Q4 is here and that begs the question for many lawyers: should I stay, or should I go? The answer (of course) is: it depends. Q4 is a popular time for many to start the process of contemplating a job move. The anticipation of the end of the year draws significant attention to the need for change and seeking out new career goals. But, quite often, fears and self-doubt creep in — will a budget or hiring freeze impact me, or is it a strategic move to jump ship now? What about layoffs that are widespread across LinkedIn?
I ask job seekers to process a series of questions before they dive into a Q4 job search. One of those questions centers on how the bonus structure works at the company or firm and whether they would be leaving money on the table by exiting before year-end. Keep in mind, many opt to finish up year-end at a company and instead go full throttle in a Q1 job search. Once mid-October hits, year-end fatigue sets in, and before you know it, the holidays are here, and so is the end of the year.
Before embarking on a job search, you’ll want to review your compensation structure, bonus schedule, PTO/vacation time, and 401(k) vesting. It may be advantageous to update your career marketing documents (resume, bio, deal sheet, and LinkedIn profile) and stay through end of Q1 in the next fiscal year to secure that long-awaited and lofty bonus. It’s also a good reminder to take accrued PTO or consider cashing it out when putting in your notice.
This introspective approach allows you to analyze and assess your negotiating power if you do decide to make a power move and leave your company or firm before bonus payout. It also puts you in a stronger position to advise an executive recruiter that you’re giving up X dollars by leaving the company or firm three months earlier than anticipated.
What can you do in the interim to prepare for a Q4 job search? Here’s a helpful checklist to get started:
- Perform an in-depth audit of your resume and LinkedIn. Make sure both are in an optimal state to engage with outreach to recruiters and your network. The next logical step will be contacting warm leads and increasing networking activity. I have two helpful articles on updating your legal resume and making quick changes to your LinkedIn profile to prepare for a job search. These are filled with various tips and strategies to get you up to speed on trends for a digital-age job search.
- Take notice if you have irrelevant content on your resume or LinkedIn profile. Make sure dates and job titles line up. Remove inaccurate or outdated information — for example, no one needs the intricate details of the associate role you had in 1992. Giving the areas of practice and focus is enough.
- Invest in upgrading to a high-resolution LinkedIn headshot. The Headshot Crew (founded by expert headshot photographer Peter Hurley) provides a great database to search for a trained headshot photographer in your geographic area. If you do extensive speaking engagements, the investment of a professional headshot will pay off in dividends.
- Run a Google search on your name. See what’s out there about you — perhaps a recent podcast interview, a panel presentation, or a media feature. Consider linking it to your featured section on your LinkedIn profile.
- Chart out your job search strategy. Make a list of targeted companies or law firms you want to perform outreach to, along with a list of managing partners or targeted legal and business executives you plan to network with. Seek out informational interviews — they are powerful leverage in a crowded and competitive job market. Remember, a successful job search is one where you’re organized and prepared.
- Consider working with an executive or career coach that specializes in legal careers. More than 85% of my senior executive and C-suite clients (in law and outside) have worked with or are concurrently working with an executive and/or leadership coach to prioritize their next career step. Tackling that next general counsel job search might feel overwhelming, especially if you haven’t done so in a decade or longer. An executive or career coach can help you to get unstuck, create clarity from chaos, and help you work through the emotions of making a career move.
- Strategically increase your connections on LinkedIn. Set a goal for yourself to reach out to a specific number of legal and business executives weekly to increase your visibility on the platform. Consider investing in a LinkedIn premium membership to get more competitive intelligence insights on job postings and for targeted outreach, such as sending InMail messages. Remember, having an effective networking strategy is key.
As the year winds down, take inventory of things you’ve learned, contributions you’ve made in your legal department (or for the overall business enterprise) and reflect on upcoming end-of-year performance evaluations. There is no time like Q4 to focus on creating goals and objectives for the new calendar year.
Have a job search or career-related question for me? Connect with me on LinkedIn.
Wendi Weiner is an attorney, career expert, and founder of The Writing Guru, an award-winning executive resume writing services company. Wendi creates powerful career and personal brands for attorneys, executives, and C-suite/Board leaders for their job search and digital footprint. She also writes for major publications about alternative careers for lawyers, personal branding, LinkedIn storytelling, career strategy, and the job search process. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, connect with her on LinkedIn, and follow her on Twitter @thewritingguru.