After a few thousand hours of seriously hard work, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there might be some respite once you qualify as a lawyer. However, transitioning from a trainee is a huge step and making the right decision at this critical stage of your newly qualified career can be as challenging as the work you’ve done so far!
There could be a number of viable options in front of you – you may have an offer to be retained by the firm where you trained (or they might not be keeping anyone); you may want to work in a different sized firm or location; or you may want to focus on a different practice area to the one you’ve been offered a position in.
Whatever your decision, here are my three top tips to keep in mind…
(1) Don’t rush your decision
Contrary to popular belief, trainees do not have to rush into making external applications during their 3rd and 4th seats. Some people know where they want to go and what they want to do, so will move the process along as quickly as possible. But for most trainees, it takes a lot longer to decide which direction to take, and it’s important to remember that moving pre- or post-qualification are equally valid options.
For those who are less decided on your future, take your time. Don’t feel pressured into making any applications until you have considered all your options and are ready to make an informed decision. In fact, there are advantages to staying where you are – some employers only hire NQ’s who have had the seal of approval of being retained, giving you a larger pool of jobs to apply for. While there are firms who happily hire trainees pre-qualification, there is considerably more choice for those who have already qualified.
If you don’t secure your 1st choice seat, don’t panic. It is a misconception that this precludes you from pursuing that practice area longer term, especially if you later qualify into your 2nd or 3rd choice. Assuming you have a justifiable reason why you didn’t qualify into your desired practice area, prospective employers will still consider you an eligible candidate - though do try to make the transition in the first 6 months of being qualified. Although not impossible, at 1 year PQE it becomes more challenging!
(2) Take good care of your CV
Once you have decided to move, your priority must be your CV. It’s your ticket into a new job. There are two elements to looking after your CV: its content and its whereabouts.
Firstly, take care with the content and structure of your CV. It’s not as simple as just running a spellcheck – at Hydrogen, we spend a significant amount of time advising our candidates on getting their CV into the best shape possible. We have even devised best-in-class templates to help you construct one.
Secondly, maintain control of where your CV is going. Make it clear to any recruiter you engage that your CV can only be sent to a prospective employer with your express written consent. A surprising number of agencies don’t practice this and, unfortunately, there is nothing that annoys a prospective employer more than receiving the same candidate’s CV from multiple sources!
(3) Choose a recruiter you trust
Picking the right recruitment consultant isn’t easy – there are a lot of us so do your due diligence before engaging anyone. We believe that there are a number of qualities a good consultant will have that you should consider.
You need to be able to trust your recruiter – do they fully understand your experience and career aspirations? You’re relying on them to communicate on your behalf with employers, so you need to be confident that your career is their priority.
There is no better reference than direct experience, so speak to friends who have changed jobs recently. Perhaps they have a recruiter they would happily recommend… or perhaps one they wouldn’t!
Want to find out more about what your options are as a trainee lawyer? Listen back to our recent webinar about your journey from trainee to NQ >>