By Carmen Canales, Chief Talent Officer, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC
Focusing on your legal career is like losing weight. Getting to your weight loss goal is easy - "move more, eat less." It's the maintenance of your achievement that can be the challenge. If you slip back into your old habits, the pounds will start creeping back on. The same can be said of your career. Study hard. Get good grades. Land the dream job. Once you get into the daily grind, however, it's easy to lose focus and neglect the great tips you learned from your professors, guest lecturers, and other subject matter experts. As a Talent Management professional, these are lessons learned and best practices that I recommend you keep in mind:
1. Do what you say you'll do. Sounds simple, yes?
Yet if you over-commit and under-deliver, you are not engendering trust among your colleagues, clients, staff. If you cannot honor a commitment, consider your options. Can this be delegated? Do you need more time? Can you offer another option that will meet the need?
2. Sharpen your saw.
Keep learning. Read. Join industry groups, bar associations, or other organizations that will keep you in regular contact with people who will challenge your thinking and teach you something new.
3. Nurture relationships.
Use the phone 100 times more than you use e-mail. See people in person. Technology is fantastic, and should be used to support your communication. Don't hide behind it.
4. Surround yourself with great talent.
Keep in touch with past colleagues. Each one of us is a recruiter and a sales person. Seek co-workers who are as enthusiastic about the work as you are.
5. Seek feedback, but don't be needy.
Know that something will not go according to plan each week or day. Plan your coping strategies now. Learn from your mistakes, and plan for a better result next time.
6. Live in "is" instead of "should be."
I should be six feet tall and blonde. I am not. I should have a house on the lake. I do not. Life is still pretty good.
7. Listen more than you talk.
You will learn a lot when you focus on the present moment and release yourself from the pressure of thinking about the next brilliant thing that you are going to say.
8. Fake it 'til you make it.
Convey calm, even if you don't have the answer at hand. If you have surrounded yourself with great talent, you will be able to get what you need "behind the scenes." Your client, team, boss does not need to know all of the details of how you will get there; they just want to know that you've got the ball and will run with it.
9. Embrace diversity.
If you are in-house counsel, clearly communicate your company's vision to professionals who want your business. If you are in a law firm, know what you have to offer. Be actively involved in diverse organizations, recruit diverse talent, and seek diversity of thought. The best idea may come from someone who appears to be completely different from you.
10. Do something that fills your cup.
Exercise. Travel. Work on the weekend if that's what you like. When you are having a bad day, help someone else. You have worked hard to get to where you are. However, your job is what you do, not who you are. Who are you? Find it!