Nikki Alderson, former criminal barrister and now corporate and executive coach, provides advice on how to advance.
Deciding to decide
Time and again my amazingly competent female lawyer clients say that any minute they're going to get found out, that they aren't good enough for the next promotion or position. Imposter Syndrome is real. It can keep you "safe", but have you ever heard the saying "Push beyond your comfort zone: that's where the magic happens?"
I can understand for career break returners, confidence may be at a low ebb. You may want to get back into the swing of things, at a pace you find manageable. But whilst you're getting organised, doing all you can to turn uncertainty into certainty, in reality, who are you allowing to edge ahead?
Marie Forleo's great observation "The key to success is to start before you are ready" applies equally to coaching as women in law. At the Temple Women's Forum "Applying for Silk" workshop, research showed that of applicants for silk, men were 90% sure of success, women only 60%. You may never feel it's the right time. Success can't always be guaranteed. But by not "going for it" aren't you simply standing in your own way?
So you've decided to step up. Ask yourself what success looks like to you. Success can mean many things to many different people: Being a silk, a judge, an equity partner in a law firm OR, none of the above.
In a world where "wellbeing", "life balance" and "flexible working" are all important buzz words, the definition of success may be very different to the "expected" route to success through partnership in a traditional, hierarchical law firm.
So how do we settle on a forward trajectory? I am a big believer in Covey's Second Habit of Highly Effective People: "Start with the end in mind". Be clear and honest about your goal, visualise the end-point then, working backwards, put plans in place to get there. Everything you do thereafter will be "on purpose" towards that outcome.
Beyond your First 100 days
So you've secured your next promotion. You've asked for and been given a respectable pay rise. You're suited and booted ready to take on this next important challenge. You're now into your stretch zone. What next then to hit the ground running and navigate your steepest learning curve to date?
First 100 Days: Support of yourself and from others
First, have confidence in yourself that you are up to the job. You may not be the best YET, but you are in position, and bring to the post all your previous experience and strengths together with all your future potential: you can absolutely do this!
Second, keep your sense of humour and stay humble, by being self-aware. You've already identified the stuff you do well but by conducting a SWOT analysis for example, you will also have the opportunity to acknowledge and, more importantly, work on the areas where you have to dig that little bit deeper. What challenges do you need to work on to support your own learning, or as a way of upskilling, for example around technology or leadership?
Turn to those around you. What external support do you need to use? Who or what else needs to be involved? How do home logistics need to function in support? Put yourself in the best position to become invaluable.
Take your time to find your feet before introducing wide-spread and unsettling change. That said, don't hang back from the quick and meaningful wins. Take the lead in meetings. Take the opportunities to show your boss they chose well, and your team that you are worthy.
Day 101 and beyond: Maintaining forward momentum
Now you are conducting yourself effectively as a leader, how to maintain this over time?
Firstly, document, "shout" even, about your success: update social media to reflect your new position and skills.
Secondly, work on your relationships. As Zig Ziglar said, "If people like you, they'll listen to you; If they trust you, they'll do business with you". A supportive team cannot be underestimated. Without, communications can breakdown and effectiveness and productivity nose-dive.
Finally, remain authentic. Being passionate about your role and your career calling will give you longevity and the edge. I've always advocated the Bronnie Waring approach. She was a palliative care nurse who did extensive research in to the top 5 regrets of the dying. Simply "Live a life true to yourself, not the life others expect". Go for it.
Views expressed in our blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Law Society.
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