a new year is a very popular time for people to start looking for a new job for a variety of reasons — bonuses/promotions are received (or not!), you have plans to move to a new city, you have reached your ceiling in your current role or just the general motivations that come with a new calendar year (i.e. the planning of new beginnings and new resolutions). Whatever your reason, if you have decided you are ready to find a new job, follow these steps to ensure your job search is an efficient use of your time and lands you that next dream job. 

1. Reflect on what your next dream job will be. As you start your job search, it is critical that you take the time to focus on what you what you want to achieve in your next job and not just settle for something because it is different than what you have now. Settling for the latter is likely to lead to you not being happy in that role either, and finding yourself looking again for a new job in a short period of time. 

Make a list of what you like and don’t like about your current job responsibilities, firm, management, and team structure. Be realistic in knowing you are unlikely to find a role that checks all your “like” boxes and doesn’t check any “don’t like” boxes. Once you determine your short list of new job “must haves”, start your search around those items. 

2. Update your resume. It has probably been a few years since you opened up that Word file, but it is time to dig it out. We recommend spending a lot of time with your resume and making sure it is your best work. It is tempting to just add your newest position, maybe update your address if you have moved, and be done with it. Take the time to read every single word on your resume and update from the bottom up. Think about specific things you’ve accomplished in each experience and add those – details within specific projects (for example, number of attorneys supported, programs coordinated, or interviews scheduled) are helpful to add color to your resume and make it more tangible. 

You may notice a typo you hadn’t previously, or may need to cut out your jobs from college or (gasp!) high school, or likely just clean it up and make it as sharp and professional as possible. Submitting a resume that is not your best work, is a waste of your time. Proofread your resume. And then proofread it again. And again. If writing a resume document is not your strong suit, seek help from templates or engage a resume writer. 

3. Mine your professional network. Once you know what you want in your next job and your resume is updated, start letting people know you are looking for a new job. We don’t mean go tell your boss, or even your teammates, but rather your network of trusted professional contacts. 

We know most people don’t love networking and worry that it is fake and transactional, but if you put the work in and focus on providing reciprocal value to the people you meet, it can lead to very strong relationships (and not to mention opportune job opportunities). 

Put together two lists: 1) a short list of contacts to reach out to and 2) a short template to send out via email or LinkedIn messenger about what you are looking for (stay tuned for a more detailed post just about professional networking with templates (!), we could go on for days about this topic!). The list of contacts should be intentional and strategic (don’t spam every person you are connected with on LinkedIn) and should be fewer than 10 people to start. Start with former co-workers who know you and your work, friends who are fantastic networkers, people you admire for their wonderful networks, and people you are acquainted with (perhaps from your legal recruiting association, PDC chapter, or LMA chapter) who have jobs at the firms in which you are most interested. 

Don’t limit your networking list to just legal professionals at other firms, if you worked closely with associates or partners that have moved on to other firms, reach out to them as well. Especially if they know your work style or can vouch for the value you add to a firm. 

4. Schedule time weekly (or more) to look at new job openings and apply. Looking for a new job can be a time consuming process, but one that is worth making time for and prioritizing, if it means career growth, better job satisfaction, or more work/life harmony. 

Block off at least one hour, once a week, to spend on your job search. Depending on your circumstances or timeline, you may need to make time more than once a week. Ask a friend or family member to help keep you accountable and make sure you show up to your weekly job search “appointment.”

If you see a job opening you are interested in, don’t wait, apply as soon as you can. While it may seem like searching for a job takes forever and employers never move quickly, sometimes they DO. As the candidate, you unfortunately don’t have the luxury of knowing where an employer is in the recruiting process with other candidates. Therefore, once you decide you are ready to start looking for a new job, take the time to get all your materials in order, before you start looking at job postings, so that you can apply as soon as you see a new posting you are interested in. If you see a job posting you are interested in, try to apply within 24 hours. 

As we know, the legal community is small, it is very possible you know someone at the firm you are applying to. Be sure to check your LinkedIn network before you apply. Depending on your connection at that firm, you might ask them to submit your application through their employee referral program. If you don’t know each other that well, it is still a good idea to reach out, let them know you have applied for a role (or plan to) and ask if you can reach out to them to ask questions if you get an interview. 

Finding a new job can be very time consuming, overwhelming, and sometimes even demoralizing. However, like most things in business (and sometimes life!), if you approach with a well thought out plan, it can actually be a lot of fun and can truly lead to a great opportunity, or that next thing you truly needed. We wish you lots of luck!