Nine Ways to Accelerate Your Career Growth and Job Search as a Chief Legal Officer or General Counsel

Many of my clients are Chief Legal Officers or General Counsel at public or private companies who want to know how to (1) expand the growth runway in their current role and/or (2) find a new role that better suits their growth trajectory. Often these two goals go hand-in-hand, especially if you can initiate further career-enhancing opportunities within your current organization while opportunistically being open to new roles externally.

In other words, often it behooves you to do both: look for internal and external opportunities rather than rigidly treating internal growth and job search as an either/or proposition.

Portrait happy, smiling business man outdoors

If you are a Chief Legal Officer or General Counsel and at a similar career juncture, here are some insights that may help you accelerate your career growth and/or job search:

      1. Get plugged into the right networks. For example, many veteran CLOs and GCs take active steps to seek out potential successors. If you are on their radar screens as a contender, whether you are an internal or external candidate, you will be first in line when the transition occurs. Beyond that, remember that you will not only need to convince the CLO or GC who is currently in the role but also appeal to the CEO and Board of Directors.

      2. Get on the radar screen of recruiters. As an ancillary network-building activity, take the time to get to know the recruiters who are commonly involved with General Counsel searches. Recruiters work for companies, not candidates – a distinction that it serves you well to understand! – and therefore may not be actively pursuing you or overly responsive (although they should not simply ignore you) unless they have a role that fits.

        It’s your job to get in front of recruiters without becoming a pest (respect their time!), continue to be polite and responsive yourself (even if you feel desperate or entirely overwhelmed at any given moment) and make sure that you have done the work to polish and present yourself as a compelling candidate rather than expecting the recruiter to figure out what to do with you.

      3. Dust off your resume, LinkedIn profile and interviewing skills. If you do intend to conduct (or find yourself in) a job search, or you wish to target a key promotion, make sure you have put yourself together as a compelling “package.” (This echoes what I listed in #2 above.)

        At the very least, review your resume to make sure it reflects your current accomplishments and communicates them in a clear manner. Not only does this help you have a “better” resume, but it also gives you a lens to focus on the value you have brought to your organization and what you can expect to contribute in the future. Similarly, if you have not interviewed in over ten years, you should seek to sharpen your executive presence and interviewing skills, whether you are interviewing with your own board of directors (for an internal promotion) or a new one (for an external role).

      4. Know how Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel searches are conducted. If you wish to be viewed as the top candidate, it behooves you to know what your audience is looking for. Admittedly some companies do not have a good handle on their own hiring priorities, even for a role as important as CLO or GC, and you will need to fill in the gaps for them (or avoid taking those roles). Others are cognizant of best practices and conduct a highly organized and effective search.

      5. Know what Boards of Directors, CEOs and other senior management want from their Chief Legal Officers and General Counsel. Whether it is through informational interviewing, informal discussions, mentoring or your own due diligence, make sure that you understand what is expected of a CLO or GC while serving in the role.

      6. Consider adjacent roles. Within your own company or at a new one, consider how you can take on business and other roles that will expand your range of influence and subject matter domain. Examples abound and include running a business line within the organization, serving on the board of a branch or subsidiary, heading up government affairs, leading a high-profile initiative or serving as an interim in another C-Suite role, such as Chief Operating Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer, Chief Sustainability Officer or even Chief Executive Officer. If you need more robust industry or subject matter expertise, emotional intelligence or caché to take on such a role, go out and get it!

      7. Envision yourself as a C-Suite leader, not just a lawyer. Just as you need to do the work to know your value proposition and polish your brand before speaking with a recruiter, you also need to do the work to wrap your head around the business and how you can add value as a member of senior leadership. Invariably my clients who see themselves in this light – rather than “the lawyer in the room” – are the ones who are more successful at attracting sponsors and other upward mobility and achieving marketability in their careers.

      8. Enlarge your circle of possibilities while respecting your own guiding principles. Know what your priorities are and plan your career around that. For example, if you feel that you need to stay in the Chicago or Nashville area for another five years, understand how that affects your career choices and target your decisions on where to build out your expertise to match the market. Ask yourself: how wide of a circle can I draw so that I don’t foreclose opportunities while continuing to meet my own personal commitments and values?

        For example, if you are currently in Nashville but ultimately want to return to Boston, Miami or San Francisco, can you create or strengthen ties to that target city now that will facilitate your transition when the time is appropriate? Alternatively, you may decide that a top role in Wisconsin, Indiana or Michigan is sufficiently close to the Chicago area to honor your commitment to stay local, depending on the reason that you have made this a priority. Even if you are truly open, geographically or otherwise, make sure that the role continues to meet your other priorities.

      9. Build out your reputation beyond your current company. Don’t become so focused on the “problems at hand” that you forget to build out your leadership credibility and network beyond your current organization. Set aside some time (for example, 5% to 10% of your total professional energy) to make this happen, and choose your engagements well so that they are meaningful to you and impactful on the community or other target audience.

     



Anne Marie Segal
 
is an
executive coach, resume writer and author of two well-received books on interviewing and career development. She served as a corporate attorney for 15 years, including roles at White & Case LLP and a prominent hedge and private equity fund manager, before launching her coaching practice. She is also currently serving as the Conference & Workshop Facilitator for PODER25 General Counsel pipeline initiative of the Hispanic National Bar Association and HNBA Via Fund.

Anne Marie Segal

Based in Connecticut not far from New York City, Anne Marie partners with clients internationally on executive presence, impactful communications, graceful transitions and other aspects of professional and personal development. 

First image above: Adobe Images.

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ABOUT ANNE MARIE SEGAL Anne Marie Segal, founder of Segal Coaching LLC, is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer who guides attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs through career transitions, advancement, job interview preparation, leadership development and personal branding. A former finance and hedge fund attorney, Anne Marie has presented to the United Nations (ICTY/MICT), University of Chicago, United Way, Association of Corporate Counsel and National Resume Writers Association, among other organizations. She has published two career-related books: Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals and Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Value Proposition Workbook, written on career and resume topics as a Forbes Coaches Council member at Forbes.com and been quoted on CNBC.com, Monster.com and other media outlets. You can learn more at AnneMarieSegal.com or visit her LinkedIn profile at linkedin.com/in/annemariesegal.

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