While job satisfaction is a significant aspect of your life, it is also important to remember that there is no perfect job. So how do you decide when to stay and when to go? There is no perfect answer to that question, but there are several important factors to consider:

  1. You do not want to move around a lot.  Job hopping or “shortgevity” never enhances your resume, particularly in the legal field.  Every move you make should be well thought out and strategic.  When in doubt, stay where you are until you get an opportunity that is a good strategic career move, or simply too good to pass up.
  2. Make and regularly update a list of what you like and don’t like about your current position.  Pay attention to those things that are likely to change.  For example, if you don’t like some of the work you are handling, will that work be assigned to more junior lawyers as you gain tenure?  Highlight those things that will not change.  For example, if your firm does not intend to make any new partners and that is your goal.  If more of the items on your list are highlighted, it might indicate that it’s time to consider making a change.
  3. Think twice before leaving to “get a fresh start” after making a professional or personal mistake.  It is worth the effort to try to regain the trust of those you are working with, and this will safeguard your professional reputation and make you a better lawyer.
  4. Think strategically about the direction you want for your career.  Ask yourself if ultimately you can achieve your goals by staying with your current employer.  If not, you may want to look at other options.  An example would be if you have always wanted to handle class action lawsuits, but can’t develop this practice at your firm due to potential conflicts or differing billing structures.
  5. You should investigate opportunities if you do not plan to permanently live in your current city.  As pressures for generating business rise, developing a local network early in your career has become increasingly more important.  If you know that you eventually want to live elsewhere, it is never too early to begin to test the waters in that market. It may take time to find the right position.

Everyone’s situation is unique and there are certainly other factors to consider, but these are the most universal.  If you are contemplating a career move, talking to a reputable recruiter is a good first step.  While recruiters are most successful in placing lawyers with strong credentials and experience that is on-target with their clients’ needs, the market information that recruiters’ possess is valuable to anyone.

By Ann Skalaski, Partner, MillerBlowers, Inc.