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First, Take a Shower

Vivia Chen

October 5, 2010

IStock_000000806505XSmall Big firms are acting like it's business as usual: There's talk about bonuses again; partners are hopping around; and merger fever is in the air (the latest being the aborted merger between Orrick and Akin Gump, and the still-in-gestation merger of Reed Smith and Thompson & Knight).

There are signs of a rebound in the legal industry, except for this little annoying fact: Thousands of lawyers are still jobless--the ones laid off during the recession and the the recent law school graduates who can't find  employment.

For them, the work is getting work. There is all sorts of advice about how they might go about that business (bug the people at their law school's career center, network with friends and family, etc.), but the question that intrigues me is basic: How do they get themselves going each morning?

Despite my own anarchistic tendencies, I must admit that a dose of discipline is critical in this situation. It's a matter of being your own manager, coach, hall monitor, whatever. I found "How to Make Your Job Search More Like a Job," an article in The Ladders, helpful on this point.  Here are the main points:

"Get up, get dressed, and get going early. Starting your day with purpose is key to ensuring that the day will be productive." (The article didn't mention a shower--but let's put that on top of the list.)

Designate a work space for the job search. "Do whatever you would do in your office. If you had a radio on for background noise in your office, turn on a radio," executive recruiter Bruce Hurwitz told The Ladders.

Set goals--like sending out a certain number of e-mails or resumes each day.

Keep a log of your job searches, including follow-up information. (Nerdy but necessary to maintain order in the process.)

Set regular hours for your job search. The article recommends 20 hours a week. "What used to take 40 hours can now be accomplished in 20," said Karla Porter, an HR director for the chamber of commerce in Greater Wilkes-Barre, Pa. "Being unemployed is stressful enough, and it's overkill to spend eight hours a day dwelling on it." 

So what to do with that other "20 hours" of your work life? The career advisers suggest volunteering or "keeping current by reading industry journals, taking classes, and searching for relevant news articles and blogs."

I'd also suggest doing a lot of strenuous exercise. I've known several people who got very buffed during their hiatus from working (one decided to become a personal trainer). At least, you'll feel much better if you look more svelte than your employed friends.

Any other tips?

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.

Photo: Shawn Harris.


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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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