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Four Tips for Job Hunting During an Economic Downturn

July 17, 2020 (3 min read)

Spoiler alert: Job hunting during an economic downturn is challenging.

A moment when businesses (including the nation’s largest law firms) are trimming costs and laying off employees is not an ideal time to knock on the door for a job. Open positions are fewer, and the number of applicants for any one of them will probably be considerable.

At the same time, it’s a mistake to let worries over how to find a job in the current economic climate paralyze your career. And for those currently employed that feel there is something better out there for them, there are reasons for optimism.

In reality though, employers always are looking for talented employees, and a number of them still are hiring during the recession. Also, there are plenty of actions you can take now to position yourself for a step up—a transition that may not happen immediately, but perhaps will when the economy improves. Here are four of them. 

1. Strengthen Your Professional Network

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, networking was shifting from an in-person activity to an online one. While plenty of lawyers have used lunch meetings or professional conferences to connect with peers (and yes, often more satisfying than a video conference call), social media platforms offer an effective way to keep in touch with your network in both good and bad economic times.

As the first step in a job search, regularly check in with your connections, review their connections and research potential new contacts to grow your network. Also, make sure your LinkedIn® profile is updated and reflects the story you want to tell about your career. While there, follow firms you’re interested in and set up relevant job alerts.

Don’t be afraid to go old school, either. Catching up with your connections by phone, we’re rediscovering, is a rewarding way to communicate—and one that can provide good information and leads. You also may consider taking a more active role in professional organizations or community groups in which you’re involved.

2. Enhance Your Professional Skills

Recession planning for employees should include taking stock of professional skills and knowledge. What do you bring to the table and how does that match up with what firms or other employers want from their talent? Industry webinars, CLEs and other online courses provide substantial opportunities to enhance your skills and knowledge base. Build your portfolio of articles, speaking appearances and other thought leadership pieces. Being able to demonstrate relevant skills will help you stand out in the job-seeking process.

3. Brush Up on Your Interviewing Skills

Thoroughly prepare for your interviews (even informal, informational interviews) by researching the organization and the people with whom you’ll be speaking in detail. Be ready to discuss how exactly you would contribute to the firm, government agency or corporation considering you. Just as professional networking has moved online, virtual job interviews have become the norm. Accordingly, make sure to brush up on video interviewing practices, including mastering current technology trends, finding a quiet, well-lit place for the video call and speaking confidently onscreen.

4. Consider Contract- and Project-Based Positions


There’s a range of legal jobs to consider besides full-time opportunities, including contract- and project-based positions, which can allow for more flexibility and work-life balance too. Many corporate legal departments are now using contract lawyers to handle projects in specific practice areas, and legal recruiters anticipate greater demand for contract lawyers at law firms this year.

Keep Moving Forward

An economic downturn shouldn’t discourage anyone from keeping their career on track. In fact, it provides an incentive to assess your current job and sharpen your resolve to find a fulfilling one. Staying engaged with your network, continuing to develop your skills and being flexible during economic uncertainty can put you on a path that leads you to a rewarding career.