Ask the Career Counseling Expert: How Do I Change Careers?

I’m a 36 year-old attorney with twelve years’ experience, including the last six with my own law firm. I HATE PRACTICING LAW!!!!! I want a new career but have no clue what to do: I have no real interests or passions, but desperately want a steady paycheck again. However, potential legal employers balk at hiring me because they can’t imagine why I’d want to return to firm life; and non-law employers think I’m crazy for wanting out of law. I’m at my wits’ end. Help!

If it makes you feel any better, there is nothing new or unique about your situation.  When I received your question I had to laugh; I thought it was from a couple of friends who are also attorneys and hate it!  You are not alone.

What does it mean, “I HATE PRACTICING LAW!?”  If you hate it, why are you looking to work at a law firm?  You are sending mixed messages.  My guess is that you hate having to deal with crazy clients, from whom you have a hard time getting paid, which means no steady income stream, and you are not a big fan of the administrative side of running a business.  Actually dealing with the challenges of legal situations must still appeal to you because you are willing to work at a firm.

My first suggestion is, if you want to work at a firm, when you meet with the partners, focus on the positive aspects of your practice and not running an office.  Obviously, make certain that there is no negativity in your voice when you have the meeting.  Focus on what you can bring to the firm, including your clients and, most importantly, your reputation.

But let’s look at the more complicated situation.  You really do hate practicing law and want out.  This means changing careers – sort of…

First, you can apply for administrative/managerial positions and point out that, as a licensed attorney, you can save the company money by, in addition to your managerial duties, acting as an in-house counsel.  That is the added value you would bring to a new employer.

Second, the key to career change is networking.  You have to find people who, after they get to know you, will be willing to recommend you to persons they know who are looking to hire.

Third, seek “shadowing” opportunities.  When you decide on what new profession you want, meet with people who currently are in that profession.  When you have established a relationship with them, ask them if you can follow them around for a day, shadow them, to see what it is they actually do.  Explain that you want to have a realistic appreciation for the job before you pursue it.

And finally, fourth, volunteer.  Don’t ignore non-profits.  Find one with a mission about which you care and do what you can to help them.  (I doubt that you have “no real interests or passions.”  My guess is that your frustration is masking them.)  Serve on at least one committee where your talents will be exploited.  It’s almost a certainty that the other members of that committee will be in a position to help you with your career change.

As with everything else, it comes down to networking.  Put differently, it’s still true today – it’s not what you know that counts, but who you know!

Thanks for writing.

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If you have any questions you would like answered, send them to me at bh@hsstaffing.com.   Anonymity is guaranteed.

Ask the Career Counseling Expert: Why Can’t I Get a Job Offer?

I am at the end of my rope.  I have had close to 100 interviews in the past six months but not a single job offer.  I’ve tweaked and rewritten my cover letter and resume so many times that there is almost no room left on my computer for all the various versions.   What does a person have to do to get a job offer?

It is nice to begin this Series with a “softball” question.  The answer is, quite simply, you have to improve your interviewing skills.

The purpose of a cover letter is to get the recipient to read the resume.  The purpose of the resume is to get the recipient to invite you in for an interview.  If, and I have no doubt that you are being honest, you have had 100 interviews, that means you have great cover letters and resumes.  Now stop editing them and start concentrating on interviewing.

Here are a few generic tips:

First, it’s not enough to research the company where you are interviewing.  Research the interviewers.  People hire people they like.  If, before you even arrive, you have some idea about what you have in common with the interviewers, you’ll be one step ahead of your competition.  Make the interviewers like you by focusing on what you have in common.  Put differently, show they that you are one of them.

This brings me to my second point, research employees.  It’s easy to do using LinkedIn.  Get some idea of the type of person the company hires.  If you share with employees something in common, perhaps education or knowledge of foreign languages, you can relax.  But, if you can’t find anything in common, be cognizant of it but don’t highlight it.  Just be ready if they bring it up.

 

Third, never end an answer on a negative.  When asked a negative question – Why were you fired?  Why did you quit your job? What are your weaknesses? – always end on a positive.  The classic “positive” is to emphasize what you learned from the experience and why it will make you a better employee.

Fourth, you must have questions to ask that show stellar meeting preparation skills and that you are truly interested in the company and the job.

Fifth, and most importantly, LISTEN.  If you are being interviewed for a job, that pretty much means that the employer wants to hire you.  Understand, employers don’t like the hiring process.  They want it to end.  So help them.  Listen to what they tell you about the job and the company.  They are providing you with the information that you need to properly answer questions.  So focus on what they need, not on what you want.  If, for example, you want to tell them about the new markets you have opened, but they are talking about increasing revenue from current product lines, don’t talk about new markets, talk about how you saved existing products for past employers.  Remember, you job search is about the employer, NOT you!

Of course, there are many other facets to a successful interview, from how you greet the receptionist to your first statement to the interviewer to how you follow-up.  But the above five should set you on the correct path.

Thanks for writing.

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This article originally appeared on the National Association of Sales Professionals website.  If you have any questions you would like answered, send them to me at bh@hsstaffing.com.   Anonymity is guaranteed.

Ask the Career Counseling Expert: How Do I Tell an Employer I was Fired?

I was fired from my last job.  I was the account rep for a major client.  The client invited me to his home for dinner.  I’m 35.  He introduced me to his daughter, who at the time had just turned 18.  We started a relationship.  I’m not married; she’s of age.  When her father found out, he demanded that I be terminated or he’d close his account.  So my boss fired me.  The funny thing is, her mother did not mind!  Employers, HR staff, recruiters, all ask me why I left my last job.  When I say I was fired, that pretty much ends my candidacy.  What should I do?

Here’s a little secret:  The person who is interviewing you may have been fired from a job, or may have a friend who was fired.  It happens.  The problem, unless you did something unbelievably objectionable, isn’t what you did but how you deal with it.

To answer your question, this is what I would advise you to say.  It is based on a three-point strategy: tell the truth, assume responsibility, and explain what you learned from the situation.  So, next time you are asked, try this:

First, I’m not married.  My largest client invited me to his home.  I met his daughter.  We started going out.  He did not know.  When he found out, he demanded that I be fired.  I was fired.

            Her father was upset because of the difference in our ages.  And he felt that my behavior was unprofessional.  To tell the truth, my heart got the better of my head.  He was right and I deserved to be fired.  That’s what makes me a better employee.  Because of this, my moral compass has been recalibrated and is permanently pointing due North.

And then, shut up.  Less is more and you can talk yourself into a corner.  If they ask how old she was, tell the truth and point out that she was of age.  Then, and only then, should you mention that her mother was fine with the relationship.  You don’t want to do it sooner because you don’t want it to sound like your dismissal was unjustified.  It’s a judgment call.

Thanks for writing.

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This article originally appeared on the National Association of Sales Professionals website.  If you have any questions you would like answered, send them to me at bh@hsstaffing.com.   Anonymity is guaranteed.

Let’s Look at the Affordable Care Act

I keep on getting questions about Obamacare.  Is it as bad as people say?  Is it hype? What does it mean?   Well, here’s what I think it means (thanks, in part, to Inc. magazine):

If you have less than 50 employees or 50 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees, the law should not impact you.  However, from the perspective of hiring, if a business has 49 employees, odds are they will not make that extra hire.

However, if they have less than 25 FTEs, and their average salary is below $50,000, they might qualify for a two-year tax credit to enable the to buy health insurance. The good news is that they will then become a more desirable employer. Of course, the question is, What will happen after the two years?  Moreover, the government already gives tax credits to employers who hire veterans.  But the process is so cumbersome that most employers don’t even bother.  Will it be the same under Obamacare?  Time will tell.

If a company has 50 or more employees or FTEs and they offer insurance, the question is whether or not they pay at least 60 percent of their employees’ health costs.  If so, the next question is, Do any of the employees pay more than 9.5% of their W2 income on health insurance?  If so, the employer has to pay a penalty of up to $2,000, not counting the first 30 employees. So for number 31 to 49, the penalty is in force.

If the employer is not paying at least 60%, they may qualify for a tax credit, but the above mentioned concern is still valid.

The good news is that if they cover 60%, and no one pays more than 9.5%, then they are in compliance with the law and have no worries about penalties.

By the way, Full Time Equivalency means at least 30 hours or more a week, not 40.

And one more thing: If an employee is under 26, they can be covered by their parents’ insurance. So let’s say a company only hires 18 to 25 year olds. They will save a ton of money, which may be the only way they can operate.  But, are they opening themselves up to an age discrimination suit?

So is the Affordable Care Act affordable?  Only time will tell.