Why are you leaving your job?
Despite a nearly universally derided dismal job market, where common sense might dictate keeping a job at any cost, employed lawyers continue to look for new work and new experiences.
Every job search needs a coherent narrative, something that can be part of an elevator speech or an interview. Before beginning a job search, every candidate should answer this question:
Why are you leaving your job? Are you:
Running toward something?
Running away from something?
Randomly strolling along?
If you are running toward something that has been a recent or lifelong goal, you will already have done a lot of research, possibly obsessively reading blogs and learning everything current in this new field. You will have made strides toward acquiring necessary new knowledge, and possibly, some new credentials. You will have begun to talk to people who do the work. You will have begun to build up a network of folks who you will be able to use as touchstones for referrals and reality checks during your search. You will have learned about the pay scale, and if a pay cut will be part of your new life, you will have begun to downsize, pay down debt, and make your own lunch. You may have begun to look at your $4 daily latte in a new light.
Are you running from a job that you hate or running from people who have made you miserable? Honestly debrief yourself (or ask some friends to help you). Separate the misery-making tasks, toxic work environments, people you neither liked nor understood, your commute, your cubicle, and your wacko supervisor so that you can create a narrative that is matter-of-fact and not whiney.
If you are running from a bad relationship, know it, own it, and don’t whine about it.
Bad work environment?
If you are running from a bad work environment populated by people who delight in making you miserable, consider that a similar job in a less toxic office may solve your problem. Understand your issues, though, so that you can ask questions that get to the heart of the culture of the next place without appearing too self-serving.
For example, if communication (or lack of it) has been an issue, think about the specific details of the problem and then craft questions that directed toward it. Some fair interview questions might be:
Please describe the department chair’s communication style. Is she direct? Does she give assignments and feedback face-to-face? Does she encourage and support collaboration? If I won’t be directly reporting to her, how would I get my assignments? How is work reviewed? Do people work in teams? How are they assigned? How is a team’s work reviewed?
Hate your work?
You may discover that your troubles lie with the substance of the work. Don’t despair. Do not imagine that the time that you have spent has been completely wasted. You have learned a lot, which you will see once you calmly distinguish between the tasks and the substance. Once done, you can move on to conduct a realistic job search that leaves behind the things you don’t like.
Tasks: legal research and writing, working with clients (learning about their businesses, identifying problems, counseling, strategizing), client interviews, factual research and analysis, project management, statistical analysis, supervising and managing staff, lobbying, taking depositions, participating in hearings and trials.
Substance: family law, securities regulations, employment law, criminal law.
Yes, your next step is a hard one. You have to decide what you really want to do. You have taken the first step by identifying what you don’t want to do and why you don’t want to do it.
This is the “keeping my options open” strategy, which may or may not lead to new employment. It operates on a continuum from:
- “A new job might be a nice idea, but I’m not going to talk to anyone or write a resume” to
- “Every time I go for coffee or meet anyone anywhere, I will ask about their jobs and whether there might be an opportunity for someone like me. I will keep a resume handy in my Google Docs.”
It’s guiding philosophy is “listen to hare-brained schemes,” which you should temper with your common sense.