New Year's Resolutions: Moving Forward by Looking Back

We’re all winding up the old year as we get going on the new one. As a result of the tough economy, many of us have had a difficult year. Perhaps you’ve spent the year unemployed (or underemployed). Perhaps you’ve just been laid off. Either way, the New Year is looking like it’s going to be Another Year Without A Decent Paycheck.


There’s no point, however, in giving into pessimism. Yes, it’s a hard job market. Yes, job candidates have to work harder and be luckier to find employment. And yes, many job seekers will “settle” for jobs that pay the bills while they continue their search for more satisfying and edifying employment. But good jobs won’t be found by people who aren’t out there looking for and open to opportunity.

So as you work on your job search for the new year, take some time to consider the strategies you used in the outgoing year. Consider what worked and what didn’t. Consider why. In other words, re-evaluate. Our next few posts will give you five tips on moving forward in New Year.

Re-evaluate your job search strategies

My first tip for improving your legal job search strategies is fairly obvious, and yet many people don’t think to do it. Systematically re-think what you’re doing. What strategies are you using? How are you employing those strategies? What are your results?

For example, are you looking in the right place for jobs? Some types of employers favor online job ads, others continue with old-fashioned newspapers and trade publications, others use legal recruiters. Are you building and using your personal and professional networks? Are you using LinkedIn? Be sure you understand how your employers in your industry look for new hires.

Honestly re-evaluating what you’ve done in the past is one of the best ways to improve your future!

Re-evaluate your job skills

Too many people have a tendency to rest on their laurels, but they can become outdated and unmarketable fast. In a tough economy, employers are constantly wondering what you bring to the table. And in this competitive job market, you can be certain that while you are resting on your laurels, your fellow attorneys are busying improving. While your peers are moving forward, you are moving backward relative to them.

So how do you make sure that you too are moving forward and staying relevant in a competitive job market—even if you do not currently have paid employment?

Take a look at job ads for positions that appeal to you (even if you don’t intend to apply to that specific job) and for positions that you would like to be qualified to hold five years from now. Talk to legal recruiters. What skills are employers demanding today? What do you need to do to put yourself on-track to meet your long-term career goals?

Compare employers’ current needs to your skill set. Have you kept your skills cutting edge? If not, look at the New Year as an opportunity to do something about it. Volunteering can give you hands-on experience; taking classes can teach you the latest techniques.

Take an honest look at your qualifications and commit to making this the year you fill in the holes, bring yourself up-to-date, and position yourself for a better future.

Re-evaluate your habits and attitude

Whether you’re looking to make a career move or just looking at your long-term professional development, you can take advantage of the third tip to making the most of the New Year.

Often we sabotage ourselves through our bad habits and bad attitudes. We are own worst enemies. We are the ones holding ourselves back from short-, mid-, and long-term success.

Do you procrastinate? Beat yourself up? Talk yourself out of taking calculated risks? This is the year to stop.

Replace these self-defeating habits and attitudes with ones that build confidence, skill, and presence that will not only help you get a job, but also help you shine in the workplace. Exercise, learn patience and persistence, listen to music that energizes you, put an end to gossiping, and smile. Learn to treat setbacks as challenges and opportunities. You will be happier and more productive — and therefore be a more attractive job candidate, employee, or professional partner.

Re-evaluate your friends

Just as important as re-evaluating your habits and attitude is evaluating the habits and attitudes of the people surrounding you. Confidence, drive, and determination are contagious. So are depression, bitterness, and inertia.

Spend time with people who share your positive outlook, who can give you a pep talk (or tough love) when you need it, and who have healthy ambition. It’s difficult to maintain your optimism, confidence, and productivity if you allow yourself to be weighed down by naysayers.

Re-evaluate your network

Let me stop you before you say, “I don’t have a network.” That’s nonsense. Everyone you know or have a connection with is part of your network. Everyone you went to school with (classmates and fellow alumni) is part of your network. Everyone who worked at the same employers, is a friend or family member or friend of a friend, and neighbors is part of your network. The people in your cycling or crocheting class, in your dog training class, in your book group, in the PTA are all part of your network.

Reach out to them. You’d be surprised how many of these people might be in a position to help you with your job search, whether directly (like working at a company that you’re interested in) or indirectly (like advising you on career development).

Remember, networking isn’t about desperation, or being pushy, and it isn’t a one-way street. Make friendly inquires, be open to possibilities, and when you find you are in a position to help others, then do so.


Updated Feb. 7, 2016