As a legal recruiter, I spend my days speaking to lawyers about their job transitions and speaking to law firms about my candidates' credentials. I work in a world where grades, law school, and law firm prestige seem to reign supreme. However, there are countless situations where lawyers with good, but not great, credentials are far more successful in their job searches than those with stellar credentials. I used to believe that, in these circumstances, the lawyer with the better credentials must have had weak interpersonal skills while the lawyer with lesser credentials had strong interpersonal skills, which must have accounted for the difference. While this was true on occasion, it often was not the case. As I studied these types of situations, I realized a common characteristic among the lawyers with lesser credentials that seemed to outperform the others on job searches: They believed in themselves in an uncharacteristically strong way and were extremely positive thinkers about their abilities. Regardless of their credentials or experience, they generated these undeniable airs of self-assurance, as if they just knew they would get the jobs of their choices. And usually they did, because their self-confidence was contagious.
Very prestigious law firm seeking a corporate associate with 2-4 years of experience. The ideal candidate will have very strong credentials and experience and must be willing to assume substantial client-management responsibilities.Let's also assume that both Attorney A and Attorney B fit the general requirements, but Attorney A is a positive thinker and Attorney B is not. Their reactions (both conscious and unconscious) and responses to this ad will be vastly different. Attorney A will likely view the ad with excitement because, although her grades were not in the top 5% of her class, she believes she did quite well, has gained good experience, and has a strong desire to take on more client-management responsibilities. In short, she sees this as a possible opportunity that she can take advantage of to step up to a better firm and gain more experience. She realizes she might get rejected, but also realizes that she certainly won't get the job without trying. Thus, Attorney A submits her resume with the hope that she will get the interview. It turns out that the firm is in dire need to add attorneys, and although there are certainly more qualified attorneys, the firm calls Attorney A in for an interview. Although the firm realizes that Attorney A is not at the top of her class and is coming from only a marginally prestigious firm, the firm is impressed with Attorney A's experience, enthusiasm, and confidence in herself, as well as her willingness to take on the new challenge. Thus, the firm extends Attorney A an offer that is 20% above her current salary.
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