6 Steps to building a legal career: Step 2

24 Feb 2014

For the first six months of 2014, we’re going to be taking you step-by-step through building your legal career, with practical tips and changes you can make to your approach to help you to grow in your profession in 2014. For our second tip, we’re looking at the importance of stepping back and carrying out some self-assessment on your performance to date.

Step 2: Know your strengths and development areas

In this article from back in July, we discussed how the first step to achieving your desired position was to establish what was missing in your professional makeup. This still remains an important step which many senior professionals seem to miss out.

Once you have reached a certain point in your career, you may well find that assessments and development meetings will slow down or cease entirely. How then can you know how well you are currently performing in your position without sitting down and formally assessing this yourself?

To follow are two main areas to focus on that will help you develop a measurable self-assessment process.

Understanding self-worth

Taking a second to highlight the areas you feel you are best at, those that you enjoy and have plenty of experience in, might seem counter-intuitive to how most of us have been taught: it may even seem slightly vain and self-serving.

But recognising your value and worth is an absolute core part of the assessment process. You need to be aware of the areas you have already grown in and have a serious amount of experience and skill to offer others.

Answer the question: what are you currently best at and why are you so good at it? The answers will probably reveal a lot about habits that help you to perform your job in the workplace, allowing you to reach your true potential.

Carrying out this exercise is also good practice for future positions. Whenever you discuss a potential move, you will almost certainly be asked why the company in question should hire you: what are the skills you can bring to help them to fill a key gap in their team. Having the answer to this ready can make a big difference.

Understanding what needs to change

Whilst awareness of what you do well is vital, it should also be a priority to understand what you currently don’t perhaps do as well as you could. These are the things you will need to work on if you want to progress to the next position internally, or a new position elsewhere.

It is surprising just how minor some of these changes can be and how much of a difference they can make. A desire to focus on a different area of expertise may seem like a large step but remember that you will already be well-qualified at this point and obtaining the right level of specialist knowledge might be closer than you imagine. Small changes to working habits can similarly make a big difference.

Once you have identified what needs to change in order for you to move upwards – whether outside or inside your current organisation – it is essential that you break this down into smaller, more manageable actions. Acquiring a new skill or qualification may, again, seem a weighty undertaking, but starting that process off by obtaining the requisite information about local courses is something we can all do quickly and easily. Small steps like this in the right direction will soon see you arrive at your goal.

We work with individuals to help them to grow their careers. Sometimes that means providing expert guidance on what you need to do to achieve that next position, sometimes that means helping you to move jobs. If you feel you could use some third party input on your career development, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Previous articles in this series:

Step 1: Ask the right questions