You need to own your career.
This will help you achieve whatever objective your want. By “Owning Your Career” we are talking about taking responsibility for it, driving it forward – yourself!
This is key as no one else is going to do it for you.
There is no one-size fits all, there is no single “route”. No route is exactly the same. Everyone has different skill sets and different opportunities and your career development plan should be designed to reflect this.
Don’t make comparisons with your peers
Lawyers are naturally competitive, therefore there is a tendency to continuously compare yourself against your peers. Resist if you can, while it is not a bad thing to you, it is only the only thing you should be doing to benchmark yourself. Different people get different opportunities at different times and different factors affect the outcome of those opportunities. Factors that are influential are infact the “individual” factors . Therefore you most focus on yourself, and not others and ask for the opportunties you want (not necessarily the opportunities that others have). After all there is more than one way to achieve your goal.
To progress in your career and focus on yourself you also need to have awareness of what it is you need to be doing to formulate your career development plan.
- where you are now… and where you want to be?
- what is your firms promotion process?
- where can you get support?
- what is your personal learning and development plan?
Finally, have a conversation with your boss about career development!
Where are you now… and where do you want to be?
If you don’t have a destination – you can’t move forward.
You may not know exactly what you want, but to get anywhere you need to have a direction, to have goals. Your path and even your ultimate will probably change but you need something to get you started.
How do you want to live your life?
further reading: My five-year plan
Everyone ends up doing different things and not everyone becomes (or wants to become) partner. There are lots of possibilites. Think about your university peers, your LPC group, your trainee intake – where are these people now? I have peers who are already legal directors, who have moved in house, who have left the law and done something else or who have started their own business.
What is your firms promotion process?
Assuming you want to get a promotion at your own firm, you will need to consider what the process is and what the requirements are for the promotion. It goes beyond the technical / black letter law. Most firms have a specific framework or promotion process. Find the published guidance your firm has made available, ask questions of your boss,, your mentor, HR and those ahead of you in the process.
You need to think about:
- What is the definition of the role and the job criteria;
- What skills do I need to be demonstrating;
- What is the timing? When are promotions made?
- What is the application process?
- Who is involved in the process (and how can you raise your profile with them)?
Where can you get support?
A lot of the larger firms automatically provide a structured “support” network for employees which you shouldn’t be afraid of taking advantage of.
This might include:
- Line Partner/Manager
- Support Partner / Manager
- Team Leader
- Learning & Development Team
- Career Development Resources
- Lawyer Development Programme
- Business Skills Programme
- Legal Training
- Your Peer Group
- Your Personal Network
In a smaller firm you might just have your partner, a mentor, HR and your peers.
A lot of firms provide a “framework” for learning (not just promotions), but it is up to you to get the value out of these programme and to make the most of what is presented to you. Quite often they are available but it will be for you to take the initiative and actually use them. It is a two way street – a firm will want to retain and develop internal talent, but they need to get something out of it too. Have a conversation with your line manager/support partner outside the formal process to show that you are interested and to allow them to be able to give you/point you in the direction of opportunities.
Create your Development Plan
Don’t expect your firm to write your career development plan for you. You need to put the work in and write it yourself and then ask for their support.
However, it is not just about the training courses, you also need to make yourself valuable to the firm. This can be done in a number of ways:
- on the job practical experience;
- develop a specialism;
- develop a specialist area of law;
- write for journals, PR Media and Client Bulletins;
- coaching & mentoring
- attending business updates/team meetings
- client secondment/development client relationships.
Record and evaluate your learning and development. It is important to reflect to identify learning and development gaps and or objectives and plan how you will address your learning and development needs.
Be open minded to the opportunities that present themselves
Finally, be open-minded. As mentioned above, no two routes are exactly the same, by being open-minded about opportunities and be pro-active you can really own your career and develop it into something you want.