January 31, 2018

Establishing Your Brand as a Young Professional

Building your brand is essentially cautious steps that we can take to establish ourselves in our work environment, establish our reputation, and being taken seriously. Internship do's and don't's. how to be the best inter. how to be a successful intern. how to be taken seriously as a young professional. lessons learned from my professional mentor. law school blog. law school blogging | brazenandbrunette.com

Hi sorry I totally dropped this random post on y'all and then went MIA for a week, but first I had my Bar application, then I had a networking event, then I went back to Lubbock for a doctor's appointment so I've just had no time to blog. Anyways today I'm back talking about da law again! Originally I was going to name this post How to be Taken Seriously as a Young Lawyer and then my boss said something about building her brand in the company and I realized that's what I wanted to talk about today since it also encompasses how to be taken seriously. Building your brand is essentially cautious steps that we can take to establish ourselves in our work environment, establish our reputation, and being taken seriously.

One of my bosses is late 20s/early 30s (I'm terrible about guessing ages) and has been dropping some nuggets of knowledge about what she's learned so far in her legal career so I'm sharing some of those as well as my own observations! Side note- these are in no specific order, just as I remember them because I lost my little post it with my notes on them.

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have

My company is surprisingly casual for being a corporate office and almost everyone wears jeans and a nice top. I've worn jeans a few times since starting either because it was a Friday or I just didn't have clean work clothes, but overall I still make a point to dress business casual. This isn't because I think I'm better than everyone else or too fancy to dress down, but because I'm 25. Some people have been working at this company for longer than I've been alive and I want them to take me seriously and actually see me as a lawyer and not just a student intern. I'm not saying a suit is always necessary, but resist the urge to go casual and try to dress like a lawyer. 

I know a lot of people hate hearing this because they want to show off their personality, but you can do that just as well by joking around with your coworkers. Your can show off your personality through your attitude in general without looking like the girl in Me Before You (ugh watch it).  

Take notes 

You know when you give your order to a waiter and he doesn't write it down so instinctively you just assume something is going to be wrong with your order? Don't give that feeling to your boss. I have a little notepad and pen that I bring with me everywhere. Sure, I look like a reporter running around the office taking notes, but I will sacrifice looking dumb at the expense of not messing up. When my bosses gives me an assignment, I take notes on what they're wanting and any due dates. Then later I can add this information into my planner and also will have a reference so that I don't forget anything that they wanted and later on take notes over their suggested revisions to whatever I'm working on. 

I also use it to take notes in meetings of questions to ask later so I can learn what's going on, and what's being said in general so that if I'm in another meeting regarding the previous one, I'll have a quick reminder about what's going on. I write down the general topic that the meeting is about, who is in it, and what day it took place. This also helps me remember people's names if I'm also seeing Joe in the finance meetings then I know Joe works in the finance department. And if your office has many departments and floors like mine does, having a little directory page in their will help. I use this notebook for all my notes. 

Email properly

I have had professors who were sticklers on email etiquette so it has made me become one too. A lot of people our age get lazy with emails and it is super unprofessional to not know how to correctly send an email. First off, only CC people who are on a need-to-know basis so you don't annoy them. Quick lesson— CC stands for carbon copy and BCC stands for blind carbon copy; the person you're sending the email to will see everyone you CC but can't see any you BCC so use that one if you don't want them to know. 

Next is the subject line, which at first was what I found to be the hardest part. Originally I would want to send an email with the subject of like "Please excuse my absence from Friday's class" and was being too wordy. Now I would have the subject of Friday's class and then within the email let them know I'll be missing. 

Always start off the email using someone's name because it's rude to just jump in to a message without even acknowledging them. And check their email address to make sure you're spelling their name correctly! If you're sending it to one person you can say Ben and Jerry or if you're sending it to one person and CC'ing a lot of people you can say Tiffany and Co (jk I say team but the example sounds better without it).

Don't just say "here's the memo I've been working on" but instead say "attached please find the memo regarding X that you requested Y" so they have some context about what you're sending. Pro tip is right after you write this sentence immediately attach the document so you don't accidentally forget to add it.

End it with a signature. Here is how to add a signature to your email. Personally I prefer not to use "thanks" because think of this exchange— "Nikki send me that memo you've been drafting" "sure boss. which memo I've been working on 3? thanks, Nikki." What am I thanking them for? It's just awkward haha. I just think it feels more professional to use best, yours truly, respectfully, regards. Then under that goes your full name, under that goes your title, under that goes your company/office, under that goes your work phone, under that goes your work email (yes I know you're sending the email from your work email but go ahead and keep this). Lastly, just take a note from that whole DNC scandal that happened right before the election and only say something in an email that would be totally fine getting shared all over the news.

Sit up straight

This is something that I've started to work on after I looked around in a meeting and realized that I was the only one slouched over and all the "adults" in the room were sitting up straight. I really hadn't noticed my posture before but then suddenly I felt like a moody teenager all slumped over in my chair. And since being a lawyer involves a lot of time sitting at a desk, it's also super important to work on sitting properly so you don't end up with back/shoulder/neck cramps. 

Avoid office drama

With offices comes drama and it can be very tempting to revert back to your snarky 8th grade self and join in on it, but don't. Remember, you're building your brand and your reputation! No matter how much someone annoys you, don't talk about them behind their back. If you find yourself in a situation where everyone is talking bad about someone, a simple out is to just say "I don't know I kinda like her/she seems nice/she helped me with X/we both have Y in common." Just go by the old tongue twister what Susie says of Sally says more of Susie than of Sally

If someone tells you a secret like they're interviewing for another job or something, keep that to yourself. If you end up in a situation where everyone is gossiping about another person, a good out is to just say "oh I'm too busy handling my own life to care about what anyone else is getting up to in theirs." This is not only showing people that you're a nice human, but also that you can be trusted.

Resist the urge to be on your phone

In college I worked retail jobs where you could get fired to be on your phone so it's tempting when you're able to actually have it out in the open. It's also tempting when you see everyone else on their phones, but remember that they're likely responding to work emails or looking up something work-related. Plus, like the whole world just assumes millennials are addicted to their phones so we're already starting out having to prove that stereotype wrong. 

You just don't want to have to have your boss telling you to get off your phone because that's super unprofessional and will lead to a bad recommendation later on in life. Also be super careful with any snaps your posting because you might inadvertently be posting pictures of confidential information and in case you didn't know, once confidential information becomes public (for example, on snapchat), it's no longer confidential and then that's how you get fired. 

Also this "avoid it" rule applies to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, basically anything else online where you're so obviously not working. I'm not saying you can never text your friends but I am saying try to keep it to a minimum.

Be an asset

What I mean by that is be more of a help than a burden. Don't just point out something that is wrong in the contract; do research and come up with a solution to fix it. Don't just run to your boss if you can't find something; look around and try to find it yourself. Basically just try before you run for help. See if you can teach yourself how to do something. 

Work hard. It's not exactly fun to get to work early and stay late, but we've got to pay our dues when we're just starting out. It feels great when you hear your boss be impressed that you beat him to work in the morning. Show your boss that you're dedicated and actually care about this job and aren't just sitting there counting down the minutes until 5:00. 

Another way to be an asset is to be honest with your boss. If you think you messed up, tell them right away instead of trying to hide it because that will absolutely make it worse and also when your boss finds out he's not going to trust you as much.

Be appropriate

Okay this is two concepts I'm clumping together. Number one is we had to have a talk at one of my previous jobs because a girl wore the "visible bralet" trend to work. I've also seen a girl wear a black bra under a white shirt and another wear a white bra under a black dress (you wouldn't think this is as bad but it's super obvious under the wrong lighting). I've also seen girls in too tight of bottoms/skirts and I could very clearly see their panty line.

Number two is I've seen girls wear absolutely no makeup and really look like they didn't even brush their hair and I've seen girls wearing so much makeup they look like they're wearing stage makeup. I'm not saying you have to wear makeup and I'm not saying you can't wear any at all, but just consider how you'll be perceived based off the amount of effort you put in. Try to at least look put together so that you don't come off as not caring about your job, but also remember that most people over thirty don't wear a whole lot of makeup so you're aging yourself as a teeny-bopper when you do a full glam look every day.

Okay that's all I can think of right now without my post it, but I'll definitely update this with anything I left out if I find that little guy. If you have some work experience/tips/ideas you'd like to share, feel free to comment below and help out a future lawyer!

let's be friends!


  1. One other piece of advice that I've heard from recruiters and Career Development panels about minimizing the "millennial" stereotypes as much as possible is to have face-to-face conversations with people rather than only sending them emails. Of course, this might depend on the situation.

    Especially if the person you need to talk to is in the next office or right down the hall, it shows a lot that you get up and go talk to that person rather than just sending an email.

    1. Yes such a great point! I've been warned about this by my professors and heard more tenured employees voice that our generation can't communicate face-to-face!

  2. What a great post! I'm starting as an experienced (aka OLDER) 1L this fall, and as someone who has worked in professional settings for the past decade, I can't tell you how true everything you said is. It's not just for young people fresh out of college or law school, either - everyone should read these! So many attorneys I work with put their entire e-mail message in the subject line, because they were never taught e-mail etiquette. By doing what you are doing, you are also setting an example for others - pass along what you've learned and what you know!

    1. Thank you so much for the validation! I hadn't really thought about much of this until I heard my boss talking about building her own brand (she's only a few years older than me) and it make me question what I'm doing to build mine. I hope my post can keep at least one young attorney from being complained about! Good luck with your 1L year this fall :)