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Heading Back to Work, Part 2: Search Strategies

By Marcia Pennington Shannon

If you’ve been out of the job market for a while and you’re thinking about jumping back in, it’s important to map out a strategy—and stick to it. In part one of this series, “Heading Back to Work: Preparing for Re-entry,” we discussed the importance of setting clear goals and sharpening your skills. In this segment, we’ll cover the basics of conducting a successful job search.

Your Resume: One Size Does Not Fit All

Depending on the focus of your search, you will either create a reverse chronological resume or a functional resume. If you aim to return to the practice of law, you will likely use a reverse chronological resume. While this type of resume highlights dates of employment (and therefore gaps), other lawyers will expect to receive it in this format. The functional resume, on the other hand, tends to scream to legal employers that you wish to hide something. Don’t feel defensive about your gap, for whatever reason—but do make sure your resume adequately “sells” you to a particular employer.

One size does not fit all when it comes to resumes, so you should modify it for each position to which you apply. Even if you submit your resume to an employer without responding to a specific opening, you still want to make sure that your resume pertains to the particular employer.

If you seek an alternative career, you must identify your transferable knowledge, skills and abilities for the new position and then communicate those to potential employers. You never want a potential employer to work at figuring out how your experience will fit into his organization. It will not happen. You must do this for the reader. If you want to make a major shift from one career to another, then do consider using a functional resume, which allows you to highlight all of your experience, not just paid positions.

Job Search Strategies

Your search will proceed on several different fronts in order to pursue all possibilities.

  • Networking. Networking is the number one way of finding a position, no matter the circumstances, and especially when re-entering the job market. Despite the current economic conditions, jobs exist, but employers often do not advertise them. And in many cases, employers do not necessarily think of adding individuals to their staff, but when presented with the opportunity to hire someone who will clearly add value to the organization, they create new positions. Another important tip: If you haven’t created a LinkedIn profile, now is the time to do so.
  • Specific job listings and targeted mailings. Your cover letter should highlight your relevant qualifications for the position advertised or, if no specific job has been posted, for the organization itself. In addition, explain why gaps exist in your resume, and why you feel ready to return to the workforce. If you’re seeking a flexible arrangement, there is no black-and-white answer to whether you should address this now or wait until the interview. Would you rather get to an interview first, or rather not interview if they won’t be flexible? Often, however, there is a connection between you and the interviewer. When that happens, the organization may be willing to create a flexible arrangement.

A job search is challenging, but especially so when you’ve been out of the market for a while. It always helps to have support, so be sure to surround yourself with people who can motivate, advise and pull you up throughout this process!

Marcia Pennington Shannon is a founding principal of Shannon and Manch, LLP, and has nearly 30 years of experience in lawyer career and professional development. In addition to her expertise in career transitions for lawyers at all levels, she has extensive experience in career advising and performance and executive coaching, especially focused on those in leadership and management roles. Marcia’s latest book is The Lawyer’s Career Management Handbook: Your Bridge to a Satisfying Career.

Illustration ©ImageZoo.

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Categories: Daily Dispatch, Lawyer Social Media, Legal Career Development, Networking for Lawyers
Originally published February 29, 2012
Last updated September 14, 2019
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Marcia Pennington Shannon

Marcia Pennington Shannon is Senior Coach and Consultant at See Clear Coaching. One of the leading experts in lawyer career and professional development, Marcia served as Assistant Dean at the Office of Career Strategy for  Georgetown Law for 10 years. Marcia has numerous publications, including “Recruiting Lawyers,” which she co-authored with Susan Manch, and “The Lawyer’s Career Management Handbook: Your Bridge to a Satisfying Career.” Follow Marcia on LinkedIn.

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