On the heels of the recent recession that was marked by unprecedented job losses, the term “career security” may sound like an oxymoron. Many jobs, after all, no longer come with the expectation of lifelong – or even long-term – employment.
But even if this is increasingly true of today’s job market, in-house attorneys can take certain steps to piece together their own plans to obtain greater job security:
1. Be versatile. Being able to boast multifaceted skills is a big plus in an era of leaner staffing. Many organizations place a premium on professionals who can perform multiple roles. A Robert Half survey of 500 hiring managers underscored this point. Asked which characteristics best described the ideal new hire – aside from having the basic job qualifications – the top response was a multitasker who thrives on a variety of projects.
If you can boast versatility, highlight your multitasking abilities as you look for your next position or seek to enhance your standing with your current employer. On the other hand, if you feel you need to round out your skills and you’re currently employed, consider looking for cross-training opportunities within your organization. Maybe you can even take on a colleague’s duties while he or she is on vacation or leave.
If you’re job seeking, don’t automatically reject roles that may be viewed as a step backward in pay or prestige if they allow you to develop skills in a new area. Make it a point to always be on the lookout for complementary skills you could acquire that would make you more marketable in the long run.
2. Engage with others. Everyone knows networking is essential to career advancement, but many people aren’t willing to really engage with their professional contacts. Too often, technology takes the place of face-to-face interactions. And while LinkedIn, Twitter and other forms of online networking are important tools in today’s professional world, ambitious legal professionals need to quit hiding behind technology and relearn the art of face time.
As more professionals view networking as a numbers game – that is, they focus mostly on amassing contacts – you can stand out by cultivating real connections with people in your network. If people are going to open doors for you and make a recommendation, they need to feel comfortable with you. This requires a personal connection – an understanding of your goals, motivations and current mindset – that is best developed through in-person interactions.
3. Keep learning. Most in-house counsel know they should be continually expanding their knowledge base, but it can be difficult to make time for training and development activities. But by doing so, you’ll increase your career security. After all, who is more immune to the next round of layoffs: the person who has a skill that no one else in the department has or the individual who’s failed to keep pace with emerging trends?
In addition to staying up-to-date on any continuing legal education requirements associated with your current role, explore other ways to make yourself more marketable. For instance, if your company needs someone with compliance or e-discovery expertise, consider pursuing additional training in this increasingly active area.
4. Inspire enthusiasm. Give some thought to what more you can do to gain the stature of a “must hire” candidate, one of those people who generate true enthusiasm and goodwill from former coworkers, networking contacts and professional references.
This is usually not a reputation you can achieve overnight; it comes from proving yourself through nurturing professional relationships, being a generous colleague – and not burning bridges. But it is a goal worth striving toward.
More and more, in-house legal professionals realize that if they’re going to achieve some degree of career security, they’re going to have to provide it for themselves. By staying committed to continuous career growth, it’s possible to get closer to that goal.
Charles A. Volkert is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major cities throughout the United States and Canada.