Have You Thought About The New Year?
Last updated: 2021-05-26 (originally published on 2019-12-18) — by Stephen Lable
Now that the year is almost over, it’s a great time to think about your year-end review and your goals for 2020.
This is the perfect time to analyse your own performance as well as to think about what you would like to accomplish in the New Year. Most importantly, this is the time to think about important questions. Start with simple ones: Am I happy with my job? Am I being challenged? Will my current role help me develop the necessary skills to get to the next level in my career?
As part of this process, it’s critical to take advantage of your end of year review to get as much feedback as possible, in order to determine what kind of future you may have at the company. I am constantly encouraging my clients, particularly those working in a lockstep environment, to think about their careers each year, as opposed to waiting until they are more senior. You don’t want to be asking yourself “big picture” life questions as a senior member of your team, as it becomes much more difficult to make changes at that point.
Hopefully, the topics below will help you navigate your end of year review and give you food for thought in 2020.
Are You Happy?
Over the past twenty years, I have worked with countless numbers of attorneys and so many of them never ask the question, “Am I happy?” They have great careers and earn a wonderful living, but they don’t think about whether they are truly enjoying the experience of practicing law. As the year is coming to an end, you should be asking yourself questions like: Are you looking forward to work when you get out of bed in the morning? Are you being challenged by your career? Do you like how you spend your days?
We spend so much time in the office away from friends and loved ones that it is critical to feel these hours aren’t just a means to an end but a valuable part of our life experience. Thinking about these questions will help you determine the next steps towards finding a fulfilling and satisfying career, which will lead to a happier life.
How Are You Viewed By Your Employer?
As you approach your end of year review, it’s important to understand how you are viewed by your employer. This information is critical to analysing what kind of future you may have at the company. Regardless of your level of seniority, it’s important to know if you are not only meeting expectations but exceeding them, and if your employer views you as someone with long-term potential. Employers are often hesitant to give candid feedback, particularly to junior members of the team, but you should ask questions during your review to get as much data as possible. Despite the anxiety surrounding the review process, being proactive with your review (and career) is critical to understanding your future.
I encourage all of my clients to actively manage their careers at all stages in order to maintain control of their destiny, as opposed to being a passive participant in their own future.
Are you Acting Outside of Your Comfort Zone?
Now that the year is coming to an end, it’s a great time to review your accomplishments in 2019 and analyse your own personal growth. One key factor to think about is whether you are acting outside of your comfort zone? And if so, what was the result? I have always found that professional growth occurs when you are acting just beyond what you think you are capable of. Being challenged in this manner by more senior members of your team is critical. As one of my mentors once said to me, “Stephen, I will never put you in a situation that I don’t think you can handle.” Therefore, you must ask yourself, do you have seniors who are invested in your professional development? Do these seniors think about your capabilities and challenge you to push your limits?
Remember, this is your career and if you aren’t receiving the support and guidance that you deserve, it’s time to make a change. Everyone needs a boss or mentor to challenge them to go beyond their comfort zone as that is where true professional and personal growth occurs.
What Have You Done to Build Your Personal Brand?
No matter what type of job you have, you must be known as a specialist in something. It’s not enough to simply do your day-to-day job without developing an area of expertise in a topic that you are passionate about. Once you find that passion, make sure people in your industry know that you are an expert. If you want your career to go to the next level in 2020, sitting at your desk and marking up corporate documents or drafting the best brief won’t be enough, even if you are the most brilliant lawyer of all time. You must write articles, speak at conferences, and continue to develop your area of expertise in order to build your own personal brand. As your reputation grows, you will find that your business will grow, which is the only way to be in a position to control your destiny.
Don’t be comfortable in 2020, but rather do whatever it takes to invest in your own career and develop your own personal brand. No matter what level of seniority you are at, actively manage your career and good things will happen.
What Do You Want To Accomplish in 2020?
As we are about to enter a new year, it’s time to build your own personal business plan for 2020. It doesn’t matter if you are a first-year lawyer, a mid-level associate, a senior associate, or even a new partner. You must think about and write down what you want to accomplish in the New Year. Having an actual plan is critical to making sure you are meeting your own personal goals, and it’s never too early in your career to do this.
You must change your mindset from someone that has things happen to them to someone who makes things happen for them. This is your career and you must actively manage it in order to meet your own personal and professional goals. I encourage all of my clients to take pen to paper and think through what they want to achieve in the New Year. It’s simply too competitive in the business world to watch from the sidelines. Take hold of your career in this new year and you’ll find great things will happen.
Happy New Year!
Stephen Lable, Founder and Managing Director of The Lable Group, has over twenty years of legal experience that spans working as a senior litigation associate in AmLaw 100 firms as well as serving as an office administrator in the United States and Asia for two different AmLaw 25 firms. Stephen’s passion is to help others find greater satisfaction and rewards from the practice of law, whether that means changing practice areas, changing law firms, or simply better managing the day-to-day demands of a legal career.
This article does not constitute legal advice
The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.