How to Create a Job Search Strategy That Actually Works

Photo courtesy of Wolters Kluwer.

You’ve updated your resume and LinkedIn profile to strategically market yourself and your formidable legal skills. You have the right number of keywords in both, you feel confident about taking the next steps to advance your legal career, and you can’t wait to get in and start interviewing.

Yet no one is knocking on your door? Why?

You can have an amazing resume and an equally fantastic LinkedIn profile, but you still need to spend time on your job search strategy. It means taking advanced action beyond just waiting for the phone to ring.

I like to think of it this way: your career is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not just a simple 5k that you roll out of bed and show up at a starting line. It takes planning, preparation and strategy to reach the finish line (i.e. a job offer). Your job search is like a pie: one third is your resume, one third is your LinkedIn, and the other third is your job search strategy.

LinkedIn lets you actively seek out opportunities, but you have to pursue them. It means connecting with the right people, targeting the right companies, and building a network to propel your job search. It also means spending maybe 15% of your time applying to job search forums and the rest building connections and expanding (or developing) your network for opportunities. Here are some specific strategies I recommend undertaking during your job search:

  • Look beyond just having a LinkedIn profile. While being on LinkedIn is a necessity for a job search in the digital age, just having a LinkedIn profile doesn’t get you far. Start becoming more active on LinkedIn by sharing articles, increasing your network size, and engaging with those inside and outside your network. For example, I had a senior partner at a law firm with deep private equity experience who marketed himself heavily on LinkedIn by connecting with general counsel at specific private equity firms who he found intriguing in the SaaS technology space. He got several informational interviews which eventually led to multiple job opportunities. Again, this was done specifically through calculated and targeted networking, not a “spray and pray” job search method.
  • Connect with recruiters on LinkedIn. Don’t wait for recruiters to contact you – be proactive and start building relationships with recruiters who actively post open opportunities on LinkedIn. Send an email note and let them know you’re starting a confidential job search. Don’t be afraid to ask to set up a quick chat so you can go over the type of role you’re looking for. You want to build an ongoing relationship with multiple recruiters so they can keep you informed of any future opportunities where you might be a good candidate. While it’s good to build relationships with recruiters in your geographic area, broaden your search to recruiters doing internships nationwide, as the job market today offers incredible job opportunities at distance.
  • Check your LinkedIn settings. Make sure your LinkedIn settings are correct and your profile is searchable and visible to non-logins. Check your job search preferences. Make sure these are enabled as well as the button that allows recruiters to contact you directly. These preferences let you target onsite, hybrid, and remote opportunities — they’re great if you’re looking to pursue an out-of-state or overseas job search.
  • Look for informational interviews and networking meetings. Start hosting meetings and networking heavily with other high-level executives who are where you want to be now and in the future. Send them a message. Introduce yourself and your reason for reaching out (but don’t put your resume in front of them — if your LinkedIn profile is optimized properly, it will give enough detail for that superficial introductory call). Find a common thread if possible (example: you both worked at Biglaw or you both grew up in Florida and did your undergrad there). Request a 20-minute chat to learn more about their inside experience at XYZ Company. Let them know that you are looking for an in-house opportunity in industrial manufacturing – perhaps they know of a similar company that is currently seeking a corporate attorney with your level of experience. Continue to engage with their content on LinkedIn. Show enthusiasm for their subject matter expertise and thought leadership.
  • Apply for advertised and unadvertised jobs. A good number of jobs are not advertised online (also known as the hidden job market), and many jobs advertised online are filled by internal candidates. This is why it is imperative to network. Again, I emphasize this: reach out and connect with people who are where you want to be in five, 10, or 15 years. An employee referral is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door and can lead to those hidden opportunities in the job market. Remember, follow up with people. Don’t wait for them to respond to you.
  • Apply for the right positions. Just because you read a job description and think the role sounds intriguing doesn’t mean it’s the right job for you. If you have 15 to 20 years of hands-on experience managing a legal department at a publicly traded company, and the job posting is looking for a general counsel with three to five years of experience, that probably means the firm is looking for someone more junior to serve as sole counsel (and likely at a lower salary scale than you would command with two decades of experience). Go through the list of people in the legal department before applying for a position – do a simple search among the employees listed on the company’s LinkedIn profile. You will get an idea of ​​how long they have been there and how long they have been practicing. While you can still inquire about the role even if you are outside of their target field and seek an informational interview, focus your efforts where your years of experience match and you answer at least 75% to 80 % of key qualifications. You will find that you get better answers that lead to better opportunities.
  • Organize your job search. Create a list of companies or law firms you want to target (from 5 to 15). Also consider industry, sector and geographic targets. Next, create a job search spreadsheet to stay organized. You will want to keep track of when you did outreach, who you reached out to, and how far the outreach progressed. Do as much research on a company as possible before contacting anyone in the company – if you’re already a general counsel, you’ll want to interact with other members of the C-suite team. If you are a junior corporate lawyer, you will want to connect with someone who is more experienced than you and will have the power to make decisions. The key is to create a warm lead that fosters a long-term relationship. It means following and nurturing this relationship.

The job search process has changed significantly over the past few years. Proactive networking, an organized strategy, and a positive mindset are just some of the tools you’ll need in the process. I hope these job search strategies set you up for great success in your upcoming or future job search in the digital age.

Do you have a question about the job search strategy? Feel free to contact me on LinkedIn and send me a message.

Wendi Weiner is a lawyer, career expert and founder of The Writing Guru, an award-winning executive resume writing services company. Wendi creates powerful career and personal brands for lawyers, executives, and suite/board leaders for their job search and digital footprint. She also writes for major publications on alternative careers for lawyers, personal branding, LinkedIn storytelling, career strategy, and the job search process. You can reach her by email at [email protected]connect with her on LinkedInand follow her on Twitter @thewritingguru.

Brandon D. James