A common pitfall I see among new-calls is taking a passive approach to their careers. They finish articles or an LPP placement, and they start looking for a prospective employer to take them in. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wanting to be employed by a firm. I’m talking about the mindset that often accompanies this kind of approach.
It’s the kind of mindset where you want all the training, skills and professional development to be initiated by your employer – one where you take a back seat to the development of your own career.
That kind of mindset made sense when permanent jobs were in abundance. Most of the résumés I see nowadays, however, are a mosaic. It’s rare to see someone at the same law firm for more than 25 years.
As a result of this new reality when working with a new-call, I am coaching them to think like a “careerpreneur” (coined by Sharon Graham). This is someone who sees themselves as a business and is actively engaged in the development of that business. For a new-call, this kind of thinking starts with a search for an associate position.
One former client comes to mind. Deborah articled with a sole practitioner who had a general practice. The sole practitioner wanted to sell his practice to Deborah once Deborah was called to the Bar, but Deborah didn’t want to be a generalist. She wanted to focus on building a family law practice. Yet, she still considered the opportunity to buy a practice.
I worked with Deborah to develop a strategic outreach plan. She wanted to get to know the family Bar before giving an answer to her articling principal.
Through this outreach, Deborah met a number of family lawyers, and gained valuable insights. She learned about inexpensive CPDs (that she attended) and joined a specialized organization that she only learned about through her outreach. She was proactive.
Deborah ultimately turned down the offer to purchase her principal’s practice, and landed an associate position at a mid-size family law firm.
What’s interested about the position she landed was that the firm was asking for twice as much experience than Deborah had to offer. Deborah attributes her outreach as giving her an advantage in the interview process. Because she had spent months talking with family lawyers about their work and practice challenges, she demonstrated fluency during her interview that she couldn’t have developed on her own.
The lesson to learn from Deborah is that conducting outreach during a job search should be expanded to learning about the practice area you are targeting and the lawyers in that Bar, and not just focused on getting a job. When you approach a job search in this broader way, you engage in meaningful conversations and people take you more seriously.
Deborah has been at the firm for over a year and recently told me that all the outreach she did has now helped her to establish a strong referral system for her practice!
If you want to approach your search for an associate position like a careerpreneur, then you’ll want to take my online course at www.hireback.ca!