With many lawyers' fingers crossed that there will be an upturn in the recruitment market in 2010, here's our top five tips to ensure you have the best opportunity to progress along the career path.
1. Get that resume right
Keep the layout professional and uncluttered. Don't "justify" the text because it is harder to read and less interesting visually.
Limit paragraphs to five or six lines and use bullet points to add clarity. Check the tense you've used, keep sentences short, revise and spell-check. Use words and verbs that make an impact.
Ensure you can explain and/or justify any aspect of your resume. Remember to also include the obvious yet important information under the following headings: name, contact details, professional qualifications, education and employment.
Extra headings that should be included are: non-legal employment experience, professional affiliations, publications/seminars, interests and extracurricular activities.
Joseph Germano is the executive director of recruitment at Integrity Legal
2. Prepare NOW for that new role
The market might be picking up, but so too are the number of lawyers out hunting for new jobs, so it will pay to prepare now for searching out your dream job and ensure you're ready for when the right one comes along.
Update your resume and keep an eye out for roles that call for someone with your skills and experience. While you are waiting for the right role, you should concentrate on developing your technical skills wherever possible.
Take on a more varied caseload, and ensure any work you do is timely and of high quality. Also, build on your business development and networking skills.
Finally, speak to a quality recruitment consultant who can give you advice on the market and moving your career to the next level.
Nalini Moore is senior consultant at Mahlab Recruitment (Vic)
3. Gain knowledge in all areas of the law
Lawyers usually become specialised soon after they start their careers, which can be problematic because it greatly limits the options in the employment market with other firms and businesses, and it is reliant on a particular area of the law remaining an area that will continue to generate legal work.
It is a good idea to keep in touch with other areas of the law, especially if you are considering working in-house, because many in-house roles demand an all-round skill-set that can handle legal issues across many different areas.
Gain experience by asking for work from different partners, or keep a varied client base and stay up to speed on big developments in the law, no matter what the area.
Ben Carter is a senior recruitment consultant at EJ Legal
4. Answer behavioural questions with vigour
A behavioural interview gives you the opportunity to demonstrate why you are suited to a role. Rather than merely telling the interviewer what you would do in a situation, you must describe in detail how you handled a past situation.
A successful technique used to answer behavioural questions is known as the "STAR" technique:
Situation/Task: Describe a specific situation or task that you accomplished. This situation can be from a previous job or a volunteer experience.
Action: Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project, describe what you did - not what the team did.
Results: What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?
Melina Somas, senior consultant, Mahlab Recruitment (NSW)
5. Redefine your careers
Whether it is short, medium or long-term goals, flexibility is the key in a changing economic climate. Keeping an open mind regarding your desired location is important. If you have always wanted to relocate to London to gain international exposure, you may be better off exploring opportunities in other key location(s) that might be faring better than the UK.
Keep informed and up to date on developments in the wider economic market and your employment sphere through the press, online resources, and a recruitment consultant, if you are using one. This places you in a stronger position to act quickly when a role you are interested in becomes available.
Do not resort to a scatter-gun approach to applying for positions because this will only harm you. Firms maintain an excellent record of each resume submitted to them, and once you have been rejected, this will be on your record and may influence your chances in re-applying down the track.
Mimi Fong is the managing director of Amicas Global