I spoke recently at the Leeds Launch event of Women in the Law UK. The theme was Clarity, Connection and Confidence. Delegates, particularly those at a career crossroads or “deciding to decide” on promotion, said they found it an inspiring piece,
Here then, a summary of the salient points in the hope that more will be inspired and through clarity and connections find or increase confidence.
Have a goal and make an action plan to achieve it
By this I mean have a clear career strategy. It’s often said “It’s hard to score without a goal” and as a specialist coach for female lawyers I couldn’t agree more. In Steven Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he discovered that (Habit 2) highly effective people “Start with the end in mind”. He gave the example of an Olympic athlete visualising their “podium moment” before even running race. With every client, I encourage them to be clear about their goal, visualise the end-point then, working backwards, put plans in place to get there. Everything we do thereaftercan then be “on purpose” towards that outcome.
Establish yourself as an expert: Know Your niche or USP
I know from my experiences as a criminal barrister that, at the outset of any career journey, as a pupil barrister or with a solicitors’ training contract, you need to “try before you buy,” keep an open mind and say yes to varied opportunities. This lead me to my Pegasus Scholarship with the Inner Temple to work at Capital Chambers, Wellington, New Zealand for 3 months and then my Bar Human Rights Committee Death Row Work in Jamaica. Baroness Hale said at the Temple (North) Women’s Forum event last month, there is a huge variety available within law, so you may need to consider not just the obvious jobs, and from my experience I would agree.
She went on to say, however, that finding your niche is the most important thing. Of that, there can be no doubt. At the point you seek absolute clarity on career/ business direction, remember “Generalists seek clients, clients seek specialists.” This is as true with coaching as with law – First I was a Criminal Specialist, then I became an experienced Grade 4 Prosecutor, finally a Rape Specialist. By the time I finished my career at the Bar I had a successful “heavy weight Prosecution sex” practice!
To niche or establish yourself as an expert means you become the go-to person, the specialist, the person who if someone has a particular problem they know you are the one (& often only) person who can solve it for them.
It’s the same with coaching: I receive referrals now as the “go-to person” for specialist empowerment coaching for female lawyers.
How do you Reach Your Goal & Niche? Learn to say “No”
So many of us struggle to say no which means we end up taking on too many tasks, spreading ourselves too thinly and then doing lots of things badly rather than a few things well.
I have blogged about this topic separately if you wish to take a look.
In summary though, it is imperative that you maintain your own focus, instead of being distracted/ diverted off course: Know what you will say yes too; Ask “Whose plan am I working to?”; and practice saying no, then practice some more.
Build relationships/ Network; Have supportive team & people who inspire you
“If people like you, they’ll listen to you; If they trust you, they’ll do business with you:” Zig Ziglar. That’s why it’s so important to build relationshipswith people. When you network, think about how you can help others, not how they can help you. This has certainly been the best mantra for me as a member of Women In Business Network.
Likewise, don’t under-estimate the importance of having a supportive teamaround you. If you don’t, communications can easily break down, as was my experience on returning to work after 12 months maternity leave with my second child.
Look at who inspires you. Who are your female role models? What qualities do they possess that you aspire to? Are you a role model to others? Do you connect with other women and vice versa? If so, can you see that this is because of a clear and consistent niche or commonality of style?
Use the power of Social Media & other “platforms” to good effect
It’s free marketing for goodness sake, use it!! Why wouldn’t you?? This applies equally to social media as it does to writing articles or blogs for other publications. By doing so you build not just a business but a brand, and establish a persuasive platform from it, albeit staying mindful of the limits imposed by our professional bodies about the extent to which you can comment/ share.
Connect with Yourself– Authenticity
a) Find your authentic path
Bear with me here. I’m not going “Woo-woo.” It was Steven Covey, again, who explained how easy it is to get caught up in life’s busy-ness, working hard to climb the ladder of success, only to discover that all the time the ladder has been leaning against the wrong wall. I can totally relate to this.
Whilst in Jamaica, doing my Death Row work, I was working with passion and authenticity. It was on my return home to the “everyday grind” of child sex cases that I experienced an internal conflict, my “career crossroads moment.” Coaching got me back on track – my focus became more around income and the “high life”. Those that know me know I’m not materialistic, so unsurprisingly, after a further 8-10 years, things still not “right”. My internal conflict returned because of a lack of authenticity in that path.
This is when you have to get honest about your own Values/ Beliefs/ Drivers, to ensure you put your ladder against the right wall before you start climbing; otherwise things will always come up short.
b) Consider how you define Success??
Success can mean many things to many different people: Being a silk, a judge, an equity partner in a law firm, ORnone of the above…What success means to you will be influenced by your Values/ Beliefs/ Goals. Give yourself permission to start the conversation with yourself: What do you want? What do you reallywant? This is totally personal to you and should not be influenced by others. The obvious example here is pursuing a Specialist Corporate and Executive Coaching Business as opposed to continuing a career at the Bar.
- Interestingly, in an “Applying for Silk” Workshop for Temple Women’s Forum, a psychologist encouraged women to be more confident and apply, not when 90% sure as research shows, but, like men, when 60% sure of success. To go back to my original point, by establishing yourself as an expert, your personal confidence will increase.
- Develop an emotional “buy-in”to your end goal to reinforce it and motivate you towards it. I think of how proud my kids will be of their Mummy, taking a major leap of faith to implement (not just a change of career but to start my own business) and learning to fly on the way down.
- In addition, what better way to increase personal confidence than by having a genuine connection with yourself.I know from personal experience how effective coaching is at increasing personalperformance & confidence in every aspect of life. Engineering a method by which we makeour job or business work more effectively for us is essential – even if this means progressing our career, whether legal or otherwise, in a way that is individual to USrather than in line with what others expect.
I end with one of my favourite quotes which came to light in Research by Bronnie Waring, a Palliative Care Nurse, who compiled research on the top 5 regrets of the dying: Live a life true to yourself, not the life others expect
Nikki Alderson is a specialist corporate and executive coach empowering female lawyers to achieve their career ambitions whilst creating congruent lives. For more information, see www.nikkialdersoncoaching.comorfollow her on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter by clicking the links below: