Reflections on NWT-WLF’s career management workshop

  • June 19, 2018
  • Kelly McLaughlin

Career management

The CBA-NT Women Lawyers Forum Section hosted a career management workshop in Yellowknife on May 11, 2018. Andrea Rayment, Director of Professional Development in the Vancouver office of Clark Wilson LLP, travelled to Yellowknife to guide participants – all at different stages in their respective careers – through a strategic and realistic career-planning exercise grounded in each person’s core values.

This event allowed participants time to focus on where they are in their careers and in their lives generally, to hone in on a specific goal – whether it be a work project, a plan for accomplishing something on a volunteer board, or pursuing another extracurricular interest – and then to plan out a course of action for achieving that goal. Participants found value in brainstorming with others to help refine the goal and an action plan. Since then, I have thought a lot about the workshop, the candid participation of the women who attended and the feedback received after the event. Aside from my own personal takeaway of a focused goal for the upcoming year, I learned some deeper lessons.

Career development sources, particularly those for women, tend to emphasize the importance of setting goals. We recognize that intentional goal-setting helps focus your finite resources on important steps in your career path, motivates you and helps you to hold yourself accountable. Career development plans also form the basis for other important activities for women in career advancement: communicating goals to others and finding advocates.

At the risk of using an overly-broad brush, career development sources say that women have a difficult time promoting themselves, making it of vital importance to make others (a boss, colleagues, other trusted contacts) aware of career goals and ambitions, to increase the chances that others will assign you challenging and valuable work, will recommend you to colleagues when relevant opportunities arise, and will speak up for you when you may not be available to speak up for yourself. Even if you feel that you can and do advocate for yourself, it can only be a good thing to be clear with others on your goals and to build a network that you can leverage to achieve your goals.

With this said, in my view it is important to remember reciprocity as you pursue your career-development initiatives, whether that reciprocity is extended now or in the future. Just as you may need and benefit from advocates, mentors and other women in your network, other women would undoubtedly benefit from you doing the same for them. I certainly felt that reciprocity in the room of women who gathered together on May 11 and it left me feeling incredibly empowered. This probably feels like just the right thing to do but it is important to remember that we are all stronger when we lift each other up.

With that in mind, I am excited that the career development process will continue here in Yellowknife for women who are interested in building upon the experience. As encouraged by Andrea Rayment, the Women Lawyers Forum has started a Goal Club. Like a book club, the Goal Club will carve out time periodically for participants to look back on the goals they set for themselves on May 11, or to create new or refined goals, and to share progress, brainstorm how to overcome challenges and to celebrate career success. The inaugural goal club was held June 18.

Kelly McLaughlin is Chair of NWT-WLF