Every career success sits on the shoulders of mistakes, failures, and lessons learned. The key is to pick yourself up after each stumble and to figure out what that stumble was supposed to teach you.
Here are some common mistakes and suggestions to overcome them:
Prioritizing your career over your life
The sad reality is that this is how many lawyers first arrived to law school, where they succumb to the pressure of conforming to what everyone tells them that their career should look like or what their career move should be. Similar pressures exist in the legal workplace. This is a profession that rewards excellent client service—even at the expense of the lawyer’s life.
What do you do?
Remember that there are certain things that should take priority. If your health is failing, you won’t be able to practice law. If you risk your relationship with your children, it may leave a scar that never fully heals. Be very clear with yourself (at least) about what your priorities are. Draw boundaries—and enforce them.
Keep in mind that your life is a one-shot deal. If you are unsure about your career goal, think about what your lifestyle goals are, and build your career moves to support that vision. Take time to re-evaluate the relationship between your work and your life.
Look around and evaluate the culture of your workplace. Do your colleagues and supervisors respect your priorities? If you are in an environment that does not support your life, it may be time to consider a move.
Law is a game of who you know just as much as it is a game of what you know. Your reputation matters. Don’t burn bridges.
Oftentimes this takes the form of building a relationship with a terrific senior attorney who serves as your mentor. Your mentor works hard to advocate and champion your career, and provides you with an opportunity to take the lead on a high-visibility project. Another senior attorney takes notice, and offers you an opportunity to take the lead on a different project—and you are convinced that you can rise faster if you take the lead on that different project. Time passes, and now you realize your relationship with your mentor is not the same.
What do you do?
Make an effort to rebuild the damaged bridge (and avoid text message or email chains!). Send a note, and talk face-to-face. Remember: no one likes feeling taken advantaged of; your aim is to reconnect, not to ask for more help. Don’t convey that you wouldn’t bother repairing the bridge you burned except that you need something now.