How to get ahead while keeping your head in your career

The old adage Failing to plan, Is planning to fail, is as true today as it was when Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase as serving US President in the 1780s. Yet there are some candidates who despite being ambition don’t actually have a career plan in place: Where are they heading and how will they know when they have gotten there?

This is actually surprisingly common. But before you start firing off your CV for the next role that appears to be a natural steppingstone towards advancing your career, take a moment to consider where you are now and where you would like to be. Only then can you decide whether a move elsewhere is the right one to make.

Here are our top five rules to set you up for success:

  1. Set your objective: Simply aiming for “more money” won’t suffice; how will you know when you have achieved your goal? How much more money do you want to earn? Are you currently in the right role for the career path you want to pursue and what do you need to do to move up into your next position – is it a case of needing more time to master the job, do you need more training or a further professional qualification? By setting specific, bite-sized goals that can be ticked off along the way you can then better measure your success – inconsistent goals mean inconsistent progress.
  2. Develop a plan to achieve your objective: It might seem obvious, but the value of making a career progression plan is all too often overlooked. Write down what you want to achieve in your next role and set a timeframe within which to do so; a strict deadline creates the pressure of a time constraint, which will motivate you when an easier option seems the best option.
  3. Make the plan realistic and achievable: Ambition is very important but knocking one of the Partners off their perch within a year might be a little unrealistic. Make sure your goals are attainable – you want a challenge, but ultimately you want to achieve what you have set out to do. Aim for one promotion at time, and before you know it you could find yourself seated at the top table.
  4. Be flexible: If you want climb the ladder quickly you’ll need to be flexible. Working in the legal sector requires considerable resilience, commitment and resourcefulness and there will invariably be occasions when you will be called upon to put in the extra hours and take on additional responsibilities. This is not the reserve of our sector – it happens in all professions, but anything you do that goes above and beyond your job description will be noted and at some point your display of commitment could work in your favour.
  5. Keep up to date with trends: The legal sector in the UK is ever-changing and it is your job to stay on top of the latest developments affecting your area of expertise. TV, the business pages of national newspapers and publications such as Lawyer Monthly (check us out in there last month), The Law Society Gazette and The Lawyer will help you stay up to date. Your clients will expect you to know what’s going on in the sector and so will your seniors – it pays to be ahead of the game.

For his book Winners and How They Succeed, Alistair Campbell interviewed dozens of some of the world’s most successful people. In doing so he unearthed the three traits that make people rise to the very top of their profession – clear objective, devising the strategy, then taking the tactical steps needed.

Ultimately goal setting is more than saying that you ‘want’ to achieve something. It’s saying I WILL achieve something and having the drive to commit to your goals.