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.
The goal of this article is to raise your awareness of your often unnoticed internal feelings and thinking patterns and how they may be serving or sabotaging your career interests. Specifically, this article discusses (1) why lawyers are typically not positive thinkers; (2) how particular thoughts affect our actions and create reality (whether on a conscious or unconscious level); (3) how to tap into and rid yourself of self-defeating feelings and thoughts; and (4) how positive thinking is an extremely strong tool in helping to achieve success during your job search and throughout your career.
Why Lawyers Are Typically Not Positive Thinkers
We have all heard worn-out phrases such as "think positive" or "don't be negative." We also know that it's probably much better, for both personal and professional reasons, to go through life with a positive attitude rather than a negative one. However, during job searches, most lawyers often overlook the importance of stepping back and observing their feelings and thinking patterns and the effects they have on them. This is not a surprise because lawyers are not usually trained to focus on their internal dialogue or positive thinking. Conversely, lawyers are trained to analyze and foresee worst-case scenarios and to protect their clients from these situations. Furthermore, by working in typically adversarial situations, lawyers are often focused on finding fault in the opposition's position or trying to minimize the weaknesses in their own positions. Lastly, most daily interactions with opposing counsel or your colleagues involve analyzing what is wrong with a particular argument, case, statute, or position. By doing this 10 hours a day, five days a week, year in and year out-it is no surprise that lawyers do not spend much time focusing on positive thinking.