There is this idea that you have to shamelessly self-promote to get ahead. It has gained real traction with women—who are reminded regularly that men are better self-promoters and that other women are not their allies at work, but their competitors.
I’m not suggesting that women shouldn’t promote themselves. There are good reasons to cultivate visibility. Nonetheless, in my experience, it’s most often less overt measures that lead to lasting visibility.
In my career, I haven’t courted visibility very often. Instead, I have placed more emphasis on creating—and then capitalizing on—opportunities. I stay engaged in the dialogue around projects and then ask for the tough assignments. I want to do the work, to learn the new skill, to push beyond what I did last time and deliver something truly valuable to the client. That is far more satisfying to me than visibility.
One of my professional mentors—the man who hired me at GCG—has a favorite saying: “Good work gets good work.” And he is right. Whether you work in a mailroom or are a COO, the quality of your work is what will drive lasting visibility for you. People will seek out the person who makes their job easier. It’s a less direct path to visibility, but one that shows who you are as a professional.
I am currently working heavily on two significant projects in cities with very different cultures. What leads to visibility in one city wouldn’t work in the other. Trying to achieve it in both would be exhausting! The same is true of clients, who expect and respond to different things. But everyone everywhere responds to good work. Deliver good work, and the visibility will come.
On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
The legal industry is constantly changing, and every new project presents brand-new challenges, packaged in entirely different ways. To succeed, you have to be excited by the challenges, view them as an invitation to grow, and be compelled to solve them—almost like a puzzle. Then you have to be willing to work tirelessly to identify the solution and be tenacious about getting the right result. And at the end of the day, you have to enjoy the process. Otherwise, why spend your time doing it?
On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
My father was my mentor and sponsor long before I knew what that even meant. He taught me to clarify my objective, to identify the path to achieving it, and then to be fearless in pursuing that path. He also conditioned me at a very early age to think that there were no limits to what I could accomplish and to let nothing stand in my way.
Jennifer’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
Raise your hand. Choose to engage and then stay engaged. Don’t wait for someone to find you. You have to be comfortable asking questions to which you don’t have the first inkling of an answer. You have to be willing to be vulnerable in that way.