Not to add more things on your plate, but if you’re on the resolution bus then I strongly encourage adding goals for work on your to-do list. When you start practicing, it is so easy to get into a day-to-day routine. Actually, that’s normal and what most people want! But the risk in this is that there is nothing that breaks up this monotony and suddenly you find yourself three or four years in with only minimal increase in skills or progress on your career goals. It bears repeating the career growth requires active participation, so why not take the opportunity of a new slate to figure out what you want to accomplish this year?
One. What is reasonable? To really accomplish a goal it has to be realistic. That’s not to say you shouldn’t dream big. Dream big!! But don’t just say “I’m going to make partner,” or whatever other goal you may have. Rather, write out steps you have to take to reach your goal. Then be honest as to whether or not you can really accomplish this within timeframe you’ve given yourself. If it’s not realistic, then break down the steps even more so that you can move the needle and get closer to your goal.
Two. Where do you need to grow? I’ve mentioned before how I felt a strong need to increase my public speaking skills because I’m rarely in court. So I sought out opportunities to do speaking engagements to make sure I worked on that skill. Is there something in your practice similar to this? Something that you don’t get to do often? Maybe you need more direct client work or maybe you struggle with making connections for new business? Even if you’ve only been practicing for a few months (hey baby sharks!), you can still envision areas in your practice that you may need to beef up more than others. Just think creatively and honestly in where your skills may need strengthening due to either a lack of access or experience. For example, as a new associate, you may not have access to a lot of direct client work, but you also know that direct client representation will be beneficial as you move up in your career. Is that a potential place to grow? Or would you be better served focusing on a different skill set this year?
Three. What can you do? This is the fun part! Think creatively for ways to reach your goal. For those that want more direct client work, maybe you start volunteering with a local legal aid to work directly with clients. Or maybe you’re clerking, but will need a new job in a year–why not sign up for some different bar associations and challenge yourself to attend monthly networking events? There are many things you can do, both obvious or not, to help you reach your goal. Once I know what I want to do, I find it helpful to write down what steps I need to take to reach my goal. You don’t need to do a vision board if that’s not your thing, but I find visual reminders keep me accountable. I also like marking things on my calendar to push me into action.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that your career is up to you. Yes, you have a job and a duty to your client/firm, but how you grow and what you focus on is still on you. You can be reactive and only take on opportunities when they come your way, and probably still have an ok career. OR you can be the bad ass that you are and make things happen just like you did when you went to college and law school.
So, moment of truth: what are your goals this year?