It’s almost the end of the year and now is a great time to start reviewing your professional year. What should you think about when self-assessing the last 12 months on your job? How satisfied have you been with your career development? Should you be thinking about making a change in the new year? Delivered here, in classic “The Late Show With David Letterman” style, are the Lawyer’s Lantern’s top 10 ways lawyers look at year-end career self-assessments. These things should prompt you to ask some questions about your career trajectory over the last year and begin the process of thinking about your future. Drumroll please…
Lori L. Garrett
10. CLE stands for continuing legal expenses, right?
Wrong. Most lawyers participate in some formal continuing legal education study over the course of the year. We all had the occasion to take advantage of advanced courses, attended conferences, and read various publications to get the latest developments in the law. But, what have you learned this year by doing? As you review your year, identify projects where you went above and beyond, were outside of your comfort zone or defined role, demonstrated creativity, or were stretched. Reflect on what management experience you gained this year and what leadership experience you had. For next year, think about the areas where you want to build expertise that will make you a more valuable employee. You want to be seen as a thought leader in your field.
9. I consider the objections I make in court as public-speaking opportunities.
Seriously? No, seriously, what presentation, public speaking and publication opportunities did you take advantage of this year? You might think about how you can create more opportunities for speaking or write about your expertise. With increased visibility comes increased recognition and increased demand amongst your supervisors and peers for your knowledge.
8. My approach to networking is to simply ask everyone: “Do you know who I AM?”
We all want to feel like the most important person in the room. And, sometimes we are. However, even the most accomplished lawyers seek to engage new relationships. Who did you meet this year and never follow up with? Who should you reengage? Looking at your current network of contacts, determine how you will add to the list next year and at the same time stay connected to those currently in your network.
7. Visualizing my long-term career goal is simple, it begins and ends with dollar signs.
Making a lot of money can be important. But, what is the overall vision for your life’s work? Surely it includes more than becoming rich. Close your eyes and imagine your perfect job. What is the job? What are you responsible for doing? Whom are you working with? What is the focus of your tasks? An exciting vision gives you a picture of what you are working toward. You can determine what you love about your work and maybe what you could do without. Having a vision helps you to make decisions about which direction to go in and gives you the energy to work a plan and stick with it. Consider what small steps are required to get you to your vision and how you might implement them in the coming year.
6. If I described my career accomplishments this year as a color, they would have to be electric beige!
Electric beige, if I really know what that looks like, is basically playing it very safe but pretending that you have accomplished more this year than you truly have. If this describes your year, then it means that you did not do anything above and beyond the call of duty. What did you accomplish this year that is very significant or special? Think: big problem, innovative solution, impactful result! What did you do very well? What could you stand to improve? Use this information to do the obvious, update your resume or CV. You never know when you might need to shop it. But also consider sharing any special achievements with your colleagues and then outlining your goals for next year. You might think about how you can enhance your strengths next year.
5. My loyalty to my employer is best described by Janet Jackson in her song: “What Have You Done for Me Lately?”
In a tough economic market, switching employers may neither be possible nor in your best interest. The end of the year is a great time to explore what you would like to do next year at your current place of employment. What is on the horizon for your company or firm, and how can you become involved? What opportunities are available in your current position that interest you? You might also think about what additional projects you would like to manage that might invigorate you in your current position.
4. Lateraling without a pay raise, or worse, taking a pay cut, is like treating opposing counsel with professionalism and respect. Why would anyone do it?
Clearly, there is much to gain for making wise choices for the not-soobvious reasons. A lateral position at the same pay, or even less, may still offer you some wonderful opportunities for career growth. Contemplate what might be down the road for you if you work in a different industry or in a smaller organization where you have more responsibility, or if you take on a new challenge that you would not face if you stayed in your current position. Before moving to a new organization, however, evaluate the state of your current job to be sure you have leveraged everything you can that is immediately available to you.
3. In my book, selfishness and self care are the same things.
Selfishness is acting in your own self interest without considering those around you. Self care is looking after your own needs with a heightened awareness of how this affects others. How well did you take care of your own personal well-being and sanity this past year? How could you have taken better care of yourself? How have you affected others? If you don’t feel well, then it is hard to perform well at your job. Do whatever is necessary to keep yourself in optimal physical and emotional condition. Next year, would it help to finally work with a trainer, or hire that nutritionist? Maybe you should actually use your vacation next year, or spend more time with your family. Whatever your unique needs are, make them happen next year in a way that serves you better than ever.
2. Four words that describe my approach to mentoring are: delete, ignore, forget, avoid.
Tragic! Most of us could not honestly say that we were not helped in our careers. So why do so many junior attorneys and law students, especially diverse ones, still need mentors today? Who did you mentor this year? What did you do? How engaged were you? What tangible results can you point to that show some improvement in the careers of others? Also, what did you learn from your mentee(s)? Mentoring is an opportunity to share learning, so that, hopefully, both parties can point to some tangibles that they gained from engaging in a mentoring relationship. If you cannot point to anything you learned as a mentor, try approaching mentoring with a broader perspective next year about the give-and-take of mentoring relationships.
1. Why is HE invited to the office holiday party?
Everyone should feel included in the workplace! Is there anything negative in your mindset about being inclusive? In what diversity efforts have you been engaged? What specific actions have you taken this year to push the needle on diversifying our profession and your place of work? These actions could be as small as getting to know a colleague who does not share your background, or as big as advocating to extend a substantial scholarship to a diverse law student. How have you personally led a diversity initiative? What support did you give to those in your organization who are tasked with leading on diversity? Your work in advancing diversity can be an important indicator of your career success this year and should be part of your plans for next year. DB
Lori L. Garrett is managing director for MCCA’s southeast region. She heads MCCA’s professional development services.