Our Experts | Deborah Peters 

Deb Peters

When I started law school in my early twenties, I never intended not to practice law.  However, by the end of my third year of law school and two years of work experience in a boutique law firm environment, it became clear to me that perhaps I would be happier seeking a non-traditional legal career where I could still utilize my legal education, but also my passion for helping people.   

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the legal search consulting industry almost since the time that specialized legal recruiters have developed a niche in the talent acquisition and management industry, but the lessons that I have learned about both direct hire and temporary/contract search and placement transcend this niche field and really apply to all types of staffing and recruitment.

Let me share 10 things that I’ve learned in my 20 years of legal recruiting that might help you with a job search:

  1. Everyone can use an advocate in their job search as a sounding board. This person can be a friend, close colleague, relative with experience in your field of interest or a professional recruiter. Take advantage of the free resources that are available because information is power in any job search or interview situation.  
  2. It’s smart to do a self-assessment before beginning a search, and understand what is truly at the core of your search- what is motivating you and why are you considering a job change? What are your particular hot buttons?
  3. As part of your self-assessment, also be self-aware of a few of your key strengths and weaknesses and examples of how these characteristics have impacted your career. I know that most people cringe at the standard interview question about strengths and weaknesses, but it is probably the most common question asked by interviewers because of its relevance to both skill match and cultural fit for an organization.
  4. Honesty is still, and always will be, the best policy. Sometimes it might seem more comfortable to withhold information about a prior job change, a time when you made a mistake, or personal situation that will pose a potential problem for your future employer, but typically this information will come to light somewhere down the road. If it was not previously disclosed, it could create a riff with your new employer. Being forthcoming about difficult work-related topics helps to develop trust instead of destroy it.
  5. The grass is not always greener on the other side. If you have only worked with one firm or company thus far in your career, it is perfectly normal to wonder about “what else is out there and is that better than what I currently have?” Most of the time a job move is warranted, but again, understanding your hot buttons and doing your research on other opportunities can help you make sure that you are not jumping out of the oven and into the fire. More people move for reasons such as work/life integration, mentoring opportunities, or working for a progressive and forward-thinking team, than those who move for financial reasons alone.
  6. It’s not worth it to burn bridges, ever. You never know when you cross paths with a former employer and in what circumstances. Make your departure as smooth as possible by providing sufficient notice, leaving guidelines for success for your replacement and not being afraid to tell your current boss that you are leaving and it’s a business, not personal, decision.
  7. Make sure you listen in an interview as much as you talk. You are not the right person for every job and every job is not the right match for you… and that’s okay. Every interview or conversation with a potential new employer is an active learning opportunity.
  8. Keep a positive attitude– everyone has something of value to contribute. It’s a matter of working in an environment and with a leadership team where your strengths can be fully actualized and appreciated.
  9. Have a plan, don’t just be reactionary in your search. Sure, there can be bad days at work that drive everyone crazy and make the thought of walking out with the door slamming behind you a very appealing idea, but remember – it’s not a good idea. If you decide that you need to move on in your career in order to move up, then develop a strategy to reach that goal. An impulsive move is usually one regretted.  
  10. Be open to hearing about new opportunities in your field, even if this is not the right opportunity or time to move. At a certain point in your career, you will be called on by recruiters and probably pretty frequently. Taking 5 minutes to learn more about the position can serve you well in your career, even if you don’t want to pursue the opportunity presented. Treat these opportunities as a chance to stay tapped into the pulse of the market in your industry. Also, when a position is not the best match for you, it could be a chance to provide a referral for a friend who is a perfect fit. Finally, creating relationships with key recruiters will assist you down the road, even if not now. Good recruiters will find out more about your goals and reach out to you about your potential dream job, even when you are not actively looking.
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