- On June 23, 2019
I recently attended a fantastic talk sponsored by APABA-SV featuring Linda Lee, Manager of Career Development at Wilson Sonsini. A Stanford Law grad and former WSGR associate herself, she has coached over 200 associates at the firm. She explained what coaches do: coaches help clients set and achieve professional goals after understanding their values, strengths, weaknesses, and resources. With guidance, clients craft a personalized strategy to achieve their goals, which could be navigating office politics, figuring out how to proceed after major life event, exploring career options, etc.
Five good take-aways from a top coach:
- For a long-term fit, your job must fit who you are. Law students should think about paths they want to go down given their likes and dislikes. For example, if you hate conflict, avoid a litigation job or one requiring tense negotiations. As you progress in your career, continue assessing what you are good at and what you want to leave behind. As an associate, for instance, if you love structure but hate representing startup clients with their erratic demands, consider moving to a public company practice. At every level, map out where you want to go after taking into account your strengths, weaknesses, skills, and values.
- Leverage your performance review to assess your strengths and weaknesses. These annual reviews can troubleshoot for skills you need to develop, e.g., executive presence. (And you can always engage a coach to help you with those problem areas.)
- Need a coach? Some companies like Adobe and Google provide coaching services *free* to managers and high achievers. Many law firms (like Wilson Sonsini) also provide them to associates.
- Look for coaches with “International Coach Federation” certification, which requires that they abide by industry-standard ethics and coaching guidelines. You can save money by getting a new coach who has met ICF requirements but still needs to meet an hourly minimum of coaching clients.
- Identify your goals, and work towards them, no matter how small that first step is. Want to change practice groups? Start by asking one person how he or she did it. Want to move in-house? Go to one event populated by people in an area you want to be in. Want to make a change at work? Identify the power players first (then figure out what you need to ask from them, how to frame your requests, and make the ask!). Do take that first step, however small, in the direction of wherever you want to go.