Are you looking for a promotion? Do you have higher aspirations? Boost your profile both inside and outside of the workplace using these pointers.
Make Yourself Noticeable (In a Good Way)
M. Teresa Schmiedeler, Director of Public Service Programs & Outreach at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, advises law students and young attorneys to build on two vital skills. “To increase your professional profile, you must develop effective problem-solving skills and produce quality written work to effectively demonstrate how you analyze a legal issue and positively communicate in a public service work environment,” she said. “Building trust serves as the most important way to gain respect of supervisors to prove your value to your organization.”
Is it enough that people trust you to do a good job? Yes, it’s very important to have a reputation as a hard worker but you also need to show that you are dedicated to your office’s mission. People will notice your commitment if you speak up at meetings when you have ideas or suggestions on how to approach a case or improve a particular aspect of your organization. You’ll demonstrate initiative by volunteering to work on a task force, chair a committee, or conduct in-house training in your area of expertise. If you are more of an introvert, volunteer to mentor a new lawyer, craft articles for your office blog, or write cheat sheets for critical procedures to help your organization run more smoothly and efficiently.
Create Rapport with Your Supervisors
You don’t have to go to happy hour with your supervisors every week to form a good relationship. However, it is important to develop a positive working rapport. An important factor in forming that relationship is their opinion of your abilities. For supervisors who are very active and engaged with critiquing subordinates’ work product, this will not be an issue. It’s a bigger challenge if your supervisor tends to be hands-off. If that is the situation, proactively schedule one-on-one meetings. Ask for feedback on your performance and suggestions on how you can add value to your workplace. In addition to learning areas of performance that may need improvement, this will demonstrate to your boss that you are engaged in your work and are looking for ways to grow. During these meetings, discuss your career goals and aspirations. Your supervisor may offer valuable advice or refer you to an experienced contact who can help further your goals.
J. Todd Hedgepeth, director of the Texas Labor Law Field Support Center at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, says that as a supervisor, he is impressed by junior attorneys who talk candidly about their career goals. “It shows initiative and drive on their part. And I’m happy to give advice based on my own personal experience, growth and development as a government attorney,” he said. “I can give them a road map of how to get where they want to go, a road map that they probably couldn’t have come up with themselves.”
Participate in Bar Activities
Volunteer for a pro bono project (either one-day or long-term projects); write articles for a newsletter or journal, serve as a CLE panelist, or speak at other non-CLE bar events. Not only will you help improve the profession or contribute legal services for underserved groups, you’ll have a chance to interact with new lawyers and expand your network.
Chuck Stertz, an assistant district attorney for Outagamie County (Wisconsin) knows all about the power of being involved in bar associations. “After serving in several capacities with the ABA and State Bar of Wisconsin, the president-elect of the State Bar of Wisconsin appointed me as his representative to the Wisconsin Judicial Council. I served on the council for two one-year terms,” he said. “We studied and made recommendations on a number of issues related to litigation, both civil and criminal. Had I not volunteered with the State Bar of Wisconsin and the ABA, I never would have been appointed to the council.” Stertz found the experience instructive as he served with judges, other DAs, citizens, legislators, law school deans, the state Attorney General, the state public defender and other state bar members.
Be Social – Online and In Person
A wise social media presence raises your visibility and grows your professional network. Each social media platform has its pros and cons. A well-maintained LinkedIn Premium account may be a valuable tool to increase your profile. If you prefer to informally communicate with legal professionals and raise your profile, it may be useful to spend time building an active follower base on Twitter by crafting thoughtful and engaging tweets on relevant legal developments.
It’s just as important to maintain a positive social presence in real life. Attend office-wide social events and interact with people with whom you have little contact. At bar association events, don’t gravitate towards the people you already know, but force yourself to chat with members you’ve never met. Yes, this will be uncomfortable at first, but mentally prepare a few conversation starters (“What did you think of the program?” or “Is this your first time at this event?”) to break the ice.
Present yourself as an affable and humble member of a team. Discuss your achievements in the context of your group — one that includes the investigators, administrative staff, and paralegals — who helped achieve the results. This shows potential employers that you are a team player, and not someone who is purely interested in personal gain.
Find Someone Who Champions You
One of the best things you can do to increase your professional stature is to find a mentor, either within or outside your office. Not only will you learn from their successes and failures but they can also serve as your advocate. Wendy Muchman, chief of litigation and professional education for the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission has mentored many young attorneys throughout her 30 years with the agency. “All young attorneys need someone in their corner,” she said. “It helps to have someone senior to whom they can go to bounce ideas off of, as well as someone who can praise them when they do well or help show a better way when necessary.”
Additionally, nurture close relationships with peers, such as coworkers or law school colleagues, who will speak highly of you to their professional network including writing a recommendation or endorsing you on LinkedIn. This raises your profile to people that you may have not previously interacted with and could serve you well at a later stage in your career.
Raising your profile takes some work, but is imperative if you have higher career objectives. Start small with activities that come most easily to you, and work your way up to bigger tasks. Get in line with these five approaches and you’ll be top of mind for the next important hiring decision.