By Alison Ketabchi, Baker Botts, Recruiting Manager
Congratulations! You did it. Your resume was stellar, you made the right impressions, nailed the interview, and got the job. Excellent! Your start date is quickly approaching and you feel nervous all over again. What if you make a mistake? What if you spill coffee on your shirt on your first day? Below are tips that will provide you with advice to ensure you get started on the right foot.
Sounds easy enough, right? We think so too, but it is likely that you will find yourself in a situation where you have to make a quick judgment call. If you are faced with choices and are struggling to make a decision, choose the more conservative approach. The whole “better safe than sorry” saying can really make a difference here.
Be honest with yourself and others. It is okay if you are having a hard time with a project, don’t understand something, or can’t figure out the balance of time management. You are human and this is normal. Do not be afraid to discuss issues and seek out advice from your peers, mentors, or others you trust.
Good judgment is key because it leads to trust, which leads to better relationships, opportunities, and success.
Be Resourceful and Thoughtful
You know that person who asks for the address and directions to the new restaurant where you’re meeting for dinner? You kindly provide the address and a link to the online map, but in your head you’re grumbling, “I had to look it up, too! Have you heard of the internet?” Don’t be that person. Be the resourceful friend that looks up the address and says, “See you there!” Or perhaps you have friends who send you a million questions throughout the day when they could easily find the answers themselves. You spend valuable time responding until you finally get annoyed enough that you simply stop responding. Don’t be one of those friends. Be the friend that finds (or tries to find) the answers on your own.
This advice applies at work as well. If you want to impress your supervisor with your skills, be resourceful and ask thoughtful questions. Asking questions is a good thing, but do it the right way. Everyone is busy, so being efficient and thoughtful about your questions is key. What does asking “thoughtful questions” look like?
1. Be considerate of other people’s time and wait until you have multiple questions to ask. Have you tried to find the answer yourself? Did you really check all of your sources?
2. Email your supervisor and request a few minutes to discuss some questions regarding the matter at hand. (Don’t forget to bring the list of questions, relevant documents, blank paper and a pen to the meeting!)
3. Ask your questions and explain where you searched for answers. This shows initiative and thoughtfulness. (Take notes!)
4. Before you leave the meeting, do you have any follow-up questions? (Are you sure you’re sure?)
Wouldn’t it be nice if life were easy and opportunities were handed to us? The reality is that life can be tough and competitive, and it can be hard to stand out in the crowd. Give yourself the chance to get ahead by taking initiative, getting involved, and seeking out opportunities. Need some ideas? Attend internal programs, get to know the staff, seek out pro bono opportunities, or ask senior attorneys to lunch.
You may also need to take initiative to receive feedback on your work. Not all lawyers are focused on the importance of giving detailed feedback, so you should be prepared to request it. After a deal closes or a case settles, reach out to the lead lawyer to schedule a time to discuss your work product. This can be informal and over coffee, lunch, or in the office. When you receive the feedback, make sure you understand why this feedback is being given. Also, be open to the comments. This will (and should) be a valuable learning experience.
It is never too early to start developing business. It may seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Keep in touch with your classmates and former colleagues. Your peers will continue to grow in their careers and when they are in a position to hire counsel, they will remember you. Also, don’t burn bridges. You never know who will resurface in your life.
A special note to introverts: Putting yourself out there may be scary and sound unworkable. A wise person once told me to keep a notecard with five talking points for the day in my pocket. Each morning I would jot down notes on things that interested me from the newspaper, morning news, or weather channel. I knew what was written on the card in my pocket and instantly felt confident for impromptu conversations.
Balance: Managing Time, Sanity, and Life
This will be one of the most difficult lessons to learn. Everyone is busy, and you too will become one of those people. We are all in search of work life balance and it is harder to maintain in some professions, including the law. People who manage their life successfully accomplish the following: organization, managing expectations, and cultivating interests outside of work.
Organization is a key to success, but being organized can be challenging and may not be a natural strength. Two simple tips about organizing are to start small and start early. You can begin by simply creating an email folder system. Then move to your file drawers, office, and then get wild and organize your closet and kitchen cabinets at home! Starting effective systems early will help you create good habits. Your organizing process will grow and develop as your career does, but having a strong foundation of organization will save you a lot of time throughout your life, cause less stress, and possibly help you find the balance you need.
The next tool in time management is to manage expectations. We all want to be the best, fastest, and smartest person on the team, but that is not always possible. However, it is possible to be a reliable, honest, and hardworking team member that everyone wants to work with. Be realistic about what is on your plate and how long a project may take you to complete. If something is going to take you longer than expected, alert other members of your team. As soon as you realize your deadline is not achievable, let your supervisor know. Don’t surprise them with an extension request at the last minute. That will not go over well. Remember they are managing client expectations, so help them. Learning how to manage expectations can be a tough and delicate feat, but try it, I bet you will feel less pressure and you will do better work.
In the beginning, the work/life juggle may be difficult and it may take a while to find your equilibrium. We tend to put too much pressure on ourselves to do everything and attend every event. Decide what you love, and what is important to you, and make those people and activities a priority. For the loved ones in your life, stay connected by sending a quick email to say you’re busy but wanted to say hello, leave a “good morning” note, or schedule an early morning breakfast date. The little things will go a long way. It is important to your well-being to be involved with activities outside of work. Find the time to do the things you love and you can say no to the rest.
Feeling better? I hope so. At the end of the day, remember you got to this point because you are smart and talented. You can do this! As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”
This is a sponsored blog post from Baker Botts. You can view Baker Botts' Vault profile here.
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