While the perfect job may or may not exist, many legal professionals consider themselves fortunate to be in a position in which the pros overwhelmingly outweigh the cons. But many a legal professional has, at some point in his or her career, had to “tough it out” in a position that was far from ideal.
If current economic conditions or the highly competitive job market have you biding your time in your current position, or if you feel trapped in a job that no longer fits, you know firsthand how challenging it can be to maintain a positive outlook. Fortunately, it is possible to improve a less than ideal position — and even make it work to your advantage. The following tips will help you to keep your spirits up and manage a challenging situation while preparing for better opportunities in the future.
Focus on what you like. Instead of dwelling on what you dislike about your job, make a list of the features you enjoy. Yes, this sounds like the “look at the half-full glass,” tactic, but it works.
If the job itself is no longer interesting, perhaps your colleagues make the work tolerable. On the other hand, if you’re not getting along well with a coworker or your supervisor, concentrate on the ways your work makes you feel competent and valuable to the team. Which projects enable you to use your professional skills and knowledge to the fullest extent? What have you learned in this position that will enable you to advance when the time is right?
Improve what you can. As noted above, while it’s not productive to dwell on your problems, there’s nothing wrong with seeking solutions. If you’re having trouble with your supervising attorney, for example, you may be able to request a transfer to another case or project. If you’re overloaded, review your to-do list and delegate some tasks. If boredom is a problem, volunteer for a new assignment or offer to help overburdened colleagues. The goal is to separate and deal individually with the issues that trouble or annoy you instead of allowing them to overwhelm you.
Network. It’s stimulating to meet new people and expand your list of professional contacts. Networking also lays the groundwork for an eventual job search, because you’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll hear about suitable positions when they become available. As you attend professional meetings, seminars and conferences, you’ll also gain fresh perspectives on your industry and learn about new trends.
Refresh your skills set. Combat the staleness of your job by refreshing your skills. Offer to do pro bono work for a charitable organization. This will help you feel that you’re making a contribution and doing something worthwhile as you wait for better times for seeking a new position.
Re-evaluate your goals. Reassess your ca objectives and figure out what you need to do to reach your goals. For example, you might decide to take a few classes in new litigation support software or e-discovery project management. Developing an action plan and timetable, will give you a feeling of control over your current situation and something to work toward.
Making the most of your current role by focusing on expanding your skill set will ultimately improve your prospects for getting a more challenging and interesting job when it’s time to make a change.
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.