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Checklist to Follow before Starting a Legal Job Search

published January 13, 2015

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After assessing your perception of yourself and the job search process and working on seeing both without limiting filters, it's time to think about what you're really seeking and the steps necessary to find it.
Checklist to Follow before Starting a Legal Job Search

When searching for a job, many people waste a lot of time considering or even accepting opportunities which don't reflect anything they want except for the fact that it's a job. Rather than focusing on the job they want, they focus on income. Although income is a factor to consider, it is not the only factor. A successful job search process is one that leads you to the job you want. This is your final destination in your process. This final destination is your vision of what you want and where you want to be - a vision that encompasses all your values, not just income.

Knowing your final destination means you can better understand where you are now. With your starting and ending points defined and understood, you can map out a course for the steps in between - steps that are efficient and directed.

Mapping Your Legal Job Search Process

A. Your Job Search Goal Sheet

Write down answers to the following questions in the present tense. Be as descriptive and detailed as possible.
  1. What kind of work do you want to do?
  2. What's your mission or purpose behind wanting to do that kind of work?
  3. What type of company/firm do you want to work for?
  4. What kind of corporate culture would you like?
  5. Who would your colleagues be?
  6. How would the company be managed?
  7. How do you want to feel every day when you go to work?
  8. What compensation do you need?

This is your Job Search Goal Sheet - your final destination in your job search process.

B. Your Values

Now read over your answers to the preceding questions. What values can you extrapolate from what you've written?

For instance, maybe you're a litigator who wants to do appellate work - you may value the research and writing aspect of your work. Or maybe you want to work in-house for an advertising agency or entertainment studio - you may value working in a creative environment.

On the same sheet of paper, write down all the values you can extrapolate from your vision.

Now, assess your overall present situation - this includes work and personal. Looking at the list of values you just made, decide which of those values you can realistically compromise now. For instance, maybe you can't compromise on compensation, but you can compromise on the corporate culture you want.

On another sheet of paper, write the heading "Current Overall Situation - Prioritized Values." Add the date next to the heading. Now, rewrite your list of values, ranked from those you absolutely can't compromise to those you can, based on your current overall situation.

C. Your Interim Goals

An interim goal is an objective to attain before reaching your final destination.

Based on your Job Search Goal Sheet, consider the following questions: Do you need to acquire additional skills or education? Do you need to change geographic location? With whom do you need to network? Do you need to consider a "stepping stone" job? What companies or firms do the type of work you want to do?

Based on your answers to the preceding questions, decide what your interim goals are. For instance, if your vision is to work in-house at an entertainment studio, but you live in Texas, an interim goal may be to move to Los Angeles. And since networking is the best way to break into the entertainment industry, you may have another interim goal of working at a firm that services those clients.

Now, check back to your list of prioritized values. Given your overall present situation, is it realistic to change geographic locations at this time? Are there other interim goals that need to be attained first, such as saving additional money?

Based on your list of prioritized values, prioritize your interim goals. Starting with your first interim goal, list them from left to right, with space in between, on another sheet of paper with the heading "Interim Goals."

D. Steps Toward Your Interim Legal Job Search Goals

Beginning with the first interim goal on your list, determine the steps necessary to reach it. Using the example above, if your first interim goal is to save additional money, some steps necessary to reach it are to set up a budget and savings schedule.

Now consider the other interim goals on your list of moving to Los Angeles and working at a firm that services entertainment industry clients. Are there steps you can take while still living in Texas and working towards your first interim goal, such as researching the Los Angeles area and relevant firms? Other steps could include networking with old law school friends who may live in the area, or contacting partners at researched firms for informational telephone interviews, or writing your resume.

Your "Interim Goals" sheet may look something like this:

Interim Goals
  • Saving additional money - Savings schedule - Budget
  • Moving to Los Angeles - Contact friends in the area - Research neighborhoods
  • Working at entertainment firm - Write targeted resume - Set up informational phone interviews - Research law firms

Current Overall Situation

As you examine each interim goal, you are prioritizing the steps and deciding which ones can be done simultaneously. This enables you to juggle multiple steps with efficiency, helping your process to gain momentum.

With your interim goals determined and a list of steps necessary to reach those goals, you now have a map to your final destination.

Your Job Search Goals should constantly evolve. As you find out more information along the way, you may need to revise your interim goals. Your prioritized values may change once you've accomplished certain interim goals, in which case you need to reprioritize and reassess. A map is only useful when kept updated.

It is also a good idea to share your vision of your final destination with your family, spouse and close friends. Having their support can really help you in your process.

Now that you've performed the fundamental steps I've outlined in the three parts of this article, you are ready to write that winning resume.

Summary: Here is a checklist that you should follow before you start your legal job search.