Job search: positioning yourself for a new in-house role

This article provides some tips on how to position yourself for a new in-house legal role. It discusses the importance of defining your career objectives and look at how to become the polished candidate an employer would seek to hire.

The job market can be a competitive place, particularly if what you have a specific role in mind for your next move. Positioning yourself as the model professional with the skills, experience and personality your ideal job requires could be the difference between success and failure.

Getting yourself job search ready

If you’re serious about looking for a new job, treat it as a project. Plan, do your homework, put the time into your home diary to do it reliably and focus on where you want to be and how you’re going to get there.

Assess any actions or behaviours that may be holding you back. If you’re doing anything that isn’t helpful in your job search, stop doing it.

Remember that first impressions last with interviewers, recruiters, friends and any contacts who may help you in your job search.

Next, think about the specifics you want in your next role: Consider:

  • Market sector;
  • Organisational culture;
  • Leadership and management style;
  • Development opportunities and mentor availability;
  • Your role and how you want to fit into the wider organisation.

Decide if you’re thinking short-term or long-term with your next move. This is very different from only having a short term career view. You should always try to have at least some idea of where you want to be in one, three, five and ten years (location, income, working hours, job type and characteristics etc) from now so that the decisions that you take help to deliver the future that you want.

Then, as you narrow down your choices and look at specific employers, ask yourself why they appeal to you. Draw on your information, your judgement and experience to get a good feel for these employers.

Once you have a clear idea of the type of job you want and the organisations you’d like to work for, position yourself as the ideal candidate. Typically, this will involve:

  • Your CV. Update this to reflect your skills and accomplishments to date. Put the emphasis on what you know and your non legal and legal skills rather that what you do and who you do it for;
  • Networking. Identify any friends, associates, business contacts and even discreet colleagues who may be able to help you. Attend and ideally speak at relevant conferences and networking events with a view to learning of new openings and building your network within the legal profession and the market sectors that interest you. The more senior and the more specialised you become, the more job hunting is about networks, connections and "word of mouth" rather than "word on LinkedIn";
  • Be a thought leader. Learn as much as you can about your specialist area (law and business sector and how they interact), develop your own commercially aware angle on the big issues and seek out opportunities to build an audience. For example, you could:
    • Keep a blog;
    • Offer to write editorials for trade publications and websites;
    • Speak, or appear on expert panels, at industry events.
  • Social media. Social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn will help you build your network and extend your reach. However, keep it professional and thoughtfully maintained. Think hard before posting anything contentious or controversial. Not only can you not get it back, you can't control where it goes, either. Remember, recruiters and potential employers will look you up on social media as it tells them a lot about the sort of person you are.
  • Speak to recruiters. Identify and make carefully planned contact with executive search and recruitment specialists, both for the legal profession and the market sectors you’re aiming to work in. Keep them refreshed regularly but politely - they see a lot of people and only a few roles so you need to keep in "front of mind" for them for the right reasons. Build a database of your job search contacts and keep it up to date.
  • Search yourself. Technology improvements are encouraging more companies to go direct to market. Establish a weekly pattern of search through the main job websites (including LinkedIn), the main recruiters' websites, and those of any key target companies that you really aspire to work for. Use this exercise to consciously assess your search criteria against the jobs to ensure that you really are looking for the right things.

Conclusion

Positioning yourself for a new role could pay off handsomely when your search begins in earnest. It’ll help you get to know yourself, the type of role you want and what achievable goals to set yourself. Boost your chances of success by building your profile as a thought leader and developing an authoritative presence on social media. And never underestimate the power of effective networking.