How Do I Pursue Non-Legal Career Options? 

Starting down the road of a non-legal career path can be daunting. Our experts address two of these issues: where to get started to gain additional skills, and how to convince non-legal employers that you are a good job candidate.

Beginning the Pursuit of a Different Career Path

Q: In the future I would like to set up my own business so I can work from home. I'm interested in the possibility of doing something in accountancy or bookkeeping. I am in full-time employment so if I needed to become more qualified then I would have to do a course from home in my own time (open learning etc.) I don't know where to start looking or how to begin. Can you help?

A: Once you identify what it is you need to learn then there are some interesting options. Many of us are so pressed for time between our work and family responsibilities that returning to the classroom to continue our studies is unrealistic from a time and location perspective. However, with the advent of the internet hundreds of colleges and universities are offering thousands of courses online. You can identify these at Ecollege.

Here are examples of some well established programs. University of Phoenix Online offers undergraduate programs in general studies, business, information technology and nursing. In addition, they offer Master degrees in education, organizational management, business (MBAs), computer information systems and nursing. In fact, they even offer one Doctorate program in organizational leadership.

United States Open University offers Bachelor degrees in business administration, information technology, computing, English, European studies, humanities, international studies, liberal arts and social science. In addition, they offer an MBA degree and a Masters in computing.

At Western Governors University (competency based online degrees) one can earn an Associate of Arts degree in general education and business, as well as a Bachelors degree in business information technology and a Masters degree in Learning and Technology. WGU is also a source for hundreds of the best distance delivered classes from 45 institutions across the U.S. that can be used toward a competency based program at WGU or for your own enjoyment/enrichment.

Other options can be explored through the following books; J. Bears' College Degrees by Mail from Ten Speed Press and J. Freys' College Degrees You Can Earn from Home from Life Oak Publications. Petersons Guides publishesThe Independent Study Catalog (correspondence programs) and The Electronic University: A Guide to Distance Learning.

How Can I Convince Non-Legal Employers that I'm a Good Job Candidate?

Q: I have taken the California bar exam and am awaiting my results. However, I would like to test the non-legal job market. However, I have been unsuccessful in the past, because non-legal employers are scared away by my J.D. They automatically assume that if they hire me, I will jump ship as soon as a law firm associate position opens up somewhere. That is not the case, and I feel its unfair that this type of assumption is made about me just because I have a J.D. after my name. How can I convince non-legal employers that I'm a good job candidate despite my J.D.? Should I just erase it from my resume and not even tell them? If so, how do I account for the 3 years I spent in law school?

A: You state that you would like to test the non-legal job market. That is very vague. Perhaps if you got more focused on a specific career objective (or even 2-3) and prepared resumes that strongly represent that focus (or focuses), potential employers would not zero in so much on your degree (which I would include but downplay a bit at the end of your resume). If you're coming across as unfocused you leave yourself more vulnerable to doubt on behalf of employers whether due to your degree or just being unfocused.

In addition, I would emphasize a networking approach to your job search. This person-to-person referral method will allow others to better get to know you and what you're real career goals are---regardless of your degree. By having a strong focus on specific career goals, well prepared written and oral presentations, and an effective networking campaign, you will greatly enhance your employability. Toss in personal attributes like confidence, enthusiasm and commitment and you'll help to convince potential employers of where you really want to be career wise.