The career-building skills of the future

19 May 2022 By Shevonne Joyce

There are certain professional traits that forward-thinking employers are on the lookout for, and which – subsequently – lawyers will have to develop, writes Shevonne Joyce.

The world of work has changed rapidly over the past couple of years. While many people are wondering what the future could possibly look like (and still catching up on what the present day of work now is – Zoom while making dinner, anyone?), some leading players in the market have begun creating it. 

In doing so, such firms have considered not only the evolution of jobs themselves (and created our “work by design” philosophy, where we craft jobs dependent on the individual and their lifestyle) but also the skills that are most valuable to us now and into the future. There is a key emerging trend to be aware of, which will help you get on the front foot when searching for your next best career move in a competitive market. 

This is relevant to you regardless of whether you are active in your legal career presently, or perhaps you have taken a break from the industry and are looking to get back in the game.

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What’s changed?

Once upon a time, performing the responsibilities in your job description and on your resumé to a high standard reigned supreme in isolation. Now, avant-garde organisations are looking for more. 

This isn’t to say your performance on the core aspects of your role isn’t critical to success; after all, we’re all looking for technically brilliant operators. It’s to say that this alone just isn’t enough anymore. So, what are those pioneering employers searching for?

Here are the key skills we look out for that some employers overlook:

Commercial and strategic thinking

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This is a candidate’s ability to think beyond the transactional nature of employment, and their job. We’re looking for candidates with the ability to be creative and innovative both within their job, and beyond it. For example:

  • Those who can build and implement new products, services and ways of working;
  • Those who can apply a commercial lens to the way they engage and work with clients; and
  • Generally, those who can add value to the firm beyond their everyday practice.

Emotional intelligence

Relationship building in the modern world has gone beyond the usual stock standard pleasantries. High calibre employers are looking for staff who have the ability to effectively communicate, connect, influence, collaborate and persuade. This requires a service mindset – the ability to get to know colleagues and clients on a deeper level and tailor how you work with them depending on mutual goals and needs. It also requires ethical leadership, and a lot of self-awareness.

A personal brand that enhances the employer brand

While previously it was all about how having an employer on your resumé enhanced your career prospects (and this is still important, of course), leading employers are now also thinking about how employing certain individuals can enhance their employer brand and reputation. 

Things they will look out for include:

  • How you engage with your marketplace, and how much trust you have earned;
  • The thought leadership you create and how that demonstrates your skills, experience, but also your unique outlook on industry issues;
  • How you value knowledge sharing – not only how generous you are with helping others, but also where your ideas and advice are accessed or published; and
  • How your actions align with the way you describe yourself and how you could be an asset to their team.

Demonstrating that you can build an effective personal brand as an employee also gives insight into your commercial and strategic thinking. 

Resilience and agility

This not only covers having a high-performance mindset, but your problem-solving ability, personal leadership style and openness to learning. Employers who care about these skills will want to hear your story – your journey, the obstacles you overcame, the adversity you faced and your ingenuity. This gives insight into the ways you may approach your work.

What’s the best way to obtain, build and nurture these skills? 

Chances are, you already have valuable tools at your disposal right now. For example, at Legalite, we always look at what the person does beyond their job description.

For example:

  • What are your hobbies, and how do these skills translate?;
  • Do you have experience building your own business or practice (even if it failed!); and
  • What other life experiences do you have – e.g., becoming a parent, travelling abroad and immersing yourself in a different culture, writing and publishing a book, any curveball life has thrown at you, or other experience outside the legal industry.

Then within your job, we look at varying factors and experiences from your career to date and how that has built character and skills. It could be the most difficult client or case you’ve ever worked on, a challenging work environment, or your biggest mistake. We want to hear what it taught you, and the courage it gave you. Any out-of-the-box experience, or path less travelled, can add incredible value to your employability. 

How to find employers who are looking for what you offer

Employers who are dedicated to finding unique talent will be actively creating opportunities to capture it. Just like it’s important for employers to find the right fit, the shoe should also be on the other foot – it’s just as important for employees to find the right fit also.

Taking some time to really research employers, the messages they have out in the market, and what’s on offer, and the way they engage with candidates can be very beneficial in determining whether they could be your next best move or not.

Shevonne Joyce is the head of people and culture at Legalite. She has 18 years of experience in consulting, leadership development and executive management in the people and culture space and is a qualified coach and mentor. She is also a mum to two beautiful neuro-divergent children and is living with a neurological disorder that was triggered by COVID-19.

The career-building skills of the future
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