Great news for IT pros working in the legal industry: you’re more in demand than ever before. An estimated 75% of companies are planning to increase the number of full-time IT employees on their teams in 2019. And one recent survey revealed more than 50% of firms and legal departments plan to increase their investment in technology in the coming years.
The hot legal tech job market not only means increased job security and higher pay—it also means now is the ideal time to make a move that advances your career. The following five steps will help you leverage your skills and expertise to land your next great fit.
Step 1: Develop a Strategy
Despite the hot job market, when seeking a new opportunity, you still need to do the due diligence required of any job search. Start with an honest assessment of your IT skills: evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and your favorite and least favorite facets of your current role. Then consider how you would like to advance and grow professionally.
Once you’ve honed in on what you’d like to do, consider where you’d like to be doing it. Conduct research to get a sense of the firms you might work for and their reputation in the legal industry. Determine the kind of workplace culture you’re looking for, and see if any of the firms you researched align with your ideal.
Finally, address the how of your job search. Do you have any professional connections at the firms that most pique your interest? Would you prefer to work with an industry expert recruiter who can help you leverage the market and provide the inside scoop on companies and managers? Being intentional about how you plan to take action will help you land an interview faster and propel you toward step 2.
Step 2: Present Yourself Professionally
This step is about highlighting your skills and interest level to your prospective employer and positioning yourself for success down the road during step 5 (hint: it’s all about negotiating).
Here are a few specific tips to help you put your best foot forward from the start to the finish of your job search:
- Ensure your resume is error free and formatted professionally.
- Update your technical resume’s content, highlighting any skills that align with the job description requirements listed for the position you are applying for. (Yes, this means you have to tweak your resume each and every time you apply for a new gig).
- Review and update any virtual professional resources, including your LinkedIn profile and any digital portfolios. And don’t forget to do a quick scan of your personal social media accounts to ensure there isn’t any less-than-professional content to be found!
- Add additional specific, applicable details about your unique qualifications in your cover letter (which, like your resume, should be error free and formatted professionally). Answer the question: Why are you a good fit for this opportunity, and why do you want to work for this firm?
- Dress up for your interview (even a video interview) whether or not the firm has a casual dress code. Make sure everything about your appearance is in line with the industry you are working in.
These small but significant choices can make a huge impact on a prospective employer. Plus, when you present yourself professionally, you increase your chances of being heard and taken seriously. Which brings you to . . .
Step 3: Make a Lasting First Impression
Even though your skills are in-demand, you shouldn’t approach your interview with the expectation of being wooed by the law firm. During your conversation, focus on the firm’s needs and how you can assist them—not your needs. You will get a chance to address your needs later in the process.
Show the firm you are informed and prepared by asking thoughtful questions inspired by your research (step 1). But try to keep a 50–50 balance between talking and listening. Be aware of your body language, and show your interviewer that you are interested and engaged by maintaining eye contact.
Come prepared with upbeat, articulate responses to a handful of potential interview questions. ESP Legal’s interviewing tips for job seekers address the three biggest ones: “Tell me about a time when . . .,” “Tell me about yourself,” and “What is your greatest weakness?” Read up to learn what key information your interviewer may be trying to uncover by asking one of these questions, and then spend some time crafting your responses.
When you put in the work and come to your interview prepared, you’ll leave feeling confident. But there’s still one more step for you to take before receiving an offer.
Step 4: Follow Up
Send a professional follow up email or handwritten note. This is a very important step and should not be overlooked as an empty formality or outdated courtesy.
Your follow-up is an opportunity for you to show you were paying attention by touching on some of the topics discussed in the interview. It’s also a final opportunity for you to remind the firm of your strengths and promote additional qualifications that you may have forgotten to mention during the interview.
Keep the tone of your note positive and professional, and maintain that positivity and professionalism even if you need to wait a while for a response. Remember, you may have been their first—and hopefully best—interview. Filling a role takes time.
Step 5: Negotiate
If you’ve shined during steps 1–4, chances are you’ll soon be presented with an offer. But you haven’t reached the finish line of the job search process just yet. This is the step where the opportunities afforded to you by the hot job market really come into play.
A quick disclaimer: negotiation is not about upping your financial requirements once you’ve won a firm over. Be honest and up-front with your compensatory expectations prior to the interview so there are no surprises. The only exception to this rule happens when unplanned circumstances create variance, i.e. you just got a raise that was unexpected in your current job or received a competitive offer from another firm.
That said, sometimes a firm will come in below the target salary you presented, and when that happens, you should discuss and consider the other benefits and financial incentives being offered that could offset the difference. These may include perks such as profit sharing, 401(k) matching, a great medical plan, a flexible and/or remote working schedule, and greater vacation allowances and/or PTO.
Finally, keep in mind that sometimes making a career move isn’t about money. Sometimes you’ll move because you’re looking for a different company culture or looking to make a switch to a different tech area of focus. In these cases, be honest with yourself about your decision. Landing an opportunity that offers you the career potential you’re seeking at a great company is often worth a small trade-off financially.
In a hot job market, you don’t need to stress about landing a gig simply to pay the bills. You have the freedom to focus on your long-term career goals and make moves to help you achieve them. The only thing standing in your way is you. Get started today, and happy hunting!
If you’d like to streamline your search and receive additional support, our ESP Legal technical recruiters are always here to help: