Career Goals Planning

“M” is for finding “motivation”: when your search for a first-year position isn’t working

Written by Paulette Pommells

Having trouble finding an associate position now that you are called to the Bar? You’re not alone.

There are plenty of smart, successful people who struggle with finding jobs. Why is this? Many times, they don’t know how to look for work. Most people have never been taught how to find a job. So they do the things that they “think” they should do — applying for positions online, posting their résumé on job boards, and even creating a LinkedIn profile (even if they’re not sure what to do with it). But when they don’t get the results they want, they get stuck. With no immediate results, it’s easy to get frustrated. Many times, they won’t hear anything back at all from their applications, so they’re not sure how to move forward.

I’ve just had another client land a first-year associate position. From my experience, people who are most successful in finding — and landing — the job they want have several things in common:

  1. Clearly defined goals — and the ability to research how to accomplish those goals. This includes identifying firms you’re interested in working for, potential job titles, contact information for people in the position to hire you (or connect you to the hiring partners), and knowledge of the firm.
  1. The motivation to invest time, energy, and money in their job search. This includes a strong résumé and other career communication documents, the right interview attire, career assessments, coaching to improve skills necessary for success in the job search (i.e., interview preparation, résumé review, etc.)
  1. The ability to document specific achievements and accomplishments in their education, work experience, and/or volunteer work.

If your search for a junior role isn’t working, it’s time to do something different. Treat your job search as a project, with defined objectives, an action plan, and a timeline. Ask someone you trust (a spouse, friend, another jobseeker, or a career coach) to be your accountability partner — someone who will support, encourage, and motivate you in your search.

The first step is to figure out where you’re stuck.

There are several areas where you might be having difficulty. If you are having trouble in more than one area, start with first reason and “fix” that before you move on to the next area.

  1. Not Getting Interviews? Re-Examine Your Résumé

A professionally written résumé is ideally suited for one particular job target. If you’re not getting calls for interviews, your résumé may be the issue.

Take a look at your résumé:

  • If your résumé was professionally written, have you changed the wording from the original version? Did you change anything on the recommendation of a friend or colleague? Did you “water down” the language by adding or removing information?
  • Are you using the same résumé to apply for different positions?

If you wrote the résumé yourself — or had a friend or relative write it — consider having it reviewed by a professional résumé writer who can give you objective advice about whether it meets today’s standards for an interview-ready résumé. The process of having your résumé reviewed by a professional résumé writer can be eye-opening. Most résumé writers will work with you to identify your “personal brand” (what makes you unique).

  1. Getting Interviews, But Not Job Offers?

If you’re getting interviews, your résumé is doing its job — assuming you’re getting interviews for the types of jobs you want. But what you do before, during, and after the interview can increase your chances of getting the offer. Working with a professional or trusted colleague can expose the areas upon which you need to improve.

Where are you stuck in your job search?


Every year, Lawyer Coach Paulette works with new-calls to help them make a graceful transition. Contact her to schedule a 30-minute complimentary call ( or visit



About the author

Paulette Pommells

I am a certified coach with a creative approach to bring out the best of the 21st Century Lawyer! A 21st Century Lawyer myself, I was faced with a professional dilemma years ago: I had become a “successful” lawyer, and yet something didn't feel right. One day, I hired a career coach and realized how similar coaching is to the legal strategy process. I decided to share this breakthrough with every single lawyer. Today, Creative Choices™ is a sought-after technique by lawyers, law students and law firms when it comes to professional challenges of all kinds. You can learn more about this on my website or by emailing me at

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