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Always be looking

man with telescopeIf there is one thing I have learned since beginning my career, it is that one should always be looking for the next opportunity or career move.

This may sound a bit harsh or feel somewhat disloyal to your current employer but these days you never know when you’ll find yourself laid off. Or maybe you’ll wake up one morning and realize that you just can’t stay at your current job any longer, you need to make a change and have no idea where to begin. Likewise, you may miss out on chances to do something you’d really enjoy if you aren’t keeping your eyes and ears open.

This valuable lesson can be placed into everyday practice by attorneys at Bar association events and other professional gatherings. It always helps to know when a lawyer is on the move – maybe that somewhat-more-seasoned associate you’ve seen at happy hours has just made partner or moved on to a larger firm from a smaller one where there might be more room for advancement.

This is especially common in my practice. As Nick Pepersack pointed out in his last post about starting a career in Annapolis, there are a wide variety of ways to practice law in a government-centered town. The same goes for Washington. When I interviewed for my first job on Capitol Hill, my future boss noted that “no one in D.C. stays in the same place very long – six months to a year, maybe two, is very common.”* He happened to be the exception to the rule, but the advice was apt: With great variety comes a great number of people moving from one job to the next.

Think about these moves as openings – that associate you know left somewhere, which means someone is in need of an attorney to fill that workload and someone is hiring. Keeping your ear to the ground or, more importantly, your name at the top of peoples’ minds, will do wonders when you decide you’d like to fill one of those openings.

In my next post, I’ll talk about how exactly to keep your name out there, ask what others are doing and discuss what to do if an opportunity does happen to unexpectedly present itself. (Hint: A little shameless mentioning of friends in your professional network whenever possible is one of them!)

* Friendly plug – my former boss, Tim Richardson of the National Fraternal Order of Police, was recently profiled in a book on Washington lobbyists)