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Career Management in Troubled Times

Much excellent advice has come from career development offices, expensive career consultants, Wise Trusted Advisers, blogs with information and blogs with no supporting data whatsoever. There is no magic bullet for survival in troubled times, and the old advice remains the best -- with one new addition (see #3):

1. SELF ASSESSMENT: understand your goals; identify your skills; tally your interests; assess your financial situation.

a. Create Plans A, B & C with supporting documents for each plan. Your plans must connect to practice areas that are viable in this economy and be vectored toward employers whose hiring criteria match your credentials. Do not imagine that employers who would not have interviewed you as a 2L will have radically altered their hiring criteria. Work related to the troubled economy is expanding (bankruptcy, employment), and now is a good time to consider the work that gets done regardless of the state of the economy. Wills & trusts, workers' compensation, general civil litigation and personal injury practices come to mind.

b. Volunteer in settings where you might make vocationally useful connections -- this should connect you to organizations and causes for which you have genuine feeling. Soulless volunteering is the epitome of "cheesy," and you will have taken valuable time to put yourself in a bad light;

c. Write something that is vocationally useful and send it to practitioners who can use the information. Either dust off and revise classwork, write something new or take non-confidential material from your employment and rework it. Create a document from which you can extract three or four Useful Bullet Points for a busy practitioner. Send email with a compelling subject line and a message that shows that you know what the lawyer does and that you hope that the Four Useful Bullet points and the doc might be of interest. Note that you would be delighted to discuss the topic. To whom do you send this? Lawyers and other professionals who are engaged in work that is interesting to you and who might benefit from your writing are your legitimate targets.

3. FIND OR CREATE A JOB SEARCH STRATEGY GROUP: Some folks can dutifully manage a job search on their own, diligently sending out resumes, scheduling networking meetings and following up every lead, but most people need some support. A weekly meeting in which you and your colleagues report in, share your experiences and hold yourselves accountable can be very useful. In a troubled economy, there is no shame in unemployment, and committing time to share information and encouragement is smart. The CPDC will launch a drop-in evening alumni group in February.

4. PERSONAL PROTECTION FOR THE UNHAPPY-BUT-EMPLOYED: Under no circumstances should you share your unhappiness, disgruntlement, distaste or distress with anyone with whom you work. If a layoff is to come, the first to go are the ones who are understood to be eager to leave. Use your out-of-office contacts to develop a departure strategy: your career or alumni office, professional contacts, personal contacts, your Trusted Advisers from your life. While your assistant may be a sterling individual and a Gem in the Tiara of Your Professional Life, remember that she needs her job at least as much as you need yours. Don't do anything to damage her job or job prospects.