When your primary work provider departs and leaves you behind, it could have career-changing implications for you, or it could end up meaning very little.

When your primary work provider departs and leaves you behind, it could have career-changing implications for you, or it could end up meaning very little.

Where will your work come from now?

Chances are, when your work provider left, she took her business with her.  If you want to stay at your firm without her, you must ask yourself where your work will come from.  Do you have excellent relationships with other partners in the firm who have work to give you?  Are those partners fully staffed for associates or could they perhaps use your help?  Approach those partners, and speak to them frankly.  They know that your work provider is gone, and they may be expecting your call.  They are probably wondering whether you will a) stick around; b) follow your work provider to her new firm; or c) go to another firm.  If you plan to stay at your current firm, tell them.  If they don’t have the work, hopefully they will tell you honestly, and, if there is not enough work to fill your plate, you can start to look around at other firms before you are laid off.  Whatever you do, don’t sit on your hands.

Why did your work provider not bring you with her when she left?

If you decide to go to another firm because your work provider did not bring you with her to her new firm, you are going to have to explain why she didn’t.  Do you know why?  If not, take your former work provider to lunch and ask her.  It could be that the firm already has associates to help her, and did not allow her to bring you.  It could be that she brought more senior associates, but not you, because you are simply too junior.  It could be that she plans to bring you, but later (in which case, you need to ask yourself whether you want to go).  You need to find out her reasons, so that you can explain to potential employers why she didn’t bring you, because I can guarantee it will be the first question they ask.  Also, you need to secure an excellent reference from her if she tells you that she can’t bring you.  Even if the reason is that you underperformed, or for some reason she was not happy with your performance, you can probably still secure an excellent reference.  Partners tend to be hesitant to give negative references, and if you ask her to her face, it is harder for her to say no.

How do you move to another firm?

If you decide at this point to move to another firm, it is probably because a) there is no work for you at your current firm, and b) your work provider can’t or won’t take you with her to the new firm.  These things will not necessarily reflect poorly on you, but you must absolutely be prepared to explain both of them.  Why is there no work for you at your current firm?  You must allay any fears that the remaining partners simply don’t like your work and don’t trust you.  Again, securing excellent references from partners you have worked for will help to dispel any suspicion.  Similarly, you must explain why your work provider didn’t bring you.  There are many perfectly acceptable reasons why she didn’t, and if you can offer a positive reference from her, the better off you will be.

Remember the Golden Rule of Interviewing.

On a final note, remember that if you go on the market for another job, you must never, ever appear bitter or angry about what happened to you.  Your work provider left and there was no work for you from the remaining partners.  Perhaps you were laid off.  No matter what happened, it reflects best on you to always speak positively about your former firm and your former work provider.  Don’t let any negativity creep into the interview process.