This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, iPleaders.
Preparing to get a job, preparing to crack an interview, preparing to impress on a short meeting is the worst think you can do.
Sure you got to do those things. However, a far more important thing to do is to prepare to be able to do the job.
There are far too many people who know how to land the job, but too few of them actually can do it well. And guess who are the ones who really get to live happily ever after.
In our environment, we hear too much about how to land the job, and too little about how to do the job well. This is especially true for law schools. Law Schools claim to teach you to think like lawyers, but who is going to teach you how to do the job of a lawyer?
So the best that they can come up with is to ask us to prepare to land a job.
Get the job. The job with a big fat salary, amazing opportunities, crazy perks. Work hard, make a great CV, crack the interview, and the rest of the life would be amazing.
That’s what people tend to think. That’s what they do. And it is a grave mistake.
How do you keep that job? How do you perform well? How do you exceed expectations? How do you grow fast? All that is not taught. Most people do not think about these things until they are already struggling with those issues.
And that’s just sad.
Law students get 3-5 years to prepare themselves for a great law career. The idea is to set yourself up for success. If the focus in wrong, it hurts your prospects. And as of now, I can safely say that nobody tells you to prepare for the job. At best, they tell you to prepare for the interview. They perpetuate myths such as you go to internship to learn, as if law firms and in-house departments are all waiting with extended arms to teach practical aspects of legal work to 3rd and 4th year law students. They tell you to score well in exams, as if it is going to matter a few years down the line.
Too many people work too much to score good marks in class, while too little for the jobs that they seek when they graduate. It is ingrained in our brains since we were kids that we must study, study, study in order to succeed. The world looks like as if your marks is the most important thing in the world when you are in college. But it is not.
As you progress in your career, probably even one month down the line, what you scored in your exams will completely cease to matter. You boss, clients and peers will judge you by your performance at work. Are you ready for that?
How are you preparing for real life success in the practice of law? Be it in law firm, in-house legal team or chamber of a senior counsel, are you training yourself?
And it is not enough to prepare for getting your first job. When you have it, and you are doing well at it, you still want to grow. So you must prepare for the next level up. What job is available for you at the next level? You start preparing.
Even if you do your own practice, or start your own law firm, or even a new company, you are doing this all the time. You may be your boss, but still you need to prepare for the promotion. As the practice grows, team grows, clients grow, the job changes. The role changes. And you must prepare ahead.
Those who grow, must keep preparing for the next job while they do the current one. This is because in the marketplace, the most prepared usually wins.
How do you prepare?
One time effort, or even once in a while initiatives don’t cut the ice. What is most needed is regular, small but certain doses of practice. You must find a rhythm that works for you.
Monthly, weekly, daily, whatever works. Usually, if you don’t do something at least weekly, you are unlikely to get very good at it. Schedule it, and get used to the schedule. Make sure you are making progress slowly but steadily. Make sure that the progress is planned and measurable. If possible, get a coach.
Success is not difficult. The key to it is discipline. The key to discipline is the environment. Do not blame yourself or willpower for your lack of discipline. Just change the environment. A very sloppy person gets highly organized when they find themselves in a military camp.
Design your environment for discipline, for a regime, for success.
So what are the habits you are going to cultivate for rising to the top in your career? Here are my top 7.
Short exercise sessions every day, twice a day
To do well in your career, you must stay healthy. Too many people ignore their health in order to work hard, and fall sick and fall out from the racing track. If you don’t have good health, you cannot win.
Also, people who look good, fit, healthy attract positivity and success. We simply like people who look fit and well and energetic.
To have good health, you don’t need to become a bodybuilder, join expensive cross-fit classes or get a 12 month membership to the gym. These things rarely work. Rather make it easy for you.
What works best for me is hiring a coach who will come home and train me at certain hour of the day. It is a little expensive. The second best thing to do is to use an app to exercise for 10 minutes a session, twice a day. You are not trying to win a competition. This is just to maintenance level workout for your body to stay in good shape.
20 minutes a day, 10 minutes at a time. That’s all it takes. That is how easy it is. Just put it on your schedule and do it every day. You can do this even in the office! Or in your bed. It will keep your brain, heart and other vital organs in good shape and prevent a lot of lifestyle diseases.
I use a simple and free app called SWorkIt which guides me on what exercises I should be doing and ensures I have some variety every day.
Making it very easy and simple increases the chances of you doing it more frequently.
Meditate for 10 mins a day
Tim Ferriss is well known for interviewing some of the most successful people in the world for his podcasts and best selling books. Guess what over 90% of his interviewees have in common? They all meditate.
The ordinary people watch movies, sports, engage in other distractions for their mind, the extraordinary works on making it clutter free and sharp through meditation.
If you really work hard at difficult things, you are bound to get a lot of stress. This is the rule. You can’t help it. If you are working on big goals, failure and stress is inevitable. This takes a toll on your mental health. Your mind clutters up. Your spirit fails to hoist you up. Optimism evaporates. You feel like giving up. You want be procrastinate. You become lazy.
You can change all these with just 10 minutes of meditation a day. There are many types of meditations. I do not particularly care about which one you are doing. You can even use a sleep meditation to put yourself to sleep. The goal is to do it repeatedly until it becomes a habit pattern.
Write blog posts or make videos of areas of your expertise or experience
Making videos have become really, really easy. So is writing. We all have thoughts, but you got to write some of them down. What are the things that you think about again and again? What are the things you love to talk about to all your friends and acquaintances? What stories do you tell again and again?
Please start writing them down. Or record them using your mobile camera. And them put them online.
We live in a media driven world. Social media has given us immense power. What we put out gets read, gets viewed, gets appreciated or berated. However, it is important to be visible. That is how you are going to attract your allies, customers, investors, future bosses and many other important people in your life.
The people who start putting their thoughts out there in the world, in whichever format it maybe, even if in form of a twitter thread or linkedin status, get visibility that we all need in our career.
I am already writing a blogpost almost every day. But I have been planning on making videos also, and I have stopped An Hour with LawSikho a couple of months back as I did not find my webinars doing as well as I had expected. I decided to do short videos myself instead.
So I am taking a challenge. I will be posting a video on my linkedin and lawsikho youtube channel every day for the entire month of December. Will you join me? Hit reply and let me know. Use the hashtag #SpeakUpEveryday so that I can find your posts/videos. You can tag me too, here is my linkedin profile and this is the youtube channel.
Practice being generous and optimistic
The higher you climb, the more is at stake, more tense you will be and more people around you will disappoint you. This is a trap. You need to stay focussed through all of these, you cannot give up on people, and must stay generous even to those who botch up.
Staying calm, optimistic and generous in the face of trouble and disaster is the most important leadership quality you can cultivate. And it is not going to happen over night. Compassion takes practice too.
Every day, in my journal, I write down at least one instance throughout the day when I was generous though I didn’t have to be.
For being generous you do not need money. You can be generous with your attention, you can be generous by being kind to people.
This doesn’t mean you sacrifice your interests. You have to learn to be generous without compromising your ultimate goals.
Being generous will also cultivate optimism in your as a natural by-product. An optimistic, generous and calm person, contrary to belief, is a very dangerous person to reckon with.
One of the ways I practice being generous is by wishing my old friends who I am not in touch with anymore on their birthdays. Another easy opportunity to be generous is with the service persons in your environment, such as taxi drivers, waiters, electricians etc. Remember, being generous with money is easy, though that’s a place to start from. Try doing it by having a great conversation with them, by encouraging them, by appreciating them, by connecting them with an opportunity selflessly. See if you can light up their face with joy.
Practice this in life and you will be unstoppable in your life and career.
You can practice generosity right now by sharing this valuable article with some of your friends. If they read it, it is certainly going to have some positive impact of them.
Keep in touch with your old colleagues and friends
It is natural to move forward in life and forget about the old people. However, if you can make an effort to keep in touch with them, asking about how they are doing and sharing about what is going on in your life, that is one of the best things you can do for your own mental health, satisfaction as well as networking.
People who already know you for a long time and have been in touch are far more likely to do a favour than a new person you meet at a conference. Networking 101 is to keep in touch with your old friends, colleagues, and be available for them when they may need something from you.
More people want you to succeed, more likely you are to achieve that success. Let’s hope the people who know you well are rooting for your success.
The way I practice this is that I try to have at least one call or a meeting with an old friend every day, at the end of the day. What practice do you want to implement for this?
Keep talking to your clients/boss regularly, and keep taking feedback – good, bad as well as ugly
Who is your client? Remember that whoever pays for your work is your client. By this definition, your boss is your client too.
Another way to see who is your client is who you need to satisfy to get your outcomes that you want. By this definition, a judge is also a lawyer’s client. It is the judge who must be satisfied with the lawyers work for the outcome to come through.
Is the client happy? Is the client dissatisfied? What does the client want that is not getting delivered? What is the client worried about these days? What is the client dreaming about?
It is your job to have a hand on the pulse of your clients. All extraordinary professionals do this. They know what the client is thinking and they address it.
The only way to do this is to establish amazing communication with your clients. Keep talking to them. If not every day, then every week at least.
For someone like me who has hundreds of clients at any given time, I must talk to at least one client every day.
Every time I talk to clients, I learn new things. It could be a weakness of my product, or how clients are thinking, or what they did not like about our services. Without this communication, which helps us to continuously improve, no organization or even a professional can become truly great.
Keep some time aside for learning
Your learning must never stop. If you stop learning, you career starts to die. Possibilities dry up. Jobs get boring. Excitement vanishes and pressure takes over.
Learning time is critical. If you can’t help it, keep weekly time. However, if possible, learn something daily, even if in small doses. Can you keep one hour a day aside for learning, maybe while you are commuting? Maybe before bed time?
Learning has become so easy now thanks to online courses. There are amazing platforms like Udemy and Masterclass with thousands of fantastic courses to choose from. Our online law courses are a bit more intensive, and requires 7-8 hour per week.
Try to take a course that will have some interaction, where you will have to submit course work, where you will have to be accountable for passing exams. All these things really help to keep you on track. Otherwise, remember that Coursera says that only about 2% of the people who sign up for a course actually ever finish it.
Engagement and accountability is very important. Look for that.
You can also create a habit of reading non-fiction books for personal growth. It goes a very long way in shaping who you are going to be.
Fair warning, most people stop doing these things once they get their dream job, even if doing these things in the first place got them so far! And therefore stop growing. Please don’t fall into that trap, and practice as many of the above things as you can.