Best Friends at the Bar: What Will You Do in 2013?
The new year has already begun, and I wonder whether you know what you will do with it. I am not talking about where you will go on vacation this year, what social events you will attend or what community projects you will participate in. Those things are all important, but what I really want to know is how you will progress as a woman lawyer.
What will you do differently this year to advance your career?
Do you have a plan for your professional future?
What is the definition of success that you will pursue in this calendar year?
These are all really important questions. Let's take them one at a time.
What will you do differently this year to advance your career? Of course that depends on what you did last year, but my best guess is that whatever you did, you could do it a little better. How robustly did you pursue the things you wanted professionally? Did you learn how to ask for things or did you continue to think that you had to be asked? Did you have faith in your abilities to offer yourself for the project that you wanted without being afraid of being busted and shown up for the fraud that you are afraid you are? This was the topic of a article this week by my friend Victoria Pynchon, an expert in negotiations who also was profiled in my most recent book. In her article in Forbes Women titled "The Number One Super Secret to Getting What You Want in 2013" Victoria comes clean on the feelings of inadequacy that too often plague women in business, who seem to inherently lack self confidence and forgo opportunities because of it. Make that a thing of the past. Identify what you want and go for it in 2013. Do not hold back waiting for an engraved invitation. Grab that brass ring.
Do you have a plan for your future? Let's face it, you have a plan for everything else. You know what you are going to wear to the party on Saturday night----and you typically know it by the prior Wednesday, at least. You know the top five things that you need to find and purchase on e-bay, and you know where you want to go on vacation this spring. You know who has Facebooked you at any given moment. But, what about a plan for your professional future? For instance, how will you prepare yourself for partnership? Do you know what core competencies you need to have achieved at each level of practice to get to the next level? Are you aggressively pursuing the right practice situations to help you attain those skills? Do you have a mentor to help you keep on track to do that? Are you waiting for someone to offer to be your mentor or are you actively looking for a mentor? Or, do you anticipate a change of practice and are you networking to make that change possible? If you are not doing these things, you do not have a professional plan. If you do not have a professional plan, your chances of reaching your goals---partnership? in-house counsel? public servant extraordinaire?---are much less likely to happen. Yes, some people are just in the right place at the right time and fall into fabulous career-enhancing opportunities. The rest of us have to work for those opportunities, and that involves having a plan. Make 2013 the year you develop a professional plan and stick to it.
What is the definition of success that you will pursue in this calendar year? Definitions of success vary---a lot. We are all individuals, with different life circumstances and different goals and objectives. Why should one size fit all? It doesn't. You will have a lot of difficulty being successful according to someone else's definition when your personal responsibilities and your resources differ from theirs. For instance, if you are a woman lawyer with greater responsibilities in your personal life--- for children or aged parents or infirm family members---than the other lawyers you work for or compete against, you are doomed for failure and disappointment according to the definitions of success held by those people. There are only so many hours in any given day, and time is your enemy. Instead, you need to recognize that you are unique. You are a product of your own circumstances and desires. You may want a significant role in the upbringing of your children, and others may have a different approach. There is no right or wrong. There is only your personal definition of what works for you. That is your personal definition of success, and no one should be able to shake you from it. 2013 is the beginning of the rest of your professional future. Make sure you know who you are, what you value and what makes you feel successful. Not the guy in the next office---YOU.
If you take these things seriously, it will be a landmark year for you. Starting now!
This entry originally appeared on my web site blog at www.bestfriendsatthebar.com.Susan Smith Blakely is a nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers and law students. She is author of Best Friends at the Bar: What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and her second book, Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business) on the work-life struggle for women lawyers, was released in July 2012. She is the Principal and Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC, the umbrella entity for her writing, speaking and consulting. Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Virginia Lawyer Magazine and Georgetown Law. Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelists at conferences on women's issues and the law profession. For more information, please visit www.bestfriendsatthebar.com.