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Already it is mid January, but still officially a ‘New Year’ which means there is much talk (and excitement) about a ‘fresh start,’ across many areas, including the pursuit of a new and challenging next ‘career move in house.’
Having ambitious career aspirations is laudable. Doing something about it and succeeding in beating off the competition to land a choice, legal role is quite an achievement. Once you have managed this, it does not stop there however. Whether you are an in house lawyer or in another profession, making your new role a long term success can be tough and those first 100 days with your new employer is your ‘make or break’ time, in many ways. It is a unique opportunity to position yourself, so how do you approach it? Well, what you must not do is let this important period slip by without making the right impact.
First, there is the ‘honeymoon,’ period. This is the same with all new jobs and it is no different for lawyers in house. It is ok for you to make a small mistake during this time. However, like with a relationship, this bit is behind you before you know it and soon enough, it is ‘full steam ahead!’ Therefore, you must take full advantage of this period. As a specialist legal consultancy, we can help you prepare for this, to a certain extent, but ultimately it is down to you and there is only ever one opportunity to make a positive ‘first impression…. ‘
In your first 100 days, you will have an opportunity to really understand what it is that you have signed up for. You will get to know the new company and sector you now belong to; the various people you will work with and report into; the internal politics; relationships and the ‘gameplay’ that generally exist in most organisations.
Take the time to gather as much relevant ‘intelligence’ as you possibly can before and during these early days. Remain focused on learning as much as you can about everything and everyone, before expectations start to rise and the honeymoon period is over. This is valuable time, for you to accept offers of help too. Don’t over commit to deliver too much, but at the same time, remain positive, energetic and present a willingness to ‘get on with projects’ and immerse yourself in the team and overall business.
1. Ask for an organisation structure and master it as soon as possible. Although it may appear that you have joined a flat structured team or organisation, it is rare for hierarchies not to exist and it will be useful for you to find this out as early as possible. This may require you picking up on subtle nuances to properly understand everybody’s role and ‘true’ responsibilities
2. Try to remember individual names, not just departments. If you need to, jot them down or create gentle reminders about who is who and where they fit in.
3. Ask questions, but try to ask the ‘right’ ones. It is good to demonstrate that you are curious and thoughtful, but try to avoid asking the same questions twice. Before joining an organisation you will have done your due diligence, but don’t assume that you know it all or that it is the same as your ‘old place.’ It will be different and few people respond well to hearing that they or their systems are not unique, better, more relevant, successful, etc.
4. Avoid any politics. Don’t align yourself with anyone in particular, but remain very much part of the team. Over time, you can make your own mind up about the team and company dynamics.
5. Show what you can do. If an opportunity to shine presents itself, take it. If you can score a ‘quick win,’ even if it is something quite minor, it will create a positive impression. Seize all opportunities to do this.
6. Keep an open mind. Try to avoid jumping to conclusions too early about whether the role is right and the best decision. It may not be what you expected, but may lead to an even more exciting, fulfilling job, if you let it.
7. Be confident and have perspective. Gently remind yourself that the in house legal market is highly competitive and yet you are the one who was offered this job, so you are already a step ahead. Try to remember this and to enjoy and make the most of the superb career opportunity ahead of you!
By Rachael North, Director, In House. Rachael has been specialising in international legal appointments in house for 18 years. She has successfully introduced lawyers to high profile clients across most industry sectors, including from the most junior lawyer up to General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer level. If you would like to discuss your legal career in house, please contact Rachael on +44 (0) 203 651 5718 or email email@example.com