A Wellbeing Program is Good Business

Written by Susan B. Silverman, J.D., M.B.A.. Posted in Uncategorized


Implementing a wellbeing program is good business because of its positive impact to the corporate bottom line.  It is a win-win for both the company and its employees.  Employers who actively support and promote employee wellbeing see improvements in workforce engagement (the commitment and energy brought to the workplace), productivity, and retention.[1] Simultaneously, employees who participate in the wellbeing program feel valued and improve their mental and physical wellness. There is a real need to improve employee mental and physical health.  A 2016 survey by the American Bar Association found that attorneys are under profound health stress.  Up to 36 percent of the 13,000 practicing lawyers surveyed were classified as active problem drinkers.  Between 19 and 28 percent were struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression.  The surveyed attorneys were not happy and may have been depressed, burned out, struggling with substance abuse, and other physical health issues, such as strokes or heart attacks.  These mental and physical health issues are not limited to attorneys.  Business people also have similar mental and physical challenges.  Mental health problems affect many employees — a fact that is usually overlooked because these disorders tend to be hidden at work.  Researchers analyzing results from the U.S. National Comorbidity Survey, a nationally representative study of Americans ages 15 to 54, reported that 18% of those who were employed said they experienced symptoms of a mental health disorder in the previous month.[2]  Accordingly, it is important and necessary to improve employee mental and physical wellness.

In addition, there is a direct connection between employee physical and mental health and their engagement, productivity, and retention. [3] Engaged employees are often described as involved, committed, and enthusiastic.  In contrast, disengaged employees are usually mentally “checked-out”, unmotivated and just “going through the motions.”  Engaged employees are more productive, content, and loyal to the organization.

A wellbeing program should be holistic and reach 6 dimensions of wellbeing.  The dimensions of wellbeing include:

  • Occupational:  Satisfaction, Growth, Financial
  • Emotional:  Manage Emotions and Protect Mental Health
  • Physical:  Healthy Lifestyle, Help-Seeking When Needed
  • Intellectual:  Learn, Pursue Challenge, Keep Developing
  • Spiritual:  Meaning and Purpose
  • Social:  Connection, Belonging, Contributing

A holistic wellbeing program improves productivity because participants’ physical, social, and emotional needs are met.  In contrast, productivity decreases when individuals’ wellbeing is disregarded or unnoticed.  Poor employee productivity occurs when an employee is physically on the job, but because of illness or other medical conditions, is not fully functioning, engaged, or focused.  This type of poor productivity is called presenteeism and can cut individual productivity by one-third or more.[4]  Research shows that a main cause of presenteeism is poor health.[5] This group of employees chooses lifestyles that cause decreased productive work time. Therefore, it is a good business decision to implement a wellbeing program for both the health and welfare of your employees and the company.

1.  A Wellbeing Program Improves Productivity by Increasing Employee Happiness and Satisfaction.

Employees participating in a wellbeing program experience increased happiness and satisfaction, which is correlated with improved productivity. There are numerous studies that show that happier employees are more productive in the workplace,[6]such as a2008 Gallup poll in the US that found that retailers with happy employees generated an extra $21 per square foot than average, which produced up to an extra $32 million profit for a chain.[7] Similarly, in Harvard Psychologist Daniel Goleman’s book Primal Leadership, one study shows that for every 2% increase in how happy employees were, revenue grew by 1%.[8]  In order to have a robust business, corporate employers should make employees’ happiness a priority and enjoy a corresponding increase in productivity.

Employees feel happy in the workplace when they feel that they matter and that their work has an impact upon their advancement, as well as, the organization.  By implementing a wellbeing program, employers are increasing their employees’ happiness because it makes them feel that they are valued by supporting their physical and mental health. For example, when employers offer healthy and stress-reducing activities, such as walking, yoga, or meditation, the employees feel happier because the employer took action to help manage their stress.  Also, happiness increases when employees are participating in a wellbeing program because they develop and experience a deeper social connection with their work team and other corporate members.  

As discussed above, happy employees are good for business by increasing productivity. Therefore, corporations should make business decisions that increase their employees’ happiness, which will increase productivity.

2.  A Wellbeing Program Improves Productivity from the Benefits of Physical Activity.

A wellbeing program improves productivity because part of the program involves physical movement, such as walking, stretching, yoga, stair climbing, or another exercise activity. The activity does not have to be at a high intensity.  While it is accepted that physical activity can lower blood pressure and help with weight loss, studies show that our cognitive abilities improve when we integrate some form regular activity in our lives.  The cognitive benefits include the following:

  • Improved concentration
  • Sharper memory
  • Faster learning
  • Prolonged mental stamina
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Lower stress

After participating in a physical activity, you and your employees will feel more energized and may have a new creative thought or solution to a matter on which you are working.[9]  The physical activity can free your mind, which gives your subconscious the freedom to generate new creative ideas.[10]  Importantly, productivity improves because brain function is increased from physical activity, such as taking a walking break.[11]

3. A Wellbeing Program Increases Employee Satisfaction, Happiness, and Retention.

A wellbeing program helps employees feel valuedand that their health and welfare is important, and a priority to their employer.  A wellbeing program causes employee loyalty and commitment, and results in greater retention.[12]  The wellbeing program is a powerful tool that can keep top talent at you company.  For example, Forty-five percent of Americans working at small to medium-sized companies say that they would stay at their jobs longer because of employer-sponsored wellness programs.[13]  As additional evidence, the Limeade Institute recently explored the connection between turnover rates and wellbeing participation.  The Institute found that turnover rates were four times higher among employees who were not registered for a well-being program compared to registered employees.[14] Therefore, employee participation in a wellbeing program increases employees’ happiness, satisfaction, and retention.

Conclusion

A corporate wellbeing program is good and sound business.  The program improves the health and welfare of its employees, which results in improved productivity in the workplace.  It also results in greater employee loyalty and retention.  As a consequence of increased productivity and greater retention, corporate revenue increases.  It is simply good business for companies to care for their employees and implement a wellbeing program.


  1. https://hbr.org/2010/12/whats-the-hard-return-on-employee-
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/mental-health-problems-in-the-workplace
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alankohll/2018/07/30/your-employee-engagement-strategy-needs-more-wellness/#4f6811642b51
  4. https://hbr.org/2004/10/presenteeism-at-work-but-out-of-it
  5. Smokers were 28% more likely to have high presenteeism than non-smokers. Employees with an unhealthy diet were 66% more likely to have high presenteeism than those who regularly ate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Employees who didn’t exercise very much were 50% more likely to have high presenteeism than employees who were regular exercisers. https://www.wellsteps.com/blog/2018/07/04/reasons-to-have-a-wellness-program-benefits-of-wellness/
  6. http://fortune.com/2015/10/29/happy-productivity-work/; http://www.smf.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Social-Market-Foundation-Publication-Briefing-CAGE-4-Are-happy-workers-more-productive-281015.pdf
  7. https://modernretail.co.uk/boost-employee-wellbeing/
  8. https://happymanifesto.com/2017/05/04/happy-workplaces-more-profitable/
  9. Exercise boosts brain function. https://www.business.com/articles/working-out-your-way-to-intense-productivity/
  10. Researchers at Stanford University found that there was a direct correlation between walking and creativity.https://news.stanford.edu/2014/04/24/walking-vs-sitting-042414/
  11. https://www.business.com/articles/working-out-your-way-to-intense-productivity/
  12. www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/Wellness_EmployeeRetention.aspx[1]https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-
  13. Id.
  14. https://www.selfcareforhealthcare.com/nurse-retention-strategies/employee-wellbeing-programs-dramatically-reduce-turnover/


Boomerang Attorneys

Written by Susan B. Silverman, J.D., M.B.A.. Posted in Uncategorized

Some attorneys who are employees of a firm or business, leave their jobs for many different reasons, such as better opportunities, more money, or child or elder care.  Fortunately, the legal practice allows lawyers to develop strong transferable skills, such as analytical reasoning, research, organization, communication, business development, marketing, and problem solving skills.  As a result, some attorneys leave the practice for opportunities they believe will be more satisfying, provide greater growth, or better work/life balance.  Although some attorneys may have left their legal position for good and valid reasons, some want to return to their prior position or the practice of law when circumstances change.  These people can be described as “boomerang” or re-entry attorneys.  Boomerang attorneys will need to overcome some of the same issues as “re-entry” attorneys.  If they left the law or the type of law they practiced, they will need to update their knowledge of the current laws in their specialty, their network in the legal arena, and be sure that their law license is active.

Boomeranging is exploding because long gone are the days of life-long employment with the same employer.  Job-hopping has been transformed from a character flaw to a career plan.  Building a portable career becomes more important than getting a gold watch at retirement from your loyal lifetime employer.  Boomeranging is increasing because of social media, such as LinkedIn and firms’ alumni network.  These sites make it easier for companies to keep track of former employees and provide a channel for recruiting, client development, and branding.  Boomeranging is also increasing because it is quicker and cheaper to re-hire a former employee.  It has been reported that the cost to re-hire a boomerang employee is 1/3 to 2/3 the cost of hiring a “virgin” employee.  When firms re-hire former employees they can avoid external recruiters and prolonged review of resumes.  Additionally, boomerang employees are desirable because they tend to have better retention rates upon return – they have seen other less-attractive options.

To preserve your opportunities for a favorable reference or being a boomerang attorney (you never know what the future holds), it is incredibly important to leave your employer on good terms – be respectful and don’t burn any bridges.  Good luck on your career path!  If you would like further information about this subject matter, please go to RxSUMELAW.com and/or contact me at susan@RxSUMELAW.com.

 

Attorneys In Transition

Written by Susan B. Silverman, J.D., M.B.A.. Posted in Uncategorized

Did you receive a bad review?  Are you unhappy in your practice?  Did you get asked to leave the law firm in which you are practicing law?  Were you fired from a firm in which you were the sole partner?  If you answered yes to any of the foregoing, you are an attorney in transition.  Whatever the reasons for being in transition, it may feel like you’ve been punched in the gut and you feel demoralized.  You may not have dusted off your resume or interviewed since graduating law school, and panic begins to set in as you contemplate the next steps in your career path (or you’re thinking early retirement).

Career Move

As an attorney in transition, you will need to decide whether to continue practicing law either at another firm or in a different specialty area.  Some lawyers express a desire to leave the practice of law and want to use their analytical, communication, writing, and persuasiveness skills in a different avocation, such as in business or fund raising activities.  Other attorneys in transition choose to remain in law or a law-related field and change firms.  Lawyers that stay in the law may find it more satisfying to:  (1) move to an office with a different culture; (2) work in a different area of law; or (3) work for a different type of client.  Some attorneys in transition have successfully left law firms to work as in-house counsel, in a business venture, or in a nonprofit organization. Of course, there are attorneys who no longer want to practice law.  Those people will continue to draw upon the skills they developed in their practice because those abilities, analytical thinking, as well as writing and verbal communication expertise, are useful and transferable to another workplace.

 1.   Where Do You Begin?

First, identify your interests, values, and skills. You can perform this self-assessment on you own or work with a legal career counselor, such as susan@RxSUMELAW.com.  In either case, you should make a list of every paid or volunteer job that you have held and examine the list to see if there are any common themes to the positions, such as the type of work, litigious and confrontational verses transactional and cooperative assignments, and the environment, small or large offices.  Additionally, you could take one or more self-assessment tools, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) and the Strong Interest Inventory® (Strong).  These assessments can provide valuable insight when making a career change or dealing with a change in your personal or professional life.  The MBTI assessment will help you understand your own personal work style and what type of work will make you happy.  It will also help you better understand how to interact effectively with your colleagues in the workplace.  Whereas the Strong helps to identify specific work content that will inspire you and keep you motivated, and provides detailed suggestions of jobs that are likely to provide you with a high degree of professional satisfaction.  In combination, these two assessments can provide unparalleled insight into the process of a career change.

2.  Work History

The next step of your transition would be to discuss with a career counselor or write down, if you are not working with a counselor, the pros and cons of your current position.  Then working in reverse chronological order, describe the responsibilities you liked and disliked in your previous positions.  This narrative of work history will help guide your next move on your career path to career satisfaction.

3.  Stay or Go

Some lawyers express a desire to leave the practice of law and use their analytical thinking, and their verbal and written communication skills in a different avocation, such a business or fund raising activities.  Other attorneys in transition choose to remain in law or a law-related field.  Lawyers that stay in the law may find it more satisfying to move to an office with a different culture, a different area of law, or a different type of client.  Lawyers that stay in the law may find it more satisfying to move to an office with a difference in culture, a different area of law, or a different type of client.  Other attorneys leave law firms to work as in-house counsel or in a nonprofit organization.  Those who leave the law find that the abilities learned in law school and the practice of law are transferable skills in another workplace.

4.  Marketing Tools

If you are an attorney in transition, you should use three critical marketing tools to sell yourself to a potential employer.  The tools are your:  (A) Resume; (B) LinkedIn Profile; and (C) Biography.

A.  Resume

Your resume will be the primary instrument used to introduce, define, and market yourself to potential employers.  You should add your current position to your most recent resume if you have not already done it.  Review and revise your resume so that it is error free.  Note that 61% of recruiters automatically dismiss a resume if it contains typos or misspelled words.

An effective resume:

  • Highlights your academic and work experience
  • Presents relevant skills and achievements
  • Demonstrates good organizational and writing ability
  • Is aesthetically appealing

If your resume needs a full overhaul, you should consider retaining a legal career counselor, such as RxSUMELAW, to help update and revise your resume.  This article will not expand upon all of the necessary elements of a legal resume because the topic regarding how to draft a legal resume is detailed and lengthy on its’ own.  For further information regarding drafting legal resumes, please contact susan@RxSUMELAW.com.

B.  LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is your online resume.  Take your resume and insert it on your profile, and then expand it by adding more details.  Whether your profile is used to network, acquire clients, or job search, it should convey what you do and the services you offer.  If you have a professional photo, use it so people can attach a name with a face.  Use LinkedIn to professional network.  It can also be used to acquire introductions to someone you want to meet so long as you are within a few connections of them.

C.  Attorney Biography

Your biography or “About” page is important and one of the most viewed pages in the firm or lawyer’s website.  It is a significant marketing tool for new business and/or employment and should be outstanding.  Your bio should tell a story.  The first sentence should be an attention grabber and summarize what makes you unique from other attorneys, such as your ability to explain a problem simply and resolve it quickly.  Then, describe the type of legal issues you handle.  Next, you could describe any news worthy issues that you took on and how you solved it.  It is important to let the reader get to know you – the areas of law that you are passionate about, why you practice law, and the type of clients with whom you enjoy to represent.  This information will help build rapport and form a connection with the reader.

Like LinkedIn, post a picture in the your biography in which you are smiling to convey friendliness, approachability, and confidence.

In conclusion, an attorney in transition needs to decide whether to continue practicing, change firms, change the type law practiced, or leave the law.  To answer one or more of those questions, the attorney needs to be introspective and/or use one or more self-assessment tools to identify his interests, values, and skills.  Thereafter, he will have a clearer direction for career satisfaction and happiness.  The attorney in transition can then update his marketing tools and engage in an effective targeted job search.  Good luck on your career path!  If you would like further information about this subject matter, please go to RxSUMELAW.com and/or contact me at susan@RxSUMELAW.com.

Re-Entry is Harder for Men

Written by Susan B. Silverman, J.D., M.B.A.. Posted in Uncategorized

The majority of men who are re-entering the legal field took time off of their career to care for their children. They have become known as Stay-at-Home Dads or SAHDs, and will eventually want to return to the work force. The number of dads who reported that they do not work outside the home rose to 2 million in 2012, as compared to 1.1 million in 1989.[i] The number of stay-at-home dads (SAHDs) is rising because more fathers are becoming primary care givers for the family.[ii] The profile of SAHDs does not fit into any common stereotype. Most men who become primary caregivers have been successful lawyers, doctors, engineers, and other highly educated individuals who enjoyed healthy salary and benefit packages before choosing a different “career path.”[iii] Obviously, some men become primary caregivers for reasons having nothing to do with career choices. Those decisions were made easier by higher salaries for women, a greater acceptance of the need to accommodate the cost of childcare, and questioning personal fulfillment.[iv]

Re-Entry of Stay-at-Home Dads

More men will be re-entering the work force, as the children of the SAHDs become more mature and self-sufficient. After taking a career break, SAHDs will have a harder time returning to the work force as compared to stay-at-home moms because they will face cultural biases against fathers who abandon the traditional “hunting” role to care for their children. They will confront more discrimination and stigma than women for taking a career break to raise children because historically it is more acceptable or expected for women take time off from their career for childcare. As a result, SAHDs will need tools to prevent and manage such thoughts and behavior.

1. Keep Your Foot in the Door

In order to successfully re-enter the work force, it is best if men never totally leave it. Try to “keep your foot” in the door by working part-time (it could turn into a full time position in the future), or volunteering for your company or another. This practice will help keep your skills current and help keep you abreast of changes in your practice. Moreover, this will allow you to expand your contacts and networking opportunities.

2. Update Your Resume

As with any job search, re-entry men should first update their resume. Even under ordinary circumstances, revising and updating a resume requires work. However, updating the resume of a SAHD and explaining or deciding not to explain the career break is challenging. Some SAHDs list their time off as a domestic engineer or household manager on their resume and highlight parallel job skills, such as managing priorities and multitasking, which shows productivity. Others refer to themselves as consultants and include their old job duties into their current ones. However, some SAHDs choose to omit any explanation for a gap in their resume fearing that potential employers would view their time off as a lack of drive and commitment to their profession, an issue that some woman encounter as well. There is not a right or wrong answer, nor are there any easy solutions to the resume gap.

3. Network

To successfully re-enter the job market, men, like women, will need to network. First, reach out and call former co-workers and other connections to arrange a convenient time to meet over coffee to “catch-up.” During that meeting, learn about what that person has been working on professionally. Then, you can let them know what type of position you are seeking and if they know anyone with whom you could speak with regarding that type of job. Second, use online platforms, such as LinkedIn, to reconnect and maintain relationships. By reconnecting with your professional contacts, you will be able to tap into the hidden job market. Additionally, some of these people could provide references because they will have known you in a professional role and will be able to verify your qualities and skills.

Networking is a very valuable tool to find a job. In a 2010 survey conducted by a Milwaukee staffing company, 41 percent of respondents said that they found their positions through networking, while only 2 percent found their jobs through Internet job boards.[v] Men need to develop relationships with people who know them in a context other than that of caregiver. For example, if a SAHD met someone who asked, “what do you do,” it is better for the SAHD to answer that he is an attorney (true), rather than a stay-at-home-dad. If he had answered the latter, the conversation will have likely ended. If the SAHD focuses the attention on his experience and skill set, he will open himself up to new contacts and opportunities in his desired field. Additionally, the SAHD may be able to leverage the relationship into a personal recommendation for a job opportunity.

4. Contract Work, Voluntary Work, or Change the Type of Law Practiced

Additionally, men can re-enter the legal market by exploring contract or temporary work, volunteer or pro bono work, or changing the type of law they practice. Any of these choices would be better than remaining idle.

 Necessary Interview Skills for SAHDs

Once the SAHD gets an interview, it is important that the interviewer focus on the job, the company, and your credentials and skills. If the interviewer is talking about how lucky you were to stay home with your kids, rather than about the particulars of the job opportunity or your professional experience, you should try to redirect the conversation. One way to redirect the conversation is to briefly summarize why you decided to stay home, reassure the interviewer that childcare is no longer an issue, and articulate what you can bring to the job.

In conclusion, it is difficult for stay-at-home dads to re-enter the work force because of stigma, discrimination, and a gap in their resume. If the stay-at-home dad prepares, he can overcome those obstacles.


[i]Rising Number of stay-at-Home Dads, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/06/05/growing-number-of-dads-home-with-the-kids/st-2014-06-05-stay-at-home-dads-01/

[ii]Growing Number of Dads Home with the Kids, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/06/05/growing-number-of-dads-home-with-the-kids/

[iii] Exploring the Daddy Track, http://www.unc.edu/~mbphilli/daddy.html

[iv] Id.

[v] Networking Is Still The Best Way To Find A Job, Survey Says http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2011/06/07/networking-is-still-the-best-way-to-find-a-job-survey-says/

Think Twice Before Putting Your Career “On Hold”

Written by Susan B. Silverman, J.D., M.B.A.. Posted in Uncategorized

Andi Dorfman is an Assistant District Attorney for Fulton County, Georgia, and chose to take a 3-month leave of absence so she could appear in ABC’s reality dating shows “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.”  Ms. Dorfman was a contestant in the 18th season of The Bachelor, which aired January 5, 2014 – March 10, 2014.  Immediately after The Bachelor concluded, Ms. Dorfman was selected as the next Bachelorette in the 10th season of The Bachelorette, which premiered on May 19, 2014.

Prior to being cast, Ms. Dorfman stated that her greatest achievement was becoming an attorney in 2012, and her “dream job” was being an Assistant District Attorney.  She wants to “keep her community safe by putting criminals behind bars.”[i]  Nevertheless, Ms. Dorfman chose to put her career on hold for a least three months to “find love” on reality television.  She, like many others, seeks the elusive true and everlasting love that may only be possible in fairytale romances.  In reality, Ms. Dorfman may have put her career trajectory at risk.

As an attorney who left the practice and subsequently re-entered the legal field, I hope Ms. Dorfman thought long and hard about the consequences of leaving her career.  Even though she only took a short break, she will need to overcome obstacles and challenges to successfully re-enter her practice.  Like other re-entry attorneys, Ms. Dorfman will need to:  (1) prove her renewed commitment to her position and to the practice; (2) become current in the law; (3) catch-up on assignments; and (3) network with others in her field.

To successfully re-enter her practice, Ms. Dorfman will also need to manage being a quasi-public figure as a consequence of thrusting herself, her family, and friends into the public through the reality dating shows.  It will be interesting to learn how Ms. Dorfman will empanel a dispassionate jury to hear and decide a case when the jurors may be more interested in seeing her, rather than listening to the facts of the case.

[i] http://abc.go.com/shows/the-bachelorette/news/extras/140310-andi-dorfman-next-bachelorette

If You Think You Finished Your Resume, Think Again!

Written by Susan B. Silverman, J.D., M.B.A.. Posted in Uncategorized

The resume drafting process involves the 3 Rs: review, revise, and repeat.  This is the method to draft, clarify, and refine your resume.  Your resume is a continuous work in progress.  It can always be improved, strengthened, and cleaned-up.  Your resume should change as you gain credentials and experience.  As information is added, the format of your resume may need to be revised.  It would also be wise to have another person proofread your resume to catch careless errors such as typos and spelling mistakes.  According to CareerBuilder, 61% of recruiters automatically dismiss a resume if it contains typos.  Likewise, a candidate will be disqualified if words are misspelled.  To avoid these oversights, review, revise, and repeat the resume drafting process.  Additionally, punctuation errors can disrupt the readability and flow of a resume.  Missing or misplacing a period, colon, comma or semi-colon can confuse a reader.  Make sure that each punctuation mark is in the right place and avoid using exclamation marks!  Other common mistakes include using the inappropriate tense.  The description of your current position should be written in the present tense, while the responsibilities of prior jobs should be written in the past tense.  You should check that you followed this rule and have not switched between tenses throughout the document by reviewing and revising where necessary.  Make sure your resume is easy to read and error free.  Otherwise, a recruiter will quickly discard your resume without deciding if you fit the position.  Research at Ladders.com has shown that recruiters only spend an average of 6.25 seconds looking at a candidate’s resume before deciding whether he or she is a fit for a job.  It is critical to your success to continuously review and revise your resume so a recruiter does not discard it because of careless errors.  By following the resume drafting process, a candidate’s resume should get passed the recruiter’s initial review because the errors will have been caught and corrected.

Opting-In

Written by Susan B. Silverman, J.D., M.B.A.. Posted in Uncategorized

Both men and women leave the practice of law because they find legal work and/or the firm environment dissatisfying, for elder care, or parenting reasons.  When leaving a legal job, or if you have already “opted-out” of your job, think systemically and strategically about your future position whether it is in law or in a different career.  The Center for Work-Life Policy reports that lawyers who leave the profession earn, on average, 41 percent less that their counterparts who never take time out.[i]  Additionally, the challenges of finding a new job can be daunting and discouraging, even if an individual is only unemployed for a short time, such as one month.  Many people with advance degrees and good work experience naively believe that they can take a career “time-out” and not suffer a penalty.  Unfortunately, they are blindsided when attempting to re-enter the work force because they are routinely rejected without even being invited to interview for the sought after position.

Prior to re-entering the workforce, the unemployed professional should do some soul searching to learn what they want to do, and how he or she wants to do it, i.e., full-time, part-time, flextime, job sharing, telecommuting, etc..  Those issues relate to the individual’s work-life balance and the individual’s core values.  The answer will be unique to that individual and is guided by his interests, values, and skills.  As a starting point, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and the Strong Interest Inventory® can assist in that regard.

Opt-In With Education

In order to opt-in to the workforce, an unemployed person may need to attend conferences to stay current in the type of law practiced, in a new specialty of the law, or in an alternative career outside the legal arena.  If the job seeker is changing the type of law practiced, a course will teach the necessary skills and information.  It will also show potential employers the unemployed individual’s commitment to the new practice area.  Likewise, if an unemployed job seeker is switching careers, that person will benefit from coursework to learn the trade and to provide experience in the new field. Such preparation will allow the individual to hit the ground running.

Opt-In Through Networking

Another way to enter the work force is to maintain or reconnect with your contacts using social media, personal meetings (perhaps over coffee), and/or at conferences or trade shows.  Job seekers should attend local networking events that are hosted by professional associations in their field.  It is helpful to the job seeker to take advantage of social networking, which includes maintaining a current LinkedIn profile as well as checking it regularly.  To increase the chances of successfully landing a new position, an unemployed job seeker should get prepared for the sought after position prior to sending their resumes to potential employers.

Opt–In Through Volunteering

Additionally, an unemployed professional can re-launch their career by volunteering.  This is useful when the job seeker is interested in working for a certain organization but concerned that their resume will not measure up to other applicants with more recent work experience.  By volunteering, the organization can learn about the ability and character of the job seeker before the individual applies to the sought after position.

Opt-In By Interning or Consulting

An unemployed professional can also re-launch their career by attaining an internship or consulting opportunity.  For example, if an unemployed job seeker believes that a company is interested but is concerned about his career break, the job seeker could suggest a three-month, nonbinding internship or consulting arrangement.  At the end of the three months, the company can hire the job seeker permanently, terminate the individual, or renew the arrangement for another trial period.  Starting out as a paid intern or consultant provides both the job seeker and the potential employer an opportunity to see if the job opportunity fits.

In conclusion, an attorney should think carefully about their future before opting-out of their position.  The attorney will likely face challenges if and when he opts-in to his career.  When an unemployed professional opts-in, there will probably be economic costs due to leaving the work force and there will be costs involved in learning and knowing the current laws and technology.  The best practice is to think carefully and strategically before opting-out so the individual maximizes their opportunity to return to work.


[i] Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Carolyn Buck Luce, Peggy Shiller and Sandra Southwell, Center for Work-Life Policy, “The Hidden Brain:  Off Ramps and On-Ramps in Women’s Career” (Cambridge Mass, Harvard Business Review) 2005 at 102, Exhibit L1: 19.

 

Contract Work Versus Unemployment Stigma

Written by Susan B. Silverman, J.D., M.B.A.. Posted in Uncategorized

If you are a licensed attorney and cannot obtain a full-time position practicing law because of the economy or fierce competition in the market place, you should look for contract work, also known as temporary work, or volunteer your services.  You should work as a contract attorney or volunteer your services to build your resume by developing skills, honing your interests, and developing an expertise.  This will increase your marketability.  Working as a contract attorney or a volunteer, i.e., pro bono, can also provide numerous networking opportunities to expand your professional contacts, which could increase your chances of finding publicized jobs and/or unpublished positions.  While it has been argued that contract attorneys typically earn less money, receive fewer benefits, and have little job security, the benefits of working as a contract attorney or a volunteer greatly exceeds that of remaining idol and stagnate.

Studies at UCLA and Stoney Brook University[i] found that there is an enduring bias against hiring unemployed job hunters with the same qualifications as the hired person.  Simply stated, an employed job seeker will get hired before an unemployed job seeker with the same credentials.  “Unemployment stigma exists… and leads to hiring bias against the unemployed,” regardless of the candidate’s qualifications.[ii]  In the studies, researchers found that unemployed job candidates were rated less competent than their employed peers.  One of the researchers explained that participants in the study were HR professionals as well as people from the general population who were divided into two groups and given an identical set of resumes of job applicants.[iii]  One group was told that the job applicants were currently employed while the other group was told that the applicants had been unemployed for about a month.[iv]  The participants were then asked to review and evaluate the resume of employed and unemployed job seeker.  The participants rated the unemployed candidate’s resume less favorably than the employed candidate’s resume on both perceived competence and warmth.”[v]  The study provides evidence that the mere status of being unemployed can lower the chances of attaining employment.  The study’s results suggest that unemployment stigma can lower the chances of an unemployed person attaining employment even when the qualifications of the unemployed job seeker and the employed job seeker are the same.

In conclusion, an unemployed attorney should work as a contract attorney or volunteer their services to:  build their skill-set; interests; develop an expertise; network; and importantly, avoid the unemployment stigma.


[i] The Stigma of Unemployment:  When Joblessness Leads o Being Jobless, Geoffrey C. Ho, Margaret Shih, and Daniel J. Walters of UCLA, and Todd L. Pittinsky of Stony Brook University, Publication Date 12-12-2011, http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/7nh039h1

[ii] Id.

[iii] NYC Council bans bias against unemployed following UCLA findings, UCLA TODAY, Faculty and Staff New, http://today.ucla.edu/portal/ut/PRN-new-york-city-council-targets-243483.aspx

[iv] Id.

[v] The Stigma of Unemployment:  When Joblessness Leads o Being Jobless, Geoffrey C. Ho, Margaret Shih, and Daniel J. Walters of UCLA, and Todd L. Pittinsky of Stony Brook University, Publication Date 12-12-2011, http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/7nh039h1

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