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Lawyers are trained to spot risks and ambiguity and uncertainty are bad news, so the Brexit/political impasse and more recently the impact of the coronavirus have been very stressful for lawyers. In a recent study, over 82% of solicitors rated ‘job security’ as being very important to them, so ongoing uncertainty can cause a lot of stress and worry.
With redundancies now likely to be on the horizon for some firms in the short term, and many firms and companies currently having recruitment freezes, it can feel very challenging indeed to get a job/paid work.
Even in these challenging market conditions, a sense of moving forward and progressing is vital. So how can you take steps today to future-proof your career for the longer term?
This guest blog shares some practical tips, useful resources and further reading to inspire and help you.
V.U.C.A. worldThe current world is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, or V.U.C.A. This is the new ‘normal’. Focus on how you can help senior management and businesses with the challenges they face, for example business agility and transformation, creating a competitive advantage, original communication etc. *
The competencies of control, curiosity, commitment, confidence and concern are important to be adaptable in your career.
5 career adaptability competencies
How would you rate yourself on these?
Build your career adaptability competencies: If you think of the above career adaptability competencies as ‘muscles’, how can you exercise them? What S.M.A.R.T. goals can you set yourself and what CPD can you undertake to build these ‘muscles’? This will put you in good stead now and in the future.
Understand your transferable skills: Skills you possess as a lawyer such as critical thinking, client handling, research and sharing facts clearly and succinctly are useful in many different contexts outside the law. Critical thinking, something that lawyers get taught, is a vital future skill for the whole population. Investigate new work areas where the skills that you already possess are valued.
Look at trends: Keeping an eye on changing trends is very important at all times, and especially when things are changing fast, which they are at the moment. In any shrinking market, there will always be areas that are growing. What legal specialisms are growing, for example, cyber crime law? Where are there skill shortages inside and outside the legal profession?
Update your skills: There are lots of free on-line courses, called Moocs shared by universities all over the world. Take advantage of these to learn new skills and develop your knowledge. Client handing, time management, the ability to handle your own feelings and the feelings of others and complex analytical skills including the ability to solve complex problems are all sought after skills by employers. What actions could you take to refresh and develop these specific skills? Change management and commercial awareness are also good areas to develop, and could lead to a possible career route into law firm management rather than lawyering.
Build your career capital: With more competition, you need to have a higher level of qualification to succeed, and add value. Consider new accreditation and building a specialism. Investment now can create more opportunities in future. Explore thought leadership and initiate key note/panel opportunities. What could you become the ‘go-to lawyer’ for?
Widen your options: It is wise in uncertain times to develop a portfolio career. Rather than having all your career ‘eggs in one basket’, and just have one source of earning money, explore new/different options, and develop multiple strands to future-proof your career. This is called a portfolio career – it is ideal for uncertain times. You develop different work ‘strands’ so you can pivot as markets change and you change. As an analogy, as with ingredients and cooking a recipe, the more ‘ingredients’ you have of skills, knowledge and experience, the more you can create opportunities for yourself.
Become tech savvy: New tech tools can be daunting at first, but learning them satisfying. Being tech savvy is important so that you hit the ground running in work. If there are two candidates of comparable skill and experience, having superior digital acuity will go in your favour.
Broaden your network: In the digital age, it is becoming more important to have a large diverse network. Many networks are providing free Zoom sessions during lockdown – take advantage of this and attend some networks you wouldn’t normally consider to broaden your network. Join some new LinkedIn groups, and connect with the members.
Free resources: Take advantage of any free resources from your professional body. There may be webinars, case studies and other resources you can access on their website.
Do a skill swap: A skill swap costs nothing, and enables you to learn a new skill, for example Excel spreadsheets, social media, cashflow planning etc. When you’re worried about money, skill swaps are a brilliant way to skill-up.
Consider retraining: Retraining into a work area where there are skills shortages is worth exploring to improve your security and prospects for the longer term. Emerging markets such as data analytics and artificial intelligence present new opportunities for lawyers.
Build your resilience: Some people are naturally resilient, but it is a skill that can be learnt. Persistence and not giving up are very important. Determination will take you a long way. In fact according to Charles Handy, a pioneer in modern ways of working, in his book ‘The New Alchemists’, determination is THE no 1 factor for success. Don’t give up!
It can feel like very challenging times at the moment. Remember you are not alone. Organisations like LawCare are there to support you and reach out to people in your network. Keep going.
Rachel Brushfield is an experienced career strategist and coach who helps her clients create a future-proof career:
To receive a free report ‘Discover portfolio careers,’ email https://www.energiselegal.com/contact-us/
Book: The Law Society ‘Career Management for Lawyers. Practical strategies for your next chapter.’
Book: The ‘100 year life’ by Lynda Gratton.
Article: What value do you bring?
Article: How career adaptable are you?
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