How To Set Career Management Goals

Over the course of my career, I have met and interviewed many successful lawyers working in diverse practice areas – from company secretaries of ASX listed businesses to equity partners at leading top-tier firms. All have one thing in common: they see the value in robust career management plans. Below are some tips on how to take controls of your career, and what should be included in your own plan.

1. Assess and Review

Take the time to review your career and set goals for the future. Begin by considering your career achievements to date and what you want to achieve next – note these down, as career “highlights” and “goals” are valuable when updating your resume. Ask yourself these simple questions:

  • What do you enjoy about your current role?
  • What will your next role be with your current employer?
  • What skills and experience do you need to develop?
  • Are there any particular people with whom you should be developing relationships?
  • Does your career advancement require any further qualifications?
  • What opportunities are currently on the market, and does your future lie with another employer?

Setting goals allows you to maintain interest in your current role and assess if you are making a valuable contribution to your employer. Answering these question may sometimes require the help of a third party – take the time to sit down with a mentor or recruitment consultant to talk honestly about your career objectives, and develop a “strategy map” of how to get there. Become aware of where you sit in the market so you can make informed career decisions.

2. Show Value beyond Knowledge

Technical skills and legal expertise are highly valued when it comes to career advancement, but knowledge alone will not lead to promotion. To be a valued contributor to the business you need to continuously build your skills and experience both within and beyond the law. Doing so will also keep your days interesting, bring on new challenges. For example, management experience and business development skills are often a critical element of career progression. Show your leadership abilities by taking an active interest in the development of junior team members, which may lead to more structured project management responsibilities. Pursue relationships with client contacts at a similar level of seniority to you, but don’t dismiss the young graduate: a junior level client contact may become a senior decision maker in the future.

Most firms provide continued skills development and learning opportunities – take advantage of these resources. Continued learning and skills development is essential to career development. Invest time in mentoring and developing the skills of less experienced lawyers for the benefit of the practice, and expand your own skills by asking for more challenging work.

That being said, as a lawyer your main tool is your mind. Further study can demonstrate your commitment to the job and interest in advancement.  After a few years in the corporate space, many lawyers find their original undergraduate degree irrelevant to their area of practice. Pursuing a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) can give you added confidence in dealing with financial matters, marketing and change management. Another course to consider for those looking in-house is a Graduate Diploma in Applied Corporate Governance; while specialist lawyers might consider a Masters in their area of practice.

3. Forget “Networking”: Build Enduring Relationships

A lot has been made of the “power of networking” in recent years, and there is truth in the strategy. Beyond just making connections, ensure that you are developing and maintaining your relationships – on and off line. Many lawyers rely on their contacts for advice on matters and as a source of market information, including job opportunities. Social media is a popular tool, but your interaction with peers should extend beyond the odd comment or like on LinkedIn. Attend functions, join discussion groups and become an active member in any professional associations related to your interests. Build relationships based on genuine interactions and you will find your network becoming one of your biggest strengths in career development.

Lisa Gazis, Managing Director , Mahlab NSW