“Sell myself”. “Indulge in shameless self-promotion”. “Push for what I want”. “Be aggressive about going after what I want”. “Climb the corporate ladder”.
These phrases are just a sample of many I hear from the mouths of my female lawyer clients. And most of them are usually preceded by the words “I’m just not the type of woman to…”
There are many clients who come to me with serious pre-conceptions about what “type” of professional woman you have to be to get ahead in your career. The truth, and the good news, is that there is no such thing as a TYPE of successful woman (or man for that matter). There are however many traits and behaviors that successful people exhibit, and these are all things that we can learn too.
There are multiple articles on the traits of successful people and what I want to talk about here is one of the most important traits they all have – they know how to market themselves.
You might have heard this called Personal Branding. It’s one of the latest buzzwords in career development right now. And for good reason. With the rise of linkedin and social networking, our professional profiles are more prolific and prominent than ever before. Our opportunities for self-promotion (positive and negative) are greater than ever at any other time in history. Linkedin is widely tipped to be as big, if not bigger than Facebook, and with over 225 million users (and over 4 million in Australia), who are we to argue?
We are also in a highly competitive career market. With influences such as an increasing number of services being globally outsourced and a tough economy, it is more important than ever that you are able to take control of your own career destiny and not become a casualty of war. One of the best ways to do that is to learn how to market yourself more successfully.
Now the best news of all is that, unlike a multi-national corporation, you don’t need a multi-million dollar budget to be able to market yourself effectively at work.
Here are 4 things you can do to increase your star power at work and ensure your career is a currency that allows you to do what you want with your life.
1. Understand What YOU Want
The pressures and expectations of family, peers and society often result in many of us following careers and, ultimately, living lives that we don’t even really want. Many of us are not even aware of what we do want and what will make us happy. See my recent blog on this topic.
The very first thing I therefore suggest you do as Head of Department Marketing Yourself, is work out exactly what you want from your career. Ask yourself these questions:
• Am I generally happy to go to and be at work most of the time?
• Do I work with people who inspire me to be and do better?
• Do I feel like I am growing professionally and personally as a result of my career?
• Am I given the opportunity to use my strengths and natural talents every day?
Once you have answered these, you should be in a better position to decide whether your chosen career path is actually the right one for you.
Then you can ask questions such as:
• Where do I want to be in 5 years time?
• What do I need to do in the next 12 months, to help me get there?
• How do I really want to be perceived in my role?
• What do I need to do differently to make sure I actually move forward the way I want to?
If you feel you are on the right path, work out where you want to go next. Stay in law, but with a different firm/company? A promotion within your existing firm/company? Moving off and setting up your own practice?
If you realise you are actually at a career crossroads then you have some decisions to make about your future. And Marketing Yourself takes on a different meaning if you are actually going to be reviewing your options and looking for a new career path.
2. Understand What Makes You YOU
“Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.”
― Beatrix Potter
Anyone who knows even a tiny bit about marketing gets that you have to understand the product you are marketing, and the benefits it will bring to its end user. Let’s think about that in the context of marketing yourself.
If you don’t know what motivates you, how can you expect your manager to know?
If you don’t know what you are really good at, how can you expect anyone else to know?
If you don’t know what you truly love doing, how can you expect to be able to do more of that, and less of the things you don’t love doing?
My clients know I bang on about this point obsessively – in short, you absolutely have to understand yourself better to be able to perform at your best, and market yourself in a way that you want to be seen.
How do you do that? Here are 3 suggestions to get you started:
• Work with a coach or mentor to highlight your key strengths.
• Learn about your communication style through behavioural profiling – a fantastic tool to help you understand yourself and others, better.
• Be honest about the areas you love at work: create a simple Love and Loathes list and look for the patterns of what you love doing and don’t love doing. This will help you delegate what you can, and do more of what you really love. There is a strong correlation between what we love, and what we are good at.
Once you have done all of this, you will be in a much better position to understand who and what (ie YOU!) you are actually marketing and create a knock-out strategy to get the best bang for your personal marketing buck.
3. Create a Personal Marketing Plan
If you look after a team, the chances are you have to create a business plan and in some cases you may also be responsible for a marketing plan for your part of the business too.
So surely it makes sense to create a personal marketing plan for yourself while you are at it. Here are some suggestions on how to make a Personal Marketing plan work for you.
• Work with a 6 or 12 month plan, then break it into 90 day periods
• Have a theme for each 90 days such as “New Connections” or “Increase Visibility”. Each activity in the 90 days should be directed at the chosen theme.
• For example with a theme of “New Connections” you might include a target of the number of networking events or meetings you will have, and list what those will be (with dates); or you might include the number of new connections you will make on linkedin.
• Like any form of goal setting, your actions should be achievable and measureable.
4. Take Action!
Now that you understand where you want to go in your career; you know yourself and what you are marketing; and you have a plan to do it, the next part is the really crucial element.
You must take ACTION!
We’ve all written strategies and plans that gather dust in the great drawer of life. This one is different in that you, and only you, can make this plan work.
Yes – you can engage and persuade others to help you along the way, but ultimately your marketing success relies on you and the consistent actions you take.
Start small. Do one thing today that will move you forward tomorrow. You are in control of your own personal brand, what people think of you, and your career success.
And, as the great Don Draper said in Mad Men “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”
Fiona Craig is a specialist in helping lawyers get the direction, skills and confidence they need to create a career that brings them the success, fulfillment and reward they deserve. Fiona uses her 20 years experience of working in and with the legal industry to bring a deep understanding of the challenges facing lawyers in their careers. Through speaking, coaching, mentoring and training, Fiona ensures that her clients have the career vision, confidence and positioning they need to truly excel.