Meet John Kirtley, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for Illinois Mutual Insurance Company. John’s career began as an associate attorney in private practice before climbing the ladder to Associate General Counsel at Ameritas. Unable to advance further, his search led him to relocate from Cincinnati to Peoria, Illinois in 2020. He and his family are excited about the future that lies ahead.
What has been your biggest challenge in making a career change? For attorneys, everyone often has a similar background so it’s important to go beyond networking and marry the soft sills with specialty/expertise.
How did you overcome this challenge? Had to remain positive even in the dark times of the search. The job search can be a challenging process. I remained Continuously engaged with social media, updated my resume, and steadied my resolve/perseverance.
What’s the one piece of advice you wish you’d been given at the beginning of your search? You have to be flexible and willing at the first jump to get to the next level. General counsel jobs are scarce so jump at the chance to get one if it’s offered. Networking is critical You have to stay active. You never know how someone is going to hear about you so you always have to be “on”
What is your advice for someone looking to get into your profession/industry? Develop and sell soft skills. Empathy and interpersonal communication are becoming rarer and can be the difference-maker. Most everyone at this stage in your career can match your skills, or best them so know how to connect outside of technology. Straddle the line between technology and soft skills. Be empathic and make a personal connection with people.
How do you stay prepared for future opportunities? Stay positive. It may not get you where you need to go but a negative attitude guarantees that you will not. Continual learning is key. Approach learning with excitement and be willing to be challenged. Challenge yourself. This doesn’t necessarily mean getting another degree. Surround yourself with people you can learn from. If you’re the most qualified person in the room, find another room.
What was the most difficult part of the interview process? Reading the wants/needs of the employer. It is hard to discern the employer’s motivation. Stop assuming or reading into what an employer says and don’t take rejection personally.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the job search process? Get comfortable being honest about your abilities both challenges and accomplishments. Authentically boast. Be empathic to the employer. Find out what challenges they have and how you can help. Remember that careers are lasting a lot longer so you aren’t going to hit your stride as early as your predecessors might have.