Lessons Learned: Valuable Career Tips from our President, Laurie Chamberlin

Whether you’re just starting your career or you’ve already been in business for years, there is always something to learn. My career path was anything but ordinary. I started out as a litigation paralegal because I was not certain if I wanted to go to law school. Fast forward 9 years and I was a billing paralegal manager, figuring I should give law school a shot. Fate intervened and Special Counsel recruited me to their DC branch office. Through a series of opportunities including a change in business units, I find myself in my current role. Along the way, I’ve had success, made lots of mistakes, and I continue to learn each day. Here are the top 10 lessons I learned.

1. Take every task seriously.

Although some of your initial responsibilities may seem mundane or unimportant, if you do not take them seriously, no one is going to trust you with more substantial or rewarding work.

2. The easy way isn’t.

Procrastinating on unpleasant tasks takes up far more mental space and time than if you tackle these things first. It makes everything easier in the long run.

3. Own up to your mistakes.

We all will make mistakes. Some are a minor glitch and some are significant. Regardless, own them. Your quick reaction and getting assistance where appropriate will help facilitate learning, mitigate the issue and in the end, garner more respect from your colleagues and superiors than avoidance or finger pointing ever could.

4. Just because it sounds like a good idea on paper, does not mean it will work.

Some of the best ideas simply do not work. It does not mean it is a bad idea, but the reality is that if something isn’t working, the sooner you can identify it and abandon it, the better. Digging in can be a costly error.

5. Take risks.

If you are being asked to take a risk by someone you trust, ask yourself: Is this going to be fun? Will I learn something from this? If you answer yes, then move forward! Everything else will iron itself out if you are taking it on for the right reasons.

6. Don’t let your weaknesses become your PR.

We’ve all got our challenges. Some people choose to embrace it as something everyone else has to put up with because their other talents are worth it. This will always come into play when people are discussing promotions or new challenges. Alternatively, those who choose to minimize their weaknesses do not have others spending airtime on the negative. These individuals are far more likely to be moved along in their career progression, and more quickly. Example: Don’t let everyone see your constant tardiness instead of what a great subject matter expert you are.

7. Be generous with your knowledge.

With four distinctly different generations working under one roof, institutional knowledge is of utmost importance. If you are a seasoned professional, share your knowledge with your team. Hoarding knowledge may give you a sense of job security but it limits the ability to move you to new roles.

8. Choose pronouns carefully.

When speaking about challenges, use and mean the word “we”. What can we do to get this fixed? How should we move forward? When providing positive feedback, use the word “you.” You were instrumental in getting that deal closed. I am so impressed with your research. Many people do the opposite. Simple word choices can make a big difference in how people work with you.

9. Assume positive intent.

Most people do not wake up in the morning to perform poorly or to sabotage you. By assuming positive intent, you eliminate creating a fictitious personal or political backstory. It fosters an environment of more patience, more questions and more collaboration instead of knee-jerk reactions.

10. Trust yourself.

Your career is YOUR career. A career path is a winding road full of roadblocks and occasional flat tires. What’s important is to accept the fact that you must sometimes venture off the beaten path to find your own way. Trust your experience, trust your knowledge, and trust yourself.

Now it’s up to you. How do these lessons apply to your current position? Make them your own and implement them into your day-to-day.


laurie-chamberlin-special-counsel-presidentLaurie Chamberlin is the Brand President of Special Counsel. Laurie graduated from Miami University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1990. For nine years, she worked in prestigious law firms in litigation. Laurie joined the Special Counsel family in 1999 as the Executive Director of our Washington D.C. office. After three years, she was promoted to Vice President for National Resource Solutions. In 2006, Laurie transitioned to our sister company, Accounting Principals. She returned to Special Counsel in her current role of Brand President in April 2013.

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