Resigning from a job is awkward at best and can get downright ugly in some situations. Whether you are leaving for money, career advancement or personality differences – offering a polite, professional resignation is always the best course of action.
So you have gone through the long process of applying for jobs, interviewing, perhaps facing rejection multiple times along the way, and you finally have landed your dream job. Now you are faced with the inevitable task of telling your current employer that you are leaving. There is no “right” way to give notice because it will often depend on the circumstances. If you have a close, personal relationship with your boss then an in-person meeting is probably the best way to break the news. In such a situation, it is also advisable to have a written letter prepared so the employer can actually have a notice of resignation for your employment file. If you have a poor relationship with your boss and cannot stomach the idea of confronting that person directly then simply providing a letter of resignation (whether by person, mail or email attachment) is probably the best route in order to avoid any heated personal encounters.
Even in situations where animosity is almost unavoidable (taking business from your firm to a competitor), you should act with civility and professionalism. If your employer accuses you of being a cheat, traitor, etc. – just do what you came to do and make a quick exit. Not only will it help down the road if you encounter that person (legal markets can be fairly small) but it also can work to your advantage if you still need something from your former employer (client file transfers, personal items, etc).
Just remember, you cannot lose by taking the high-road when resigning but it is very easy to torch some bridges if you treat it as an opportunity to get in some parting shots.
You can learn a lot from a resume. You can learn more from a recruiter.
Getting to know a recruiter can help you if you are a candidate or a hiring entity. A good recruiter goes beyond the resume and can advocate for a candidate and understand the subtle nuances of “fit” for a firm or legal department.
If you are a candidate, a good recruiter will advocate for you when it is appropriate. They can call out characteristics that are not readily apparent on your resume. In short, a good recruiter takes you from a piece of paper (your resume) to a person. The reciprocal is also true. A good recruiter will be able to assess your personality and know when a fit isn’t there, even if the skillset on paper is possibly a match. This is invaluable, as you don’t want to waste your time on job searching that will be fruitless.
If you are a firm, a good recruiter will learn a bit about your culture and work environment before submitting candidates. They will understand what makes a candidate successful and use that measure to screen potential candidates for fit before sending information to the hiring authority. They won’t waste your valuable time with candidates who won’t work. Candidates that mesh with your culture are more likely to stick around, are more productive and cause less disruption to other employees.
Ultimately, an attorney needs the appropriate skills to do their job well, but overlooking fit is a mistake and one that can be mitigated when using a recruiter.
Is there an interview on your horizon? If so, make sure take a common sense approach to making a good impression by utilizing three essential P’s: preparedness, positive attitude and professionalism. There won’t be much you can add to your skills and experience prior to the interview but you can control how prepared you are coming into the interview, the attitude you convey, and your appearance and demeanor.
First, spend as much time as you can to not only learn about the organization but also the people conducting the interviews. Most companies have their own websites that provide a wealth of information but you can also use resources such as Linkedin, Facebook, Hoovers, Yahoo Finance, etc.
I am always amazed to hear feedback from employers that a candidate appeared aloof or even negative during an interview. Keep in mind, you are going to work with these people and they do not want someone who is going to bring down the office moral. It is okay to show some excitement and genuine interest in the opportunity. Everyone has negative work experiences in their past but if you are forced to talk about it, then try your best to put a positive spin on the event – you can always chalk it up to a learning experience.
Finally, everyone has the ability to convey a sense of professionalism. It starts with your dress and grooming (always error on the side of being too formal) and continues with good manners (sit up straight, look the person in eyes, etc) and proper speech/conversation (don’t get too comfortable). Not talking back seems obvious but can be an easy trap if the interviewer is questioning your experience, etc. If this happens to you, then politely address their concern the best you can and then move on. Your tone can end up being more of an issue in the end than the concern called into question.
Some things will be beyond your control during an interview so why not give yourself the best opportunity to make a good experience employing the three P’s – all of which are within your control.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record by quoting from my favorite business author/philosopher Seth Godin yet again, here is what Seth has to say about the difference between recruiting and simply hiring:
Hiring is what you do when you let the world know that you’re accepting applications from people looking for a job.
Recruiting is the act of finding the very best person for a job and persuading them to stop doing what they’re doing and come join you.
If you take only one thing away from that quote, it’s that there is a BIG difference between hiring and recruiting. I think that this distinction may be the most important reason that employers and savvy job seekers reach out to recruiters as a component of their job search.
Law firms and in-house legal departments realize that the job market is significantly better than it was even last year, and to see the very best candidates for a position, they need to utilize a recruiter to expand their candidate pool.
Placing an ad simply lets the world know you are accepting applications. You need to PERSUADE someone to join you. That ability to position your opportunity vis-a-vis a candidate’s currently job is a key role of the recruiter. They need to be able to make the case to the candidate why they might be better off leaving their job for a new opportunity, and that ix oftentimes a very tough thing to do.
Ads, website postings, tweets and other traditional ways of announcing openings rarely have the ability to persuasively “sell” an opportunity. That’s what top recruiters do every day.
In short, if you are an employer looking to fill a position and you can’t show that your job is one worth quitting for, you will never have the deepest candidate pool to choose from until you are able to reach candidates and EXPLAIN why your position is such a great opportunity.
When is the best time to switch firms if you are a practicing attorney considering a move? Although there is no hard and fast rule, the window of opportunity for associates to move typically falls in the range of 3-6 years of practice. The window for partners is usually need-driven for those without business, but virtually limitless for those who have their own business.
Most employers would like someone to have a few years of experience under their belt before considering a lateral move. When an associate gets past six years of experience they are often being considered for partnership and, assuming they are on track, will wait to see what happens with their current firm. Of course, this expectation goes both ways because other firms might question why someone with more than six years of experience would leave their firm so close to partnership. Although it may have nothing to do with the associate (especially over the difficult financial times we faced the past few years), a prospective firm might think the associate did not satisfy the partnership objectives and were deliberately passed over. The key for associates is to take a realistic assessment by years 4-5 of whether they want to be a partner at their current firm and, even if they do, whether they think partnership will be offered to them.
Of course partnership is not always the answer. We hear from partners all of the time who are unsatisfied in their current firm for one reason or another. At this level for those without business, the opportunities to lateral tend to be limited to need-based positions at another firm. An example is a firm that just lost a senior securities attorney and the work stayed with the firm. The firm might find the only way their clients will stay is if someone equally skilled fills the void. The situation can also apply to experienced litigators with trial experience, etc. Those that have managed to build a client base obviously have many more options. Sure the amount of business will dictate the possibilities to some extent, as will the work, bill rate, etc., but the bottom line is these people will have options.
Times have definitely changed from the days when an attorney could comfortably work at one firm their entire career. Changes in the economy, local legal landscape, and the practice of law in general have or should force attorneys to regularly contemplate the long-term viability of their current job and consider what other opportunities exist.