How to Start Charting Your Own Course

Sheila Murphy
June 18, 2024

In the movie Working Girl, Tess McGill is an ambitious, working-class 30-year-old from Staten Island with a bachelor's degree in business that she achieved by taking evening classes. She works as a stockbroker's secretary in lower Manhattan, aspiring to reach an executive position. Tess has a bit of a Cinderella story in terms of exceeding the limitations others put on her.

In real life, it is not quite as easy.

Here are 3 of My Tips to Start Charting Your Own Course

Tip 1: Know Your End Game

I know this may seem obvious, but I meet with many people who jump into networking and take on internal and external responsibilities without understanding why they are doing it or what they hope to get out of it. And all this does is waste time and frustrate people. Take the time to decide what your end game is. And by the way, it does not have to be one—you can have a few possible objectives.

With my client, "Jane," once she understood what companies she wanted to represent and on what issues, she could do the work to develop a strategy to build a more robust network and convert contacts into clients.

Before that, she was haphazardly networking and asking people for business.

Similarly, when "Sara" decided on what two positions she would love to have as her next role. She could focus on the skills and experiences she wanted to present herself better. Also, with this clear understanding, Sara could articulate to her network what opportunities she was seeking, and they could then pass along the right ones.

Tip 2: Do Your Research

Once you understand your endgame, you must research what it takes to get there. Generally, what are the experiences, behaviors, and skills necessary to attain that objective? If, for example, you are trying to become a partner or climb the corporate ladder where you are today, what are the requirements before and after? What is important? Is there documentation that lays out the criteria? In addition to reviewing formal documentation, you must have conversations with people in the know about what the decision-makers value. Are they looking for actual business, potential business, or managerial experience?

If looking at an outside role, start by researching people companies have hired for these positions. What do their profiles say about their experience, skills, and behaviors? What groups or organizations do they belong to? What do they speak or write upon?  

Then you also want to go through the interview process of talking to people either in these roles or previously in them to see what they would recommend you do. During these interviews, you want to learn more about what the position generally entails and what they think about you in that role. What strengths would you bring, and what things do you need to exhibit to be a better fit for the role?

When interviewing people, always ask if there is anyone else they think you should speak with. You want to gather as much information as possible to know what strengths you should be leveraging and what you should be doing to bolster the odds that an organization will hire you for the role.

Tip 3: Written Plan

Once you have gathered all of your intel, you need to work on a written plan. Why written? The research shows that they are more efficient and effective. People with written plans are 10X more effective in reaching their objectives. By writing the plan down, you have a much more thought-out road map to success.

The plan should include a section on how to enhance skills and behaviors and gain experiences. If your management has told you that you need to show more gravitas or demonstrate more industry knowledge—what is your plan for getting there? What is your approach if the firm informs you that you have a great network but need to convert those contacts into clients? Also, include in the plan your professional profile or brand, how you will amplify it, and your networking plan.

Finally, your plan should include check-in points to see if you are adhering to the plan and whether you need to make any adjustments.

If you take these three steps, you will go from a Working Girl to a Boss.


Want to go from stuck to unstoppable?

Take a look at my guide which outlines the 3 steps you MUST take to propel toward PROMOTION.

In today's legal market, many in-house counsel provide legal services in your niche. To advance, you MUST differentiate yourself by creating the right professional profile, becoming comfortable promoting a robust reputation, and leveraging your influential contacts. By the end of this session, you will know HOW to advance as an inside counsel and COMMAND greater control of your courage, compensation, and career.

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