CBA Record January-February 2020

The Nuts and Bolts of Nuanced Job Searching By Caryn Suder, CBA Record Editorial Board

I n a recent CLE program, Kathy Morris of Under Advisement, Ltd., the featured career counselor of the CBA Career Advancement Program, discussed five subtle but effective ways that lawyers can differentiate themselves from other candi- dates when searching for a new position. The tips outlined below can be applied to a wide variety of settings, such as formal and informal networking, resumé and cover letter writing, creating a profile on LinkedIn, and interviewing. 1. Brand yourself. Think about how you can best frame who you are and what you want to be. What can you promote about yourself that will distinguish you from the next person? Too many lawyers put so much in a resumé that employers can’t tell who or what they really are, or what they bring to the table. Decide on the impression you want to create, and craft statements consistent with that impression. For example, if you want an in-house posi- tion that involves some managerial work, highlight managerial or leadership skills and experiences. If you want to shift from transactional work to litigation, highlight experiences where you were an advocate. 2. Tell your story. Many lawyers have a differentiated career path but fail to pres- ent their history cogently and cohesively. Prospective employers need to understand how your career path fits into where you want to go with them. Help guide the conversation, and don’t confuse people. Say, for example, “I’m a transactional generalist with niche experience in estate planning,” or “After working in both law

and business, I’ve decided to follow the natural progression of these interests and go in-house.” Other lawyers are afraid to address what they perceive as negatives in their career history. Instead of sidestepping these issues, tackle them head on. For example, if your only job has been as a lawyer for your grandmother’s business, say, “Having served as legal counsel for my family’s company for years, I wish to bring my loyalty and accelerated experience to a larger corporation.” If you took a break from your career to raise a child or care for a sick parent, say, “There were some family challenges, but those are well behind me now and I am ready to hit the gas pedal on my career.” If you are new to Chicago, and you think a prospective employer is afraid you might leave after a year or two, say, “I am anchored in Chicago.” If you are asked to explain further, say, ”My family is here,” or “I recently bought a house here” (provided, of course, that your family really is here and that you did buy a house). Don’t merely list the places you’ve worked and what you did there. Be truth- ful, show how the pieces of your story fit together, and blend your truth with advocacy. 3. Focus on outcomes, not just tasks. Talk about results. Have you tried seven cases to successful verdict? Improved a specific system in the workplace? Gener- ated new business? Argued a case of first impression? Been promoted? Done pro bono work that had a great outcome? Prospective employers want to know what

you can do for them. Tell them. 4. Word things well. Use words that make you appear interesting and compel- ling. Instead of saying that you are a strong advocate (like so many lawyers do), say that you are unflappable, and provide an illustration. Instead of saying, “I’m experi- enced in X, ” say, “I’m the go-to person in my office for X,” or, “My colleagues come to me when they have a problem with X.” Return to the impression you want to create, and choose your words accordingly. If you are changing directions in your career, say, “I have decided …,” or “After enjoying working in both the law firm and corporate settings, I am focused on . . .” 5. Show enthusiasm. The number one reason people don’t get the job is because those hiring don’t think they want it. Say things like, ”It would mean a great deal to me to work for X company/firm,” or “I’m very flexible and I would welcome the chance to…,”or “I enjoy tackling challenges and welcome the opportunity to….” Stay within your personality when choosing your words, while being sure to let employers know that you want to work there. In sum, understand why you’ve taken the career path you’ve taken thus far, what you’ve learned from it, where you want to go, and what value you will bring to your next employer. Then, be prepared to talk about those things in a compelling and interesting way. Small changes in how you speak about yourself and your career can make a big difference in how prospective employers perceive you.

Free Meeting Room Space for Members at Association Headquarters

The CBA is pleased to offer free meeting room space at Association Headquarters (321 S. Plymouth Ct., Chicago, IL 60604) as a benefit to our members. The meeting rooms create the perfect environment to work between meetings or courtroom appearances, or to escape the office for a couple hours. All rooms are equipped with Wi-Fi. You can reserve shared meeting room space or a private room Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. See details and a reservation form at


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