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Kate Karas, General Counsel at Chime

Kate Karas, General Counsel at Chime

September 20, 2023

How does your thought process around hiring change in a down market? In tough economic times, it is more critical than ever to link arms with leaders across the company and view hiring as a collective opportunity to prioritize roles that drive achievement of the highest value, highest impact, and highest import strategic plans.  This is the moment for teamwork.  The moment to elevate clarity of purpose and become intensely focused on identifying and prioritizing the most essential roles to drive business outcomes.

In hiring for these roles, I’ve found that having a practical, efficient, and seasoned recruiting partner (like Anne and her team) can amplify possibilities.  When internal hiring teams are stretched, a savvy external recruiting partner absorbs much of the mental space and operational load of the hiring process and allows internal teammates to dedicate themselves fully to their strategic goals.  

Most importantly, in a down market, it can be tempting to allow the urgent to overwhelm the important.  Don’t let it!  A constrained economy invites us all to double-down and recommit to DEI-focused hiring and retention processes, to people and relationships that may be impacted by the slow-down, and to the other values that make our missions and outcomes possible and rewarding.  

How do you best prioritize the needs of your legal team and business constituents with constrained resources? “Give me more bad news!”  One of the best executives with whom I’ve worked says this to her team in times of constraint. You can’t drive as far as you intended if your allotment of gas is cut in half, and her point was the same: where resources are tight, let’s be constantly communicative about the trade-offs and creativities required to arrive at our final destination.  

This same approach applies to a legal team.  Our role in the collective is, like our peers, to deliver on our commitments to the company and enable the company to deliver on its commitments to us.  To do this, we communicate with realism and optimism about capacity and coverage constraints, we explore solutions to be creative, tactical and practical, we help drive alignment on priorities, and we run hard at the strategic outcomes we’ve collectively defined.  In the end of these efforts, our team and each team is empowered to make trade-offs to achieve common (not conflicting) priorities.

Can you provide job seekers a few tips on how to best position themselves in a candidate-heavy, job-limited market? My best tips are these: 1) think expansively, and 2) get out there and communicate your goals.  That’s a lot of amorphous words strung together so let me explain.

First, think expansively about the art of the possible.  You may think of yourself as a commercial lawyer or a deal lawyer, but those titles don’t do service to the myriad of ways your skills and talents could be used to accelerate a company’s success.  In the same way that you’d approach a business puzzle, think of yourself on a first-principles basis.  Beyond your area of subject matter expertise, are you an excellent writer, culture-carrier, creative product strategist, or people manager?  Have you built and led affinity groups, focused on a specific area or approach to leadership development, or resolved conflict in a negotiation or stakeholder misalignment?  A strong sense and narrative about your abilities and skill sets (apart from your knowledge base) will differentiate you and help companies envision the ways in which you will drive the organization beyond your specific area of functional excellence.  

Second, communicate and build relationships.  While a candidate-heavy job market can feel like a lot to navigate, it is also an opportunity to build durable relationships that will be rewarding in unpredictable ways down the line.  People who aren’t hiring today know someone who is, and they themselves will be hiring someday.  They may see you in a way you don’t see yourself and suggest a well-suited possibility you hadn’t considered.  Perhaps they will become a trusted mentor and advisor, or you will become one to them.  The key is simply to make strides towards those connections.  There are as many ways to do this as there are people to do it - consider giving insights about what you’re seeing in the market to others and inviting them to share theirs.  Or setting google alerts about areas of common interest and getting in touch when they pop up.  Whatever approach you use, you will build connections that outlast this time in the market and amplify your possibility and stability over time.  

(*Quick note on the second point here.  Many people refer to this concept as “networking” - which is exactly what it is.  Because networking was at one time intimidating to me, I relate to it through the act of communicating - something we all do in a way that is authentic to each of us.)

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