I recently read the article, “Don’t be the victim in your career” on TechRepublic’s site. It was interesting how the author could have been writing about an e-discovery project manager instead of an IT professional in general. There are so many parallels to be drawn here. I encourage you to read the article in its entirety. The author’s ideas about leadership, management and career planning struck me as hugely beneficial.
Plan your career as if you’re planning a business, detailing your profit requirements, skills you want to acquire, and geographies and industries you want to experience. If a leadership role is what you’re after, determine how you’ll learn basic management and advanced leadership and approach people around you whose skills you admire. Rather than waiting for HR to approve training budgets or launch a formal mentor program, seek the best and most talented and establish a rapport. At the very least, you’ll feel far more empowered by taking control of your development, and you’ll likely mystify those around you as you advance while they’re waiting on HR or some contrived “training fairy” to build their skills.
Evaluate your performance against this personal “business plan” each year and change the plan or correct your course as necessary, but never let circumstances batter you through life like a piece of driftwood on a stormy sea.
In the law firm or corporate legal environment, there is not a lot of room for upward mobility within the organization. You are hired as a paralegal. You can become a “senior” paralegal or the paralegal “manager” in most firms. Larger organizations may have more structure levels. Lately, many career bloggers have suggested that litigation paralegals can find great opportunities as e-discovery specialists or e-discovery project managers. (In fact, I will discuss this in more detail at my upcoming webinar, April 24th on e-discovery project management. (Click here to register and send me an email for the discount code, firstname.lastname@example.org) ) What does it take to become an e-discovery project manager? The author of the article suggests that if you are going to proactively execute a personal business plan for your career, then you must take ownership and initiative to seek the training you need to achieve your goals. My upcoming webinar is one way you can learn more about e-discovery project management. Another is to work with me directly to develop a custom learning plan that meets your skill building goals. Finding a mentor within your company or the industry is another highly recommended way to advance your skill set. There are also several training companies and organizations that offer certification programs if that is part of your career business plan.
Leadership is learned. It’s not magic either. The article ends with an illustration of manager disasters. Do you wish to become the next paralegal manager or director of project management for your firm? Start learning all you can about leadership and management best practices NOW. Often, people with leadership skills who demonstrate them in non-leadership roles are promoted. Disasters in management occur (according to the article, and I tend to agree) when someone with exceptional skills at a task are promoted with no leadership or management skills and the organization has no learning path planned for them to attain the necessary “soft” skills to be successful in their new position.
Commit to yourself TODAY that you are going to take a proactive approach to managing your career like a business. Draft a business plan. Review it with a mentor. Take a class. Watch some leadership videos. Read a book. Listen to a podcast. Subscribe to my blog. *smile*