Jeff Berkowitz, President of JB Consulting Group, Inc., will be one of our speakers at our Wednesday Attorneys in Transition event. He took some time to answer some of our questions.
What do you hope people learn from your presentations about the job market?
Although the legal market is still a down market, there are many opportunities out there. We’ll talk a little bit about the market for law firm partners, associates and in house counsel, but the most important thing for anyone engaged in a search is to understand his or her strengths and to know how to package, present and persuade about those strengths. Those aspects of the search are all controllable by the candidate and therefore merit a great deal of time and energy, irrespective of the state of the job market. Of course, all of that should be done with a sensitivity to market trends and market appetites for skills, traits and attributes.
What is your biggest piece of advice for finding that next job?
Spend considerable time thinking about what you can do, what you want to do and how you can best contribute to a prospective employer. If you think you appear to be short of what the employer wants, ask yourself if it can be remedied. For example, for a law firm partner making a move, a threshold of portable business is, of course, key. However, sometimes strong business and marketing plans can bridge the gap between what the law firm wants and what you have. If so, develop those plans, test the plans, start executing the plans and sell the plans. Similarly, corporate law departments often want their potential hires to have in-house experience. If you lack it, try to learn what might compensate for that and if you possess those traits or skills.
Why is networking so important?
A large number of jobs never make their way to want ads, search firms or Internet postings. Instead, they are often communicated by word of mouth. And for those that do take the form of postings, etc., employers will often be more impressed by the candidate than the candidate’s resume. Also, if you meet the potential employer in person, you have the opportunity to adapt and emphasize the appropriate skills and traits as you learn about the position. Further, a person you are meeting with may decide, because of who you are and what you are saying, that they should be thinking of hiring someone like you. If that happens, you have an extreme jump on being offered the job. And, of course, if you do effective networking, you will be constantly acquiring new names of people to meet, thereby constantly expanding your network. Additionally, networking is a way of preparing you indirectly for job interviews and sharpening your social skills.
Finally, networking is not about exchanging cards with or handing out your resume to as many people as you can, or telling everyone you meet you are looking for a job. No, it is almost the reverse of that. We’ll talk about that.
How should lawyers adapt their careers to this changing legal environment?
For a long time, the legal market has been changing to encourage lawyers to become individual career managers. The current, changing legal environment simply places greater emphasis on this. It is incumbent on every lawyer to ask yearly, if not more frequently, what are your personal goals for that year and how do you achieve them. You may work for an entity that does that for or with you. However, even if that is the case, you should also do it separately. Sometimes, your targeted goals and paths will be congruent and sometimes they will diverge from those of your employer. However, it is your career. You need to set your targets and to monitor your progress.