Q: After 15 years as a trial attorney, I am seeking to change careers, but I'm having difficulty getting my foot in the door. I updated my skills and then applied for jobs as a change-management analyst, corporate-compliance manager, contracts analyst, proposal writer, proposal-development coordinator and program manager, among others. - Regina
J.T.: First, you seem to have adopted the "spray and pray" approach. Instead, I'd back up and really focus in on one or two career paths.
Dale: I know it's counterintuitive, but here's how it works, Regina: You increase your odds by decreasing the number of jobs in your target. You need to start developing a network, and that means working your net, as in fishing. Let's extend that metaphor: Say, you're going to weave a net and you have a given amount of rope. If you make the net too big, it's just a lot of giant holes, and the fish don't even know it's there. In a job search, your time is the rope, and if spread it too wide, it's just giant holes.
J.T.: You can start by picking a skill to leverage. For example, I recently met a former lawyer who's now a magazine journalist. When I asked her why she opted to switch, she said that her favorite part of being a lawyer was researching facts and persuading others to see a point of view. Being a reporter gave her the opportunity to leverage this skill.
Dale: Then, once you focus on a skill, you next begin to leverage existing contacts. People are suspicious of those leaving successful careers, and especially suspicious of lawyers. People see your past career and wonder: "Will she be argumentative? Legalistic? Sue me if I make a joke?" Many businesspeople think of lawyers as the bully on capitalism's playground.
J.T.: That's why the best way to transition into a new career is to find people who know you and your capacity to consistently deliver outstanding work, and ask them to help you find opportunities. I know you're trying to move forward, but sometimes the best way to move forward is to tap into your past successes.