Left-Click, Left Law
Online Advice for Career-Changers Abounds If You Know Where to Find It, How to Use It
Posted Jul 10, 2006 10:59 AM CST
By Hope Viner Samborn
Using the Internet as a guide, Dana Foster navigated the transition from practicing attorney to marketing specialist in just six months.
Foster of Hartford, Conn., who holds both a law degree and a master’s degree in business, knew she wanted to move from practicing law to the business world. She also knew to search for information online.
That led her to the Web sites of the Legal Marketing Association and the Law Firm Marketing Institute, both of which provided information about legal marketing and job opportunities. She found names to call to learn more. Online searches also helped her home in on law firms in her area that had marketing professionals.
Coupling her Internet searches with old-fashioned phone calls to law firm marketers, informational interviews and networking, she gathered leads. “I call it the ripple effect,” Foster says. “Your knowledge keeps growing, and you learn about yourself in the process.” Soon after, she landed a job as a marketing specialist.
Gaining information and advice online is easy. But sizing up skills and goals may be harder. That’s when the career searcher needs to jump off the Internet and talk to professionals personally.
To start, however, potential career changers might try online personality and skills assessments. For example, the Quintessential Careers Web site provides a list and hyperlinks to several free online assessments as well as the Campbell Interest and Skills Survey, a well-established tool that helps gauge the individual’s preferences. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, another well-known assessment, can be found at www.myersbriggs.org.
Foster took the Campbell test online and found that it was easy and convenient. But online assessments alone won’t point to a new career. “Telling you that you are an introvert or that you would be unhappy in the courtroom doesn’t necessarily tell you what you want to do,” says Shawn A. Smith, a Harrison, N.Y., attorney and career counselor. Couple these assessment results with help from a lawyer’s assistance group, career transition books or career counselors. Web sites such as J.D. Bliss feature information for attorneys seeking to change professions. Others contain lists of companies by industry that can be downloaded.
But don’t stop there, career experts say. Scour print directories at local libraries. Call the companies to find out the names and addresses of the people handling job applications before sending cover letters and resumés—preferably in hard copy rather than e-mail.
Many cyber job-seekers fail to “do the legwork,” Smith says. “You don’t end up getting as good information as you do the old-fashioned way.”
The result is that “about 20 of 100 of these will bounce back because the company has moved,” Smith says. “When you don’t do what is necessary to make the human connection, you place yourself at a disadvantage. If your letter is addressed to the wrong person, it doesn’t make you look like a good candidate. You have wasted your shot at the company.”
NETWORKING ON AND OFFLINE
Internet research provides job leads and lots of information, but making contacts isn’t that easy, says Hindi Greenberg, founder and president of Lawyers in Transition in Nevada City, Calif.
“For some people,” Greenberg says, the amount of information “can be overwhelming.”
One solution to honing that information is to tap into online networking groups. Individuals in these nationwide groups often share information about a particular career or workplace. Be cautious about the personal information disclosed online. “Maybe your boss is looking for a job,” Greenberg says.
Network with friends, relatives and law school and college alumni via e-mail, over the phone or in person. Contact trade and professional associations in various fields. Many can be found online. Read trade journals and association Web sites.
Pose questions to at least six people about the work you will do, Greenberg recommends. That way “you don’t go from the frying pan into the fire,” she says.