Essential Job Search Tool:
The Interview Debrief Form

Your interview went great – or at least it’s over! Now what?

If you have ever worked with a recruiter, you will notice that recruiters invariably request a debriefing shortly after your interview. When I was job searching, I always valued these calls rather highly, because it was helpful to hear the recruiter’s perspective and also have a chance to “hear myself talk” about the opportunity. At the same time, I knew that I needed to have room to think in my own quiet space, without any external influences.

If your first step after your interview is talking to a recruiter (or anyone else, such as a spouse, friend or parent), also make notes for yourself while the meetings are fresh in your mind. Sometimes we lose our train of thought once new information enters the picture, such as questions from others or re-entry into the mix of a current job situation.

Interviewing

If you do not have time to make written notes within the first few hours after the interview but do have the opportunity to record yourself (e.g., in a recording app on your phone), I highly suggest you do the latter and transcribe your notes, or at least email the recording to yourself for safekeeping. You will want to have these notes in front of you when you return for additional interviews and while evaluating (if applicable) multiple offers, and you may even want to keep them for future job searches.

While we all want our job search to be quick and painless, sometimes we get called back months after the initial interview.

Are you sure you will remember what you said and to whom? 

Points to include in your debrief are:

  1. Your Overall Impressions
  2. Thoughts About the Interviewer and Company
  3. Points About You to Emphasize in Future Interviews
  4. Points About the Employer or Role to Emphasize in Future Interviews
  5. Any “Bottom Line” or Potential Stocking Points on Compensation, etc.
  6. Further Questions to Have Answered
  7. Further People to Meet
  8. Pros and Cons vs. Other Potential Roles
  9. Areas of Improvement for Future Interviews
  10. Additional Thoughts or Concerns

Interviewing2

Click here for a sample interview debrief form that you can use for informational interviewing and job interviews. You may wish to compile all of your forms in a single place, whether it is electronically or in a physical binder, so that you can compare and contrast opportunities, have them as a refresher if your “dream job” does not call back for six months and reinvigorate your job search if you have a break and restart (or find a job and then head out into the market again at a later date). We all think we will remember everything from our interview, and invariably we do not. Having these notes available will add depth and continuity to your personal knowledge bank, thereby enhancing your position as a candidate and accelerating your search.

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is the author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through local booksellers) and Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Personal Value Proposition Workbook.

The above article is an excerpt from Master the Interview.

Images: Adobe Stock.

 

military dog tag thank you on wood

Veterans Day, Friday, November 11, 2016  – FREE CAREER COACHING FOR VETERANS

In honor of Veterans Day and the sacrifices military members make for our country and security every day, Segal Coaching will offer free career coaching for U.S. active or retired military members – and their spouses – who wish to seek out roles in the private sector following their military service and/or position their military career with an eye to such future roles.

Coaching will be available in 30-minute sessions between 11:30 am and 2:30 pm EST on Friday, November 11, 2016, and is on a first-come, first-served basis. Appointments should be set up in advance and will be by phone or Skype, so veterans living in any jurisdiction are eligible. 

This is an amazing opportunity for veterans to gain access to a top career coach to help them troubleshoot and guide their transition.

Please contact Segal Coaching for details through this form or by email at asegalATsegalcoaching.com.

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach and resume writer to attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs, including current and former members of the military and their spouses. She volunteers with American Corporate Partners, a veteran mentoring program, and was elected “Mentor of the Month” for September 2016.

AdobeStock_52598491 (GC:CEO).jpg

Becoming a General Counsel (GC) or Chief Legal Officer (CLO), or making a move to a more senior GC or CLO role at a more prominent company, is not simply a matter of rising through the ranks or toiling away for years at a law firm and then deciding one day that you would like to throw in your hat for the position. Years ago, longevity in the legal field, motivation to fill the role and a projection of confidence may have been sufficient to mint a new GC or CLO, but the world has changed and the role of General Counsel has evolved along with it.

In today’s complex and competitive marketplace, successful General Counsels and Chief Legal Officers need to excel across a range of key, identifiable areas (spelled out below) and demonstrate their ability to be a key asset to their companies, helping make or break their long-term success. Often,  GCs and CLOs also run a legal staff and provide leadership and management of other attorneys, compliance professionals and/or administrative personnel. In addition, they may be members of an executive team and collaborate with cross-functional groups to give input on diverse areas such as product development and marketing.

Successful GCs need to excel and execute across a range of key, identifiable areas.

If you are currently in a GC role and want to raise your game (or emphasize your value proposition in an upcoming interview), or if you are looking to become a GC or CLO from a law firm or in-house counsel spot, here are eight core qualities you must cultivate to be successful in this key role.

Know the business inside and out.

1.  Understand the big picture of the business and industry. This point is emphasized so often that the words “big picture” begin to sound cliché, but it is nonetheless #1 on the list of attributes for a successful General Counsel.

The most effective GCs focus on the business first and understand that the legal aspects of any deal, regulatory requirement or dispute must be viewed from the lens of the business goals. (In the case of a non-profit organization, the “business” is the “mission,” and the same principals apply.) This point is especially relevant for attorneys who are aiming to switch from a law firm setting directly to a General Counsel role, as they may not have been as close to the day-to-day needs of the business while working on high-level matters such as acquisitions, litigation or other big ticket items.

To facilitate your top-down understanding, you should ask yourself questions such as:

Corporate Matters:  How does the current acquisition, joint venture, contract or other transaction create value for our company? What risks or implications does it hold, what failures are possible (and how likely are they to happen) and how does it fare in the overall cost-benefit analysis? How will we integrate what is new into what we already have, and who needs to be on board? What should we be thinking about that hasn’t yet been raised?

Compliance: What is the impact and true cost of compliance with current and proposed regulations, and how can we effectively meet our obligations or, if appropriate, obviate the need to comply?

Disputes and Litigation: What is the best approach to meet our short and long-term objectives in the case of a dispute? What unintended consequences can result from our range of possible litigation strategies and how could they affect our business? Is there a better way to get to the right answer?

Marketplace: Are there disruptions in our industry that present opportunities or threats, legal or otherwise? How should we address them and/or get ahead of the game?

Generally: How else can or should we be pro-active in any areas that could have an impact on our business or legal strategy and what economic, political, technological, industry and cultural developments should we monitor? How often? Whom shall I engage (in meetings, conversations and otherwise) in order to stay informed and make the best decisions on that front? 

And personally, you should ask yourself:

How does my role as an executive and attorney fit into the big picture? What do I bring to the table, and how can I bring more?


A key part of understanding the big picture is having a strong handle on financial matters. Understand and take ownership of P&L (even if at first it is only for a single project, or you have “derivative” or shared ownership), speak about your accomplishments in terms of the value you add (money in or costs and risks avoided) and know how to maximize the return on your company’s investment in you and your team.

2.  Demonstrate good judgment. Gain a reputation for making the right calls and connecting the dots with limited information to help your team make it to the finish line on deadline and without any snags. (Note: The best way to cultivate good judgment is by rolling up your sleeves and practicing decision-making under pressure – which may mean stepping out of your comfort zone – to gain exposure, confidence and feedback. It can only learned by doing.)

Good judgment is sometimes called a “sixth sense” or an “ability to see around corners” from business and legal perspectives. Whatever you call it, you cannot be an effective GC without it.

Talk like a business person. Not a lawyer.

3.  Don’t talk like a lawyer. Talk like a business person. Sometimes this is called “talking in English rather than legalese,” but it goes beyond that. The best GCs can prioritize and communicate the key business points and know how to signal and address potential legal issues without dragging business leaders into the fray or wasting their time on concerns that the lawyers need to work out among themselves. They also know how to gently reign in business folks who get ahead of themselves by ignoring those legal risks with which they actually should concern themselves, including business risks that are masquerading as legal risks.

One of the best ways to learn how to talk like a business person (or, more specifically, unlearn how to talk like a lawyer) is to spend time with them, hear them converse, get into their heads and internalize their concerns. In other words, the road to GC is not paved by putting your head down and doing your work. Like good judgment, you can only learn to communicate better by doing.

The road to GC is not paved by putting your head down and doing your work.

4.  Be humble. At the end of the day, the legal function is a support function. Yes, lawyers help steer the boat, but a successful GC understands that sometimes business leaders make decisions that do not follow the best advice of counsel, taking on what a “reasoned head” might decide is too much unnecessary risk. Your potential recourse in this situation, if you disagree with your business counterparts on whether your legal advice is required or simply “advisable,” is fourfold:

(a) you could move over to the business side and do a better job yourself,

(b) you could leave (if you feel consistently disrespected or are concerned about ethics or the longevity of the company or your role);

(c) you could find ways to strengthen your own and/or your team’s standing within the organization so that your advice is taken more seriously (if not always followed); or

(d) you could hold your ground (withholding legal approval) and/or escalate your concerns.

Save the fights for when they really matter, not for when they help you feel vindicated, save face or appear to know best. Having a reputation for “resistance” to business needs is not a good long-term strategy at any company, as it undermines your authority. If you feel that you are too often at loggerheads with your business folks, the best strategy may be to move on to a company that you believe has better business practices or is a better match for your own risk-tolerance levels. (Conversely, if you are at a company that loses out on opportunities because it never takes sufficient risk, in your opinion, you may also be well served by seeking a stronger fit.)

5.  Take leadership roles. Don’t wait for opportunities to present themselves; you need to create them. This means getting in front of the Board of Directors, President or CEO whenever appropriate and possible, making presentations to industry or key clients, spearheading/overseeing important projects and making yourself known as a person of vision and action within the company and outside of it. The best way to get tapped for a GC role, or increase your impact if you are already in one, is to be (and create the reputation of being) someone who effectively leads, mentors, sponsors, motivates, teaches and influences others. In short, make leadership a centerpiece in your professional mission and personal brand.

Make leadership central to your professional mission and personal brand.

6.  Cultivate your political capital. Form relationships and maintain consistent lines of communication with key people inside your company, across your industry and beyond. The greater your political capital, the more you can leverage your current role and be considered for positions with increasing responsibility. If you are a law firm partner or counsel hoping to transition in-house, increase your network of in-house players and business leaders, so that you understand their perspectives and have them in your corner when the need arises. In addition, if you have raised your political capital in the marketplace, you will present as a stronger candidate if and when the opportunity for a lateral move or promotion becomes available.

7. Learn to manage others and delegate work. There may be many GCs and CLOs who have taken on the role without knowing how to manage a group of talented professionals and assign the right tasks to the right players, but to build a successful career as a General Counsel, you will need to guard your own time while managing the performance and workload of your team (which may include outside counsel). 

8.  Have a solid and broad range of substantive legal skills. Increasing and broadening your substantive legal knowledge is only one piece of the GC equation. I address it last because while having a well-developed legal “head” and intuition is a baseline, legal knowledge alone is not sufficient to be an effective General Counsel.

The problem with many legal roles is that an attorney becomes siloed (or niched) into a particular area of practice, whether it is litigation, contracts or otherwise. To be effective, GCs need to address directly or oversee all legal needs of their company or organization. This means they may need expertise or at least a passing knowledge (to “know what they don’t know and should find out,” as the phrase goes) in commercial matters, corporate governance, employment, litigation, real estate, tax, executive compensation, compliance and risk management, in varying orders and degree.

If your goal is to raise to the level of General Counsel or (if currently a GC) become a bigger fish or swim in a bigger pond, you should conduct what I sometimes call a “gap analysis” to determine what is missing in the mix, then work on how you can deepen and round out your skills. Not only will this make you a stronger GC candidate, it will make you a better lawyer and add to your ability to provide judgment in a crisis and day-to-day.

Find and close any gaps in your substantive legal skills. 

Clearly the role of a General Counsel is dynamic and requires a broad range of talents and skills that cannot all be captured in a short summary. Instead, treat these seven points as a roadmap, and feel free to leave me a note in the comments section with your own insights. For further reading, I also suggest “So You Want to Be a General Counsel? How to Maximize Your Chances,” published in the ACC Docket and also available here.

 
Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, writer and resume writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. In her practice serving lawyers, she coaches General Counsels, law firm partners, counsel and associates, as well as government, academic and non-profit attorneys. 

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.
Image: Adobe Stock.
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shutterstock_201564593 (cropped woman jeans red light bulbs)Marilyn hates her job. She has many ideas about where she would like to land next and needs help sorting them out.

Rob is stuck in a rut. He has spent so long at the same role that he can hardly imagine doing anything else. He wants to identify new possibilities and opportunities.

Jamie likes what she is doing and would like to stay in the same field, but she wants to find a way to advance within her company or, if necessary, outside of it. She is also open to changing to a new job altogether, if it does not require starting over.

Each of these career-transition questions inhabit Stage 1 of the Career Transition Process.

The Marilyns, Robs and Jamies of the world crave structure around their exploratory work. Otherwise, they live in their own heads, and they fail to make much real progress that will help them out of their current situations and into a better place. I know, because I was there myself once. I also know because I see it every day in my coaching practice.

  • Stage 1: Explore: Are you open to and ready for change at this time? What options are available? How and where can you explore further? Who can help?

A successful career transition begins with creative brainstorming, targeted research and empirical exploration.

Creative Mindset and Brainstorming

Having a creative mindset allows you to generate ideas and be open to a range of possibilities. Brainstorming isn’t about vetting, that comes later.

Stage 1 is the “what if” stage.

  • What if you changed industries, practice areas or careers?
  • What if you stayed in your current role? How could you improve it?
  • What if you decided to go for CEO, another C-level role or partnership?
  • What if you gave up one of those roles to pursue something new?
  • What if you took a risk and …?

Research

While keeping an open mind, research facilitates brainstorming. I often suggest that clients search job descriptions (not to apply, as background material), and read through what they describe as the basic components of the job. Along with job descriptions, they can often pull up resumes of individuals who are already working in similar jobs from a simple internet search. These resumes can give key insights into what actually goes into a particular job, which may be much different than the job seeker had imagined before such research was conducted.

In addition, job seekers in the First Stage of their job search can research:

(1) industries, fields and companies,

(2) what skills they would need to acquire to achieve certain roles, and what that skill acquisition would entail,

(3) compensation in the desired field, and

(4) information about analogous roles that would help them widen their net of possible roles that could be a fit for their talents, skills and interests.

Remember: If you have gone through job descriptions in the past with a feeling of dread, kick that feeling to the curb. These words on a page have no hold over you. You are simply brainstorming to help yourself get on the right path.

Exploration

In addition to analytical research, the third means to open your mind to the possibilities in your job search is to meet and spend time with individuals in your target fields.

“Hi Pam, it’s Marilyn. Confidentially, I am considering a career move that would put me in a role similar to yours. Would you have some time to meet me for coffee near your office sometime next week? I would like to ask you a few questions so I can better understand what your day-to-day workload is like before I make the leap.”

Take time to network and conduct what are called informational interviews (as opposed to job interviews – you are asking for information, not a job) as you continue to generate ideas and ask people what they know, and who else they may know, to help you explore possibilities.

It is worth noting that you should choose your networking contacts carefully at this fragile Stage 1 of your job search. The proverbial Debbie Downer (who sees everything negatively) will not be helpful for you as you are trying to keep an open mind. Keep Debbie for the vetting process, which is Stage 2 and will be covered in my next post.


Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She helps clients with career exploration and other stages of the job search process. For more information, please visit her website at www.segalcoaching.com.

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

Image above: Shutterstock.

Read Me Fonts cropped

Until I started drafting résumés professionally, I never imagined I would have an entire post devoted to résumé fonts. Yet after some lively conversations with clients about the best fonts to use, I realize it is quite a helpful point to cover.

Fonts depend on many factors, including industry and seniority. More “serious” fonts should match more serious roles. Safer (even boring) fonts match roles where that is appropriate – i.e., where your job is safety, risk management or the like – while more creative styles fit better with creative endeavors. As a result, there is no “one best font” for résumés generally. You should take your cues from the fonts you and your colleagues (or those in your target field, if you are in transition) are accustomed to using.

Here are some favorites and generally acceptable fonts, in alphabetical order:

Arial – clean and easy to read, safe choice, which some may view as boring

Calibri – the default Microsoft Word font, very familiar

Garamond – old style font, timeless, polished elegance

Georgia – traditional alternative to Times New Roman

Times New Roman – universal font and very popular résumé choice, also safe like Arial

Trebuchet MS – sans serif like Arial, a bit different but still comfortable for the reader

Résumé Fonts

A few more points before I close:

  1. Uncommon Fonts. If you choose a less common font, make sure the text is highly readable and accessible by most users of Microsoft Word and other word processing programs. The worst case scenario can come true – your font is not supported, and your document looks like a mess on their screen.
  2. Use of Space on the Page. If space is an issue in your résumé (either you have too many words or too few), the font can change the entire look of your document.
  3. Limiting Your Font Use. Don’t use too many fonts within the document. It doesn’t look fancy, it looks disorganized. I generally suggest only one font. If you use a second one as an accent, be sure to use it consistently throughout the document (i.e., only for your name and contact information on both pages). The same rule applies for capitalization, use of bold, italics, etc.
  4. Colors. Just as you are careful with font, be careful with (and don’t overuse) colors. Again, take a cue from what you have seen in your industry as a proxy for what your target audience will respond to and expect.

If you have any input or questions about fonts, feel free to leave a comment at the end of this post. Thanks!

[Update July 2016: since writing this post, I have also started using Helvetica in résumés, so I’m adding it to my list of fonts. I continue to use Times New Roman generally in the legal field, as it is a font that lawyers are comfortable reading, and often (but not always) use a sans serif font for non-legal clients. I have generally stopped using Calibri as well.]

Copyright 2016 Anne Marie Segal.

 

At the heart of the matter, there are only three basic career challenges:

  • Finding a new job
  • Leaving an old job
  • Performing in a current job

How to get somewhere, how to leave somewhere and how to be somewhere. That’s it.

shutterstock_291297941 (cropped chess pieces)

We go through our daily lives focused on one or more variants of these problems:

Bringing Our “A Game”

Playing to Our Strengths

Interviewing for a New Role

Surviving a Toxic Workplace

Managing Up

Cultivating a Leadership Presence

Setting Boundaries

Changing Fields

Getting Organized

Surviving a Layoff

Gunning for a Promotion

The truth is that each one of us needs to focus on each of these three basic career challenges on a regular basis, whether it is one or more of the variants I mention above or others. We often get focused on the specific “problem at hand, ” and often in a negative way – hating our boss, hating our hours, hating the product we sell, hating our commute, etc.

If you are consistently focused on the micro-issues, you can lose sight of these macro-challenges in your career: how to get somewhere, how to leavesomewhere and how to be somewhere.

As we all know, no job is permanent in today’s world. Even if you love your job or feel that you need (a relative term) to stay with a specific employer for the foreseeable future, your role is constantly changing and your current situation may not be forever. Being in a role, i.e., drilling down to understand what your company or organization is seeking to accomplish and how you can play a greater role in its continued growth and success, is a skill that is infinitely transferable and, in fact, the most important career skill one can have.

Many of us, however, are locked into the particular career problem de jour without keeping our eyes locked on these medium, long-term and ultimate goals. Others only muse about they would like to do or be next, without taking the time to consider logically each individual step to get them there or asking themselves how they can perform better in their current roles. If you fall into either of these camps, you will suffer from disengagement from your career, because you have relinquished the power to drive it. You may have your hands on the wheel, but your can’t ascertain your speed or direction.

Rather than thinking of each of these three basic career challenges (where you are going, what you are leaving behind and how to live in your current role) as individual hurdles, envision your career as a continuum. Each challenge provides the context for the others, and each stage of the process sheds light on the other stages.

1) Finding a new job

What is your target? Do you have clear focus on what you are seeking and why (specifically, what differentiates a new role from those you have previously held)?

If you can’t see what’s on your horizon, what can you do to gain focus? Exercises that help you clarify your own values and value proposition are very helpful in this regard, as is working with a career coach or mentor. (But remember that mentors, and some coaches, have their own biases and blind spots.)

Along with your increased focus, what can you do to present yourself as a compelling candidate? Your résumé is a core document, but don’t forget about cover letters, deal sheets, bios, websites and LinkedIn, to the extent that any of these can help you advance your goals. Beyond the documents, networking and interviewing skills are key, and they both build on the same principles of presenting ourselves well and being able to translate our message to our target audience. These “personal branding” muscles – to use a current buzzword – are ones we should be exercising every day, so they are strong when needed. Lastly, remember that the best momentum comes from what you are already doing – the current aspects of your professional life, written broadly – and that means all of your career accomplishments, talents and transferable skills, not only the obvious ones.

2) Leaving an old job

If you are familiar with change management, you may already recognize that all change involves loss, even changes from which we stand much to gain. Practicing the art of letting go and visualizing yourself in a changed space before you want or need to leave a job will help prepare you for taking that leap. If the choice to leave is yours, these actions can also help give you the motivation to make the change. The worst place to be in a career (relationship, etc.) is unhappy with where you are and unmotivated to do anything about it, which becomes a cycle that is hard to break. Staying attuned to the art of moving on and aware that you have the power to re-create your own circumstances are decisive factors in your career success.

In addition, even before you are on the crux of leaving a role, think about who and what will be left behind. How can you put yourself in a good place each day, as if it were your last day in the role? One example of such preparation is to cultivate key relationships that you would like to maintain after you leave. Another is to resolve or mitigate any disputes that should not be left to linger, if possible. The world gets metaphorically smaller each day, and former work colleagues can easily become future ones, sometimes for the better. In addition, if your new role will be within the same organization (e.g., a promotion), you will get more help, input and support from former colleagues by creating meaningful relationships before the change and maintaining them after your move. Even if certain colleagues seem to have no visible impact on your new position, you can never truly estimate or measure the value of having a solid base of supporters for your cause.

3) Performing in a current job

First, there’s the art of mindfulness and “being in the moment” to be truly productive, connected and alive.

Second, you really can take it with you. By that I mean that whatever progress you make in a current role, you are not only advancing the goals of your company or organization, you are also growing yourself. Unfortunately, as a career coach, I see firsthand how this is something we can easily miss. As I work on résumé writing with clients, for example, I often find they have not “connected the dots” on how their contributions and experience make them compelling candidates to their target audiences. I approach the résumé writing process not only an exercise in putting the right words on the page, but also in formulating the client’s strongest message (i.e., values and value proposition) in the first place.

Last week, for example, I worked with a client who had a junior-sounding “compliance analyst” role on her résumé. As we spoke further, it became clear that (at her relatively small company) she had not only drafted documents, trained staff and the like, she had also essentially co-lead the creation and formalization of the company’s compliance program. While her current role was not where she wanted to stay, it gave her a realm of tools to bridge and bootstrap to her next move. In addition, as she continued to stay fully engaged in the role, she then brought the company through a series of risk-reward analyses and improvements designed to laser-focus their risk-mitigation efforts on the changes that really mattered to their viability and bottom line. I gave her the language to discuss her experience in a larger context, and with that context she is able to more fully leverage her value proposition.

This client’s lessons, successes and wounds – garnered from the process of discerning, persuading and negotiating game-changing measures across business teams and other functions – will serve her well in any future career. As you reflect on your own career, you may find the same hidden gems are planted as you remain engaged and present, for your employer’s growth and your own.

Copyright 2016 Anne Marie Segal.

Originally published as “The Three Macro-Challenges of Your Career” on LinkedIn Pulse.