Katherine E. Hagman is a consultant at Chicago Legal Search, Ltd., and she is one of our speakers at our Wednesday event. She took some time to answer a few of our questions.
What is your No. 1 piece of advice for lawyers going through a career transition?
My No. 1 piece of advice for those going through a career transition right now is to keep a positive attitude. You may feel like you’ve heard this a million times over, but it is vital to your job search and your career.
In this market, rejection is inevitable. Take it in stride, because employers pick up on negativity, desperation and defensiveness about being unemployed. Do not internalize this rejection. Trust me when I tell you that it’s a very tough job market and I see many qualified and talented people applying for the same position, and only one person will get the job. If you are rejected, this does not negatively reflect on your value as a person or as an attorney.
Focus on the positives of the process – getting an interview, a new career around the corner, learning a new skill, meeting new people. Think about what you bring to the table and keep these thoughts at the front of your mind.
How can a lawyer become a better networker?
Being a successful attorney involves skills such as writing, researching, drafting and analytical thinking. These are very important skills, but they don’t always translate into the realm of networking.
Here are a few suggestions to improve your networking efforts:
Expand the pool of people you want to network with. Don’t just think of other attorneys you know who work in law firms – think of other professionals and even friends that might have connections or suggestions for you. Maybe someone has a relative who works at a start-up company and needs an attorney. It’s great to talk to other lawyers to get job leads, but lawyers tend to know a lot of other lawyers and probably get a lot of inquiries already. Expand your networking efforts to those outside of your profession.
Set a firm goal for yourself for people to meet with in a week. Pick a day that you’re going to be in the Loop and tell three people, “I’m going to be in the Loop for a meeting on this date. Would you like to get coffee after?” These face-to-face meetings are vital and will help your contacts keep you in mind.
Be honest about your situation and be direct about what you would like from the people you contact. I think some people are afraid to tell others that they are looking for a new job. Others seem to feel guilty for “imposing” on someone. But these people in your network are your friends and colleagues – they want to help you. Let them know what they can do. Don’t be afraid to ask them to introduce you to a hiring professional or to ask them to give your resume to a hiring contact at their company or firm.
Lastly, but most importantly: Think long term! Don’t just network with the hopes of getting something quickly in return, such as an interview or a job, and then never talking to this person again. Networking is a two-way street, and it’s a long road! Realize that the people you meet today may open doors for you down the road. You are not just networking to find a job – you are connecting with friends and professionals who will be an asset to you professionally for many years. See what you can offer them as well.
How would you characterize the job market right now for lawyers?
Difficult, but much better than this time last year.
From my vantage point, the job market for attorneys in Chicago has improved quite a bit recently. It’s still tough for new grads to land that first job, but for laterals, those with the right type and level of experience are getting more interviews and offers than a year or two years ago.
Many of my clients are hiring and have told me that they are receiving far fewer resumes in response to job postings than this time last year. That is very good news! It’s a good time to be looking for a job, because you are more likely to get results. I think many people will be moving on to new ventures (they have been waiting to opportunities to arise), which means that the firms and companies that are leanly staffed after having numerous layoffs in the past couple of years will need to replace these attorneys very quickly. We are seeing this translate to more hiring and people getting back to work.