I am frequently asked how to – skills aside – secure a leadership role in-house. Most senior openings are not posted publicly, and appointments are often under the radar, so it’s important to understand how companies hire, when they do. Here are my four top practical tips for navigating the process:
Raise your profile
Work towards becoming a thought leader, both in your industry and in the broader landscape. This will help build trust in your expertise and judgement, crucial attributes for General Counsel. Engagement with and insights into the wider market, application of technology and business trends outside your organisation can also demonstrate your awareness and proactivity, elevating your profile among peers and ensure that you are seen by a wider audience.
Build relationships with executive search firms
Develop relationships with executive search firms and niche legal recruitment companies. If a search firm has not previously contacted you, be proactive and do connect with a few. Approach them through mutual contacts, if possible, but if not reach out directly. It’s worthwhile building these relationships early, even when you’re not actively looking for a new role. Take the time to communicate with credible recruiters as you may never otherwise know of the opportunities you are missing. They can also introduce you to further useful contacts. Such is the demand for leadership roles, when search firms have a General Counsel mandate, they will usually prioritise candidates within their existing network.
Optimise your presence online
With the pivotal role LinkedIn now plays in the recruitment process, a lacklustre profile will do you no favours. For anyone hiring, LinkedIn is usually the first step in mapping the target candidate pool and making new connections. Take the time to ensure your LinkedIn profile best represents you, so that opportunities are more likely to come your way. It should be comprehensive and up to date with detail on your roles and achievements and include a photo. A brief description of your responsibilities to date, especially your transferable skills in leadership / management can help a recruiter to better understand your specialism and distinguish you from the competition. Those connected to you can see your activity on the platform, so post authentically about topics that matter to you and engage with other industry thought leaders to further boost your profile.
Cultivate your community
Networking is a powerful tool. Establish connections with relevant in-house leaders, particularly in your chosen industry, as they will often be asked for recommendations. Engage with law firm partners, who may be the first to hear about a new or replacement General Counsel role from their liaison with a company’s senior executive team, as they are often consulted for advice. Consider your wider alumni and professional / personal connections. Who do you already know within the C-Suite of desirable companies? Are you someone they might proactively think of when looking to recruit themselves or when asked for a recommendation? In-person contact at industry events are also valuable for profile raising, establishing connections and quick rapport with a wider audience.
These strategic moves can increase your visibility and exposure to opportunities. Remember, it’s not just about what you know but also who in the right circles knows you. If you would like to discuss your position further, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected].