September sees schools start again in most of the UK (Scottish schools are already two weeks in). After the disruption caused by the pandemic and repeated home-schooling, parents around the world are hoping that this academic year will see a return to business as usual. A report by the TUC earlier this year found that for many working parents, especially women, the last eighteen months have meant significant career disruption as the pandemic significantly increased caring and family responsibilities. As the world adjusts to managing the C-19 outbreak more effectively, and with a new cohort of children off to school for the first time, we know many working parents will now be thinking, “What’s next?”. Here are five actions you can take right now to step back into your legal career.
#1 Refresh your resume
Your CV showcases your skills and experience to the world. Make sure that it is up-to-date, both as a Word document and on LinkedIn. Open with a strong personal statement that outlines what you have to offer an employer and two or three interesting previous achievements.
When presenting your CV as a Word document, avoid fancy fonts, formatting or ambiguous dates. Present information clearly, with plenty of space on the page and try to keep to two pages of A4.
On LinkedIn, use the “Headline” that appears under your name to let people know that you are open to work and what you are looking for. For example, “Sally J – Commercial contracts lawyer with five years’ experience in the telecoms and technology sector, looking for my next opportunity.” You can find this by editing the Intro on your Profile.
#2 Open your mind to new options
Depending on whether you took a short break to deal with the pressures of the pandemic or have been away from legal work for a while, there may be more options open to you than you imagine.
At Obelisk, we create opportunities that vary from as little as a few hours each week that can fit in around the school run to full-time interim placements – ideal if you want to maximise your earnings in term-time.
Whilst hybrid working is likely to be the new normal for most organisations, the pandemic has opened employers’ eyes to new opportunities to tap into talent by offering 100% remote-working roles. Assuming you have the space and infrastructure to work from home, eradicating the commute can make it much easier to fit work around other commitments.
#3 Tune up your skills
Make sure you are presenting your skills in the best light possible. Practise demonstrating how you have used your skills to achieve goals for your previous employers, ready for your CV and/or interviews. Always look for opportunities to show how you’ve contributed to business success in a measurable way by referencing your previous involvement in projects, deals or transactions.
If you have been away from work for a while, refresh these examples by asking previous managers or colleagues to give you feedback on what they see as your skills or strengths – often people are delighted to help, even if it’s been a while since you’ve been in touch.
For areas where you know market practice has moved on, invest in some online courses or workshops to bring your knowledge up to date, or again, tap into your network. And make sure you are at least familiar with some of the new technologies and legal operations thinking that’s developing. Blogs like Artificial Lawyer and Legal Futures (and our own Attic) are a good place to start.
#4 See the opportunity, not the challenge
At Obelisk we have helped people get back into their legal careers after breaks of two, five, eight years and more. Sylvia Ann Hewlett first wrote about “on-ramping”, that is getting back into professional work, in 2005. Many, many men and women have successfully come back into legal work since then, yet for some reason it’s still viewed as a challenge. It doesn’t have to be. Yes, there will be skills that you have to refresh or market practice that you need to update yourself on. Yes, there will be new tools and technology to be aware of. And yes, you will need to get back in touch with your professional self after time away. None of these things are insurmountable. Focus on your strengths and skills, accept that there will be some knock-backs along the way and keep reminding yourself of the value you have to offer.
#5 Commit to the process
Getting back to work is a job in itself. Prepare the ground at home so that you’re able to maximise your new-found free hours between 9:30 and 3:00. If there are other people in your household who can pick up chores, talk to them now and set expectations, so that you can focus without being derailed by tasks around the house. Be honest with yourself, and others, about what time you have to give. There’s no right or wrong answer, only you know how well the new school year is going, how much energy you have and what else is going on in your life. Set yourself small goals each week and you will make progress.