Here we are, in the middle of a pandemic. You might be just at the beginning of your job search, you might have just had a number of interviews postponed, or you might have been negotiating a job offer. And suddenly, everything seems on hold, and you do not know what to expect.
Indeed, the one word that perfectly sums up the current state of affairs in our economy, in our country, and in the world is unpredictability. The outbreak of covid-19, the coronavirus, has put us all in uncharted territory, and it will likely take a little time for us to get accustomed to the new normal.
That said, this is not a time for you to give up hope on your job search. Quite the contrary, you need to keep that momentum going.
Hiring Has Not Stopped Like Back in 2008
A little bit of context may help. Back at the beginning of the Great Recession, when the U.S financial markets went into a downward spiral, law firms responded in swift and almost identical fashion. Hiring stopped all at once. Offers were pulled. Layoffs occurred. Even top law students from top law schools were unable to land a law firm position.
Now, let us take a look at the current situation. The Dow Jones average has been fluctuating in the last few weeks. Simply put, it is responding to the unpredictability by making big swings at the slightest news about the spread of the coronavirus.
Yet, law firms are largely not displaying signs of major panic. Large and small firms have mostly put together their incoming classes, and there has not been a widespread issue of firms deferring start dates. Some firms are carrying on pretty much as normal, though switching to remote work in most cases. Firms are of course being prudent: partner compensation (including distributions) at some firms is being withheld. Both partner and associate compensation has been reduced on an interim basis at some firms and some lawyers are being furloughed. It is true that the hiring process at many firms has been paused but there is an expectation that there will be a shift in demand to several practice areas including restructuring, litigation, insurance coverage and health care. Law firms and companies that are confident in their business plan and the future are actually ramping up hiring during the current crisis as they see an opportunity to secure top talent.
So, what does that mean for you? It means that you should keep your career search momentum going forward, while keeping your finger on the pulse of the news.
Accordingly, in this article we will give you a few tips to help you navigate your job search during this time of uncertainty.
Five Tips to Maintain Your Career Search Momentum
- Tip #1: Do Not Take a Break from Your Job Search
On one level, this health crisis has put all of us in a bit of a wait-and-see posture. Most of us are in lockdown at our homes and are trying to stay as occupied, and as connected to work, as possible. So, you may be getting the feeling that you can pull back from the job search because you are assuming that no one is hiring right now. Not so.
We understand that a job search can be draining, but we recommend avoiding the temptation to put a halt to your search. Rather, your job search should continue as usual. See which companies or firms are posting positions, keep in contact with your preferred legal recruiter and your network, and keep perfecting the cover letters and other materials that you use in the process.
As they say, “this too shall pass.” At some point, we will all come out of sheltering in place, and those positions that were available a month ago will likely still need to be filled or new opportunities may be created.
In that same vein, you also may want to assess what industries are actually in need of people more than ever because of the coronavirus crisis. We have seen an increase, as you would expect, in a need for health care lawyers, employment lawyers, restructuring lawyers and insurance coverage lawyers. Congress has recently passed emergency paid sick leave and family leave laws that are causing employers to seek legal advice on how, and whether, the new legislation applies to their organizations.
Similarly, there has been an increased demand for attorneys who specialize in risk management and commercial contract work. The disruptions in the economy have certainly resulted in disruptions in many business agreements.
In sum, we suggest that, as much as possible, you do not let this crisis interfere with striving towards your next career move.
- Tip #2: Use this Time to Build Your Remote-Interviewing Skills
One thing that is clear from this crisis is that you will be engaging with people largely or exclusively on the phone or through video conference. The in-person meeting is going to have to take a breather for a while.
Accordingly, you will need to make sure that your phone and video skills sparkle. What does that mean? It means that you will need to take a little time to practice your intonation, inflection, and pitch when speaking on the phone. Speaking in a monotone during a phone interview can really hurt your chances for a position.
So, think in terms of not only smiling while talking on the phone but being as engaging, if not more, than when you are in-person. That is because you do not have the benefit of non-verbal communication to help you. Even with a video interview, you need to be “on,” and do not fall into the trap of being too casual because you are in your own environment.
We run trial video interviewing with candidates prior to the company or law firm video interview and are happy to give feedback. Practice will make a difference.
- Tip #3: Continue to Build Your Network
You cannot go out to meetings and conferences these days, so use this lockdown time to really put your shoulder into expanding your network. Update your LinkedIn profile, message people, join in discussions, and provide some content. LinkedIn is a wonderful resource for advice, employment opportunities, and connections.
Beyond LinkedIn, other professional and social events are moving online, giving you other ways in which to connect and engage with others in the legal community. You never know where the next opportunity will come from.
- Tip #4: Make Sure Your Technology is Spot On
Take some time to make sure that you have an effective way to conduct a video conference. Without question, video interviews will replace in-person ones. As noted, a video interview with a potential employer should be treated just the same as an in-person interview:
- Dress as you would if you were going to the office for an interview,
- Be ready at least five minutes before the interview time,
- Be sure that your video equipment (smart phone, tablet) are working and the mute is turned off.
- Make sure you have an uncluttered background.
- Tip #5: Take Care of Mind and Body
As a final point, do not forget to be good to yourself. This is a tough time for everyone. You will feel frustrated and stressed. It is okay to feel that way. Work through those feelings, get your regular job done, take mental-health and exercise breaks, and then get back to your job search.
While unpredictability defines these times, remember that staying the course on your job search will pay dividends when things finally go back to normal. Stay safe and stay healthy. Good things are on the horizon.