We talk a lot about letting go of humildad, getting comfortable with self-promotion, etc. but it is a fine line between being good at self-promotion and looking like you’re feeling yourself a little too much, especially when you’re new and may not have the experience to back up everything you’re claiming. So how do you walk this line? The key here is to show, don’t tell.
When you’re new, all you can really do is stack up those wins. Small and large victories will help boost your ability and reputation at work. And it’s not all about litigation in the courtroom– it’s being able to point to specific skills you have that make you a desirable candidate for a job/promotion. Showcasing great research, writing, and editing skills in your briefs/memos goes a long way. For those that do more client counseling (hey immigration/crim defense/family attorneys!), sharpening your intake skills so that clients are open and honest with you is vital.
Of course, the chance to take on those great cases may not always seem obvious or accessible when you’re new. Instead, you can increase your skills by looking for opportunities and creating ways that will let you take on more complicated projects and cases. A panel I attended of Latino attorneys emphasized the benefits of going beyond your duties. A partner at a big law firm described how when he was a new attorney a higher up emailed everyone asking if anyone had any information about a specific claim and defense. While this new attorney didn’t have experience in that area, he proactively researched and wrote a memo to answer the senior attorney’s question. It really impressed the senior attorney and forged a mentorship between both of them. It would have been easy for the new attorney to just have ignored the email, but he took it as an opportunity. It’s unlikely your boss is going to drop all the sexy cases on your desk just because. Instead, look for opportunities in all their different forms.
Working diligently like this will also make you feel more secure in your skills and ability. And that matter-of-fact feeling about your skills is the key in getting comfortable with self-promotion. If you do all this awesome work, but then aren’t able to discuss it at, say, your performance evaluation then basically all your work is for nothing (in relation to your career). You have to go into your performance evaluation secure in yourself and with a plan to rock it.
Yet very few people see your performance evaluation, and your trajectory isn’t solely dependent on your supervisors. Colleagues who know that you’re awesome at your job will also be able to throw job leads at you in the future. So once you have that confidence in your skills, you have to become comfortable promoting them outside of your boss’s office. A great way to highlight your skills so that they’re more public knowledge is by finding a sponsor who will do some of the promotion for you.
But if sponsors aren’t an option, then show your coworkers that your skills and capabilities are an asset for them by being collaborative and a good teammate. Offering to brain storm, to help on research, intakes, etc. will reveal your abilities to them. This may seem odd, because often attorneys feel a need to one-up each other, be a pseudo-alpha, or just a straight up asshole (this profession is still so hyper-male at times) which does not make for a productive team (unless you think fear/annoyance breeds production). Instead show them why you’re style is much more fruitful. Soon, you’ll be the go-to for certain areas of law, legal strategies, etc.
This all takes time, but the more you push yourself to search for and take on challenging work the more secure you will feel in yourself. And eventually it will feel less like bragging and more about sharing your expertise.