It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was writing about how Big Law was essentially hiring any warm body who could bill hours. Well, times have changed. Now the headlines are about law firm layoffs. If you’re one of those casualties, here are a few dos and don’ts that will maintain your sanity while moving you closer to finding your next job.
Do Take a Big Breath
I’m not going to lie. Being a casualty of law firm layoffs — or losing a job for any reason — sucks big-time. But keep your perspective. The world is not coming to an end. Count your blessings. You still have plenty of things to be grateful for, including health, family, friends and a good education. Keep reminding yourself.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Now may be the perfect time to switch practice areas, move to a firm that’s sized better for you, go in-house, work for the government, or even get out of law.
Do Line Up Your Support System. You Will Need It.
Being unemployed and searching for a job will be stressful. Expect it. It will feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. Remember the family and friends you are grateful for. Don’t hesitate to lean on them. After all, that’s what family and friends are for.
Remember also to take care of yourself. If possible, do something every day that you enjoy. Take a walk, work out, read a chapter in a trashy novel or get a massage. You get the point. While looking for a job is a full-time job, don’t overdo it.
Do Act Persistently and Patiently
Looking for a job can get very discouraging. Don’t give up. Be persistent. Along with that, practice patience. Your previous jobs were probably not handed to you on a silver platter. It took effort and time. This go-around will likely not be any different.
Don’t Be Angry
Don’t let your anger toward your past employer get the best of you. Feel free to seethe for a few days or perhaps even a week. You earned it. But after that, it will drain you. It’s time to let go — two ways to do it. Forgive or forget. Do what you think will work best.
Don’t Lose Your Confidence
Repeat after me: “I am still a good lawyer.”
Don’t let being unemployed destroy your confidence. You were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, a victim of the law firm layoff cycle. Bad economy. Bad boss. Wrong practice area. Whatever. It happens to everyone, even the best attorneys. You need to sound confident when you network and interview. No one wants to hire someone who has second thoughts about their abilities.
Perhaps the biggest mistake I’ve seen over the years is the urge to reach out to anyone and everyone and network as soon as possible. Your head has a lot to work through. It’s not going to happen overnight. You want to be at your best when meeting people, and you’ll make a better first impression when you’ve had some time to process your situation.
Further, depending on the circumstances, and especially if your termination was performance-related, you need time to craft your best brief explanation of why you are looking for a job. Of course, never lie and rewrite history. But some stories simply sound better than others and usually flow more naturally with repetition and the benefit of time.
A Final Bit of Advice If You’ve Lost Your Job
If the truth be told, yours truly has been in your place. To this day, I will never forget the comment by my then-boss, the general counsel, when he asked me what I planned to do. I don’t recall what I told him, but I vividly remember his response almost word for word.
Roy, sometimes we do our best work when looking over the cliff’s edge.
You know what? He was right. Follow these dos and don’ts, and you, too, will see that you can do your best while looking for your next job. And when you find it, you may realize that it is a better fit that you might never have discovered — until you were forced to look. Good luck!