Some associates may have spent the past year feeling isolated, faced with mounting pressure to prove themselves while working remotely. But these challenges do not have to serve as roadblocks to one’s career progression. While many remain free from daily commutes and other obligations, now is an opportune time for associates to think strategically about the long term and what direction they’d like to take their career. Through my years of experience within the industry — serving as a commercial litigator in BigLaw, an in-house counsel and a recruiter for the legal sector — I have seen many associates and others successfully progress in their careers by following these best practices.
When it comes to career progression, you have to be your own biggest fan. You can do great work day in and day out, but when promotion time comes around, you must be willing to speak up for yourself and remind decision-makers of the contributions you’ve made to the firm. You have to ask for what you want ― your manager is not a mind reader. Sitting quietly while assuming your managers will acknowledge all the work you put in without being reminded is sometimes the biggest mistake less experienced and less ambitious associates make.
You can’t be afraid to put yourself out there. One way to demonstrate value to your firm is to bring in new business. This is especially true if you have aspirations of making partner one day. Talk to partners within your firm to learn more about how business development works. Take advantage of every lecture, conference and happy hour as you never know who you might meet. Constantly add to your network when you have the chance.
Networking goes hand in hand with self-advocacy. You have to learn how to sell yourself before you can sell anyone on your firm’s services. At the core of a successful career are good relationships, and making a positive, lasting impression is sure to help you nurture relationships that will last.
Finding a mentor is another great way to jump-start your career. A mentor can share their experience and help guide you through situations that are not so easily navigated alone. A mentor can also assist in your networking endeavors, position you to work on clients that align with your interests and generally point you toward new opportunities.
“At the core of a successful career are good relationships, and making a positive, lasting impression is sure to help you nurture relationships that will last.”
Most mentor-mentee relationships come about naturally as you work side by side, but many midsize and large law firms have established mentoring programs that assign summer interns, clerks and junior associates to an experienced associate or partner. If your firm does not have a formal mentoring program or an experienced person willing to help you, reach out to your local bar association for resources.