I’ve been really fortunate that a lot of my job duties and focus have changed about every two years. This has kept me interested and learning new areas of laws and skills, which is really fortunate because there’s a risk that we get stuck in the day to day and accidentally become stagnant in the work we do. And that is a disaster for your career.
We should be constantly growing and looking for new opportunities, and I don’t mean job-hopping, I mean really growing in your craft. Of course, when you’re new to practicing everything is challenging and new, obvi, but a few years in you need to make sure you’re being active in your growth because career advancement does not happen passively. You can gage your career advancement by being introspective and honest about what you’re doing.
For example, when is the last time you did something that should have been added to your resume? Updating your resume (even when you’re not job searching) is a great measurement to see if anything has changed in your past year–have you gained new skills? Strengthened others? If you have nothing to add to your resume, then that’s a big red flag to brainstorm methods that will strengthen your skills and experience.
Another good mark to show if you’re growing is to assess how you’re treated by your colleagues. Do your colleagues seek you out for opinions and advice? Are you trusted by your supervisors to represent the firm in panels, conferences, trainings, etc? These are things that should come to your career gradually if you’re growing appropriately.
Ok, so what if you do this assessment and realize you’re not growing the way you want. What then? The first thing you have to determine is whether you can actually grow in your current environment.
Who blooms at your firm?
Can you emulate that? You may be able to, but do you want to? You say you want to make partner, but do you really want to and can you commit to the time and other sacrifices demanded of you? If the answer is yes, then get moving! Make an action plan of things you need to do, projects you need to get involved in so that you’re on the right track.
If, on the other hand, you review what it takes to advance and think perhaps it’s not for you—or you realize that hmmm, WOC don’t advance here and aren’t supported, then make an action plan–what are your next steps? Where do you want to go that will ultimately be your right track?
None of these answers are easy–especially if you’re relatively happy with what you’re doing. It’s so easy to just take it day by day and then suddenly you’re years in, doing the same thing. But honestly assessing where you’re at in your career needs to be mandatory. Of course, career growth is difficult to manage, but remember that you sacrificed and put in so much effort to become an attorney. You owe it to yourself to make sure that you’re the happiest and most successful attorney you can be.