Over the past two weeks, I have taken time to reflect on 2023. I was reminded that I continue to be a work in process. Professional and personal development has no final destination. Professional and personal development is a dynamic and ongoing process that requires patience and persistence.
As I end one year and begin a new one, I will not be making any grand New Year’s resolutions. I will, however, carry forward lessons I have learned professionally and personally over the past several years. While these lessons are my lessons, I thought I would share them here in the hopes that someone else may find them helpful.
I have learned …
It is important to set clear goals. While defining my short- and long-term goals is helpful because it provides a roadmap for my personal and professional development, I have come to accept that my life and my work will never unfold exactly as I expect. I have learned not to fear the unexpected, but to embrace it instead. Because the business landscape continues to evolve and change, I must also evolve and change. I have to be able to navigate new technologies, methodologies, and industry trends. I must be prepared to adjust, to adapt, and to chart a different course to achieve new goals.
It is important to make continuous learning a priority. Staying curious and embracing new perspectives, ideas, and attitudes is so important. Continuous learning has helped me develop a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me. Continuous learning for me has taken many forms. I have engaged in self-directed learning through online courses, books, and tutorials; I have engaged in formal learning by attending workshops, conferences, and training programs; but the way I have found that I learn best, however, is by just doing and reflecting on my own experiences, my successes, and my failures. As a result of these reflections, I have been able to adjust what I do moving forward based on what has worked well and what has not worked as well.
It is important to seek constructive feedback. Seeking and receiving constructive feedback from colleagues, supervisors, and outside parties has been critical for my personal and professional growth. With constructive feedback, I have been able to identify areas for improvement, and I have been able to make the changes to enhance my performance. I have also learned, however, that not all feedback is created equal. Feedback is just one individual’s prospective. I have learned that I need to evaluate the feedback provided. It is up to me to decide if I act on that feedback.
It is important to network and build a strong professional network. Connecting with colleagues, industry peers, and other professionals through networking has provided me with countless opportunities for learning, collaboration, and career advancement. I have learned, however, that connecting is not a one and done endeavor. If you network effectively, you do more than just make a connection. You use that connection as the foundation for an on-going relationship that you nurture and grow over time.
It is important to develop both technical and soft skills. Developing a combination of technical and soft skills has been essential for my success. Soft skills, such as communication, leadership, and emotional intelligence have complemented and enhanced my technical expertise. Unlike the development of technique expertise, I have found that I have had to be more intentional about the development of my soft skills. Aside from the leadership training courses I had in the military, I have not taken any courses on the development of soft skills. I have developed soft skills over time through trial and error and by reading everything I could get my hands on.
It is important to stay informed. By staying up-to-date on industry trends, market demands, and emerging technologies, I have found it easier to anticipate challenges for my employer. By anticipating future challenges, I have been in a better position to help my employer take a proactive rather than a reactive approach to an ever-changing business landscape. I have stayed informed by subscribing to and by reading relevant publications and newsletters.
It is important to take risks. Over the years, I have become more comfortable with who I am and what I can do. Reaching that point has been very satisfying, but it has also presented challenges. Becoming too comfortable can be problematic. Learned that taking calculated risks and operating out of my comfort zone has led me to new opportunities for growth and learning and sharpened my existing skills.
As I conclude this reflection on the past year, I am filled with gratitude for the lessons learned and the growth I have experienced both professionally and personally. The realization that setting clear goals, embracing continuous learning, seeking constructive feedback, building a robust professional network, and developing a balance of technical and soft skills are indispensable elements in my journey. The importance of staying informed and the value of taking calculated risks have become guiding principles, shaping my approach to challenges and opportunities alike.
As I step into the new year, I will make a commitment to applying these valuable lessons in my daily life. May this shared reflection inspire you on your own journeys of self-discovery, resilience, and achievement. Here’s to the ongoing pursuit of personal and professional development in the ever-evolving tapestry of life.
Lisa Lang is an in-house lawyer and thought leader who is passionate about all things in-house. She has recently launched a website and blog Why This, Not That™ (www.lawyerlisalang.com ) to serve as a resource for in-house lawyers. You can e-mail her at [email protected] , connect with her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/lawyerlisalang/) or follow her on Twitter (@lang_lawyer).