Do you want to be a general counsel? If yes, do you want to head up the legal department in a big, medium or small company? Public or private? Domestic or international? Or do you want to be a partner in an international law firm? Do you not care what you are doing as long as you make enough money to provide for your family? Do you want to be obscenely rich? Do you want work/life balance? Do you want to live in a big city or by the beach? Knowing what you want will help you craft a way to get there. The questions and comparisons are endless, and this is where a recruiter can help. Finding a recruiter that has the knowledge and experience to match your personality type with the right career goals is essential to making sure you don't end up making regular detours on the path to your ultimate career goal. A good legal recruiter will also ask the right questions that can help you narrow down your choices and determine what the best path is for you.
For example, if you aim to be the general counsel of a public company, you need to start working on matters and/or accept positions that set you up for that -- do you have public company clients; are you getting SEC experience; are these skills staying fresh or getting stale? Have you considered that, for this job, you will most likely have to relocate? If you want to work in the legal department of an international company, are you currently in the type of firm that in-house counsel will recognize and respect, or are you in a small firm that no one will know outside your local area?
SHOW THAT YOU ARE GOAL-ORIENTED
Think about how your resume is going to look in 10 years. Will it show logical progression? Or will it cause people to doubt your intentions?
In this day and age, there are usually hundreds of great applicants for almost every position. The people reviewing your resume will make speculative assessments and judgment calls, and if your resume causes them any concerns or doubts, they will likely put it aside and move to one that makes more sense. Impulsive moves will be revealed to be just that. Your resume should take the reader on a nice, neat road, indicating that you had a plan and stuck to it, noting accomplishments and successes along the way, and revealing a definite upward arc, with more demanding and prestigious jobs at each turn. It should tell the story of someone who had the foresight and self-awareness to choose the right positions for his or her personality type and skill set, as well as his or her desires and needs.
WE KNOW THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS
Many of you might be thinking, "That's great for someone who is just starting out, but what about those of us who are already past this stage in our careers, or maybe we were forced to make a move because of unforeseen circumstances?" We all know there are certain times that a move to a new job cannot wait. For example, your spouse has been relocated, you must take care of your aging parents, or you are not making enough money to survive. These situations require immediate action. Most employers will understand a move because of an unforeseen or imminent circumstance (or even a mistake). The important thing is to always keep your recruiter updated on the details of any change in your career path. Even in these situations, a good legal recruiter can help you stay on a track that gets you closer to your ultimate professional goals.
Keep in mind that evaluation of yourself and your goals is an ongoing process. It is never too late to step back, look in the mirror and ask yourself, "Who am I and what do I want to be when I grow up?"
Deborah Ben-Canaan is a partner at global legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa. In her 12 years with MLA, her main focus has been to serve her clients by recruiting GCs and other in-house counsel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-628-0665.