Most of us have seen either first-hand, or in the careers of our friends and colleagues, the impact of the economically challenging times we live in. With forecasters queuing up to predict financial Armageddon, the natural first instinct may well be to batten down the hatches and cling on for dear life. But what does this mean for your career?
One thing is almost certain, sooner or later normality will return to the market, but with the latest reports suggesting that 2012 is likely to be little better, it may be 2013/2014 before you are able to consider a career move in a more forgiving climate. In other words you could be putting your career on hold for four or five years from the start of the credit crunch and in an industry that remains fixated on PQE, it pays to consider the potential long term effects.
For some, a hiatus of that length could be career defining, and not in a good way. An ambitious Senior Associate finding the bridge to Partnership has been pulled up just as they reach it could well be usurped by those just arriving as a recovery hits full swing. Likewise a Salaried Partner on the brink of making equity until a Lehman shaped spanner hit the works. A Junior Associate being channelled into work they never wanted to do might understandably be thankful they have a job and resolve to put up with it for the time being – but after a year or two there is probably no going back.
This doesn’t apply to everyone of course. If your career is going well and you are relatively happy, now is probably not the time to move for an extra few thousand a year or because the boss can be annoying. If there is a solid professional case for staying put, stay put. But if there isn’t, there is no need to put your career on hold in the hope of better days.
Yes, you heard right, recruitment company says you should change jobs – there’s a turn up for the books! But before writing it off as our own self-interest, just consider the reasons why you might not take the plunge:
Last in first out? True, plenty of people suffered from this in 2009 but in reality, since the initial cuts were made following a major adjustment in the market, redundancies of that kind have been few and far between. On the whole, these people had been hired at the tail end of a boom which many firms didn't see ending. With hiring decisions now being challenged fiercely internally before they are approved, any firm hiring now is sure they need someone and is hiring in the full knowledge of the times we are living in.
Better the devil you know? Really? With the rule of the bottom line are there many firms left where loyalty and long service counts for more than PEP? Surely there is an argument to be in a department who were busy enough to consider hiring despite the difficulties rather than relying on being part of the furniture.
Out of the frying pan into the fire? It is always important to get a move right, but in a market with fewer jobs it is even more critical. Isolate what it is you are not happy with, consider your options and then execute the move well (being patient to wait for the right role). Remember it is in the interests of firms who are trying to reduce attrition and keep salary inflation down, to play on the impression that ‘everywhere is just as bad’.
The reality is that the perfect job might be harder to find than it was three or four years ago but they are out there, and on the bright side, when you find it, there is a good chance that the firm has really thought out the hire and knows exactly what it wants you to achieve – not always the case in the “filling seats” culture of the last boom.
The legal recruitment market is remaining resilient and there are plenty of opportunities for good lawyers at all levels to move their careers forward. Whilst some departments or even whole firms are still languishing in a defensive mode there are lots who are on the attack, using the market conditions to build teams in fields of expertise that were impossible to staff during the boom, or in sectors and even countries that were previously not on the radar. Make the right move and it could be career defining...in a good way.
Jason Horobin has been recruiting lawyers into roles worldwide for more than a decade. To discuss the market, your potential options or for a general chat about your long-term career path, please contact him at Gladwin Law on +44 (0)20 7096 1681 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.