Where has all the time gone? Like, seriously. I am not even remotely prepared for the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, the rest of you have managed to complete any holiday shopping (or made it through your respective holidays relatively unscathed). I will be one of those sad people in the mall this weekend praying for a small miracle. Also – Amazon Prime saves lives. It’s for real.
Now that I’ve gotten my holiday shopping anxiety out of the way – let’s get down to the real business of the season: career planning. It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of the holiday season and develop tunnel vision at it relates to the end of the year. “I just need to close this one deal”, you may think to yourself, or “If I can collect the past due accounts from these three clients then everything will balance for the year.”
Any path will do if you don’t know where you’re going
Those are legitimate and important concerns, but if you don’t take some time to focus on your career path and direction then chances are you’ll find yourself in basically the same place this time next year…and the year after…and the year after. Until, eventually, you burn out and you just give it all up anyway because really what’s being a lawyer ever gotten you, right?!
Well, I’ll tell you what it could get you if you go about it the right way:
- Amazing clients
- Smart colleagues
- A satisfying career where you are challenged and feel that you’re able to make a valuable contribution
- An appreciation for just how fortunate you are to be able to help people with their problems
That may sound a bit pie-in-the-sky, but, as I’ve said before, you have to start with some goals in mind to develop a career plan. Maybe you don’t want any of those things that I’ve listed above, but you must want something. Start there.
Next, figure out what steps you need to take to get there. Do you need to develop new relationships with people? Do you need to develop a particular expertise? Do you need to learn etiquette or how to play golf? It doesn’t matter what it is, but figure out the steps required to get to that end goal.
Now, think about what specific thing you can do in 2016 to execute on that goal. For some of the far-reaching, pie-in-the-sky stuff, perhaps you break it into small steps and set a specific timeframe for achieving each step. Or maybe there’s one thing that you can do to set yourself up for success like attending a conference that you’ve always wanted to go to. Signing up for the conference is great, but, of course, you don’t just attend and hang out by the drink table: figure out who else is going or speaking on a panel that would be of interest to you and start building a relationship with them beforehand so that you can really make the most of the conference.
I just want to make it clear that this is a really important process to go through and that you shouldn’t expect to have it all done overnight. You may want to just set an hour or two aside here and there to begin working on this and set a goal of having a completed career plan for the end of January. The point of the process is to provide guidance and structure to the work that you do throughout the year because it’s just too easy in this profession to feel as though everything is urgent and that you’ve lost control. And once you feel as though you’ve lost control, you really have and it’s just a matter of time before you stop caring about your clients, about your work and about yourself.
So, my wish for all the lawyers this holiday season is simple: Make the time. Take control of your career.
Note: The holidays are often the time of year when work and family stresses pile on top of each other. If find it difficult to deal with the stress of the holidays and are turning to alcohol or other substances during this time, there is help. The law societies in Canada and most state bar associations have counseling and other confidential resources available to help you through difficult times. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.