Beyond the Billable Hour: Tooting Your Own Horn: Practical Strategies for Developing Self-Promotion Skill and Comfort
One might think that women whose most finely developed skill is advocacy would be wonderful advocates for themselves. But in reality….
When it comes to self-advocacy women lawyers are in a double bind. In our culture, women are socialized to believe that self-promotion is regarded as unbecoming and aggressive and that doing so will have negative consequences for their careers. Raised to value modesty and to eschew boasting, many women feel uncomfortable highlighting their expertise and accomplishments.
At the same time, self-promotion is an essential component of an effective career-development strategy. Calling attention to your expertise, claiming credit for your victories, expressing your informed opinion and speaking up are all fundamentally forms of marketing.
Marketing activities do not only refer to out-of-firm efforts to bring in new business. You also need to market yourself within your firm or organization. Being promoted to partner or supervisor or executive committee, earning pay raises and bonuses, and receiving business development opportunities all depend upon the image you project. And this image is largely created by the information people have about your talents and successes. Most of the time, your colleagues and superiors won’t see you in action; and even when they do they see only a small percentage of your total “acts.” The missing data has to come from the actor herself.
Self-advocacy is a way to take an active role in directing your own career. Doing what you can in order to further your success is empowering. And if the firm you’re in can’t handle it, another one will. If you need confirmation of your marketability elsewhere, a legal recruiter can easily provide this.
Here are 13 practical steps for developing your skills as self-promotion.
KEEP A LOG OF YOUR SUCCESSES –
Unless you recognize them, no one else will. No “win” is too small to record.
LIST YOUR STRENGTHS –
Make a list of your strengths, of what makes you unique and why someone should want your legal services.
RE-DEFINE SELF-PROMOTION –
Re-define self-promotion, self-advocacy and self- marketing as taking control of your career, developing a clear sense of your strengths and making others aware of your genuine commitment to your work.
SHARE YOUR STRENGTHS AND CONVICTIONS –
If you think of self-promotion as simply sharing your strengths and convictions then every interpersonal interaction is an opportunity for self-advocacy. Don’t people at parties ask you what you do? Are you offended if they tell you about their work with enthusiasm?
REJECT GENDER STEREOTYPES –
Refuse to accept gender stereotypes that suggest that “tooting your own horn” is acceptable behavior for men but not women.
TAKE CALCULATED RISKS –
Recognize that self-advocacy is risk-taking behavior and that everyone feels anxious when they take risks. Also remind yourself that not promoting yourself is risky.
CULTIVATE ALLIANCES –
Ask yourself with whom it is important for you to have a relationship in your firm, particularly in your practice area. Cultivate contacts and alliances within your organization. Develop a good relationship with a powerful advocate. Show these people you’re thinking about things when they can’t see you. E-mail them relevant press clippings or other important information you come across.
STRATEGICALLY SELECT ORGANIZAITONS AND COMMITTEES FOR PARTICIPATION –
Use your limited time to serve your goals. Participate in those professional organizations that will bring you in contact with people who can bring you business. Be visible in these organizations by giving talks or being active on committees. Within your own firm or organization, choose an administrative role for which you can become recognized. Increase your visibility by volunteering for leadership roles and being outspoken on matters that spotlight your expertise.
GET YOUR SUCCESSES IN PRING –
Most firms and business organizations have internal publications. If you receive an award, have worked on a big case or successfully negotiated a transaction, publicize it in the newsletter.
PRACTICE LEADERSHIP SKILLS –
Consider taking on leadership roles within your local women’s bar association. This is a wonderful opportunity to develop leadership skills, increase your confidence, and find models and support.
SPEAK UP ABOUT YOURSELF EFFECTIVELY –
When you talk to colleagues and superiors, mention what you’re doing. Tell others how you’re working toward your current goals. Repeat compliments you receive. State your activities, accomplishments and knowledge definitely. Don’t undermine your assertions with comments that minimize your contributions. Practice saying “I am; I did; I know,” etc. with no “but” following the declaration. Don’t qualify your statements with “I think…” Simply state what you have done, can do, and know.
OBSERVE THE EXPERTS –
Notice individuals in your organization who are particularly effective at self-promotion. Observe what they do and say, and how they say it. Tailor their examples to your own style and make a commitment to practice. Begin with people with whom you’re relatively more comfortable and work your way up to more challenging situations.
NOTICE OPPORTUNITIES –
Stay open to opportunities. Enjoy meeting people. If you have solutions to their problems, tell them. They’ll be grateful. They may also provide you with information, referrals and leads. Stop black-and white thinking about relationships. Your work is an expression of your identity.