Saturday, September 08, 2007

Es Muy Buena Abogada

The other night I touched on one of my irrational fears. Also pre-occupying me at the moment is one of my more rational ones. I'm terrified of failure, and sometimes I'd rather not try something, than try and fail. That's what stopped me trying to lose weight or play sport for a long time. It's partly because of my perfectionist tendencies I suppose, if I can't be good at something I don't see the point of doing it. I seemed to forget that there can be enjoyment in just losing yourself in a moment. I see that now more easily, I may be the world's slowest cyclist, but that doesn't stop me enjoying the fresh air and the wind in my hair.
But while that works for things that are enjoyable to do badly, it doesn't work for everything. There are things that are no pleasure to do, and which still bring the risk of failure. That's where the problem starts. At work I've been paralysed by indecision for the past month. I've just about got to the stage of my career where I can apply to be "regraded" and given a new job title. There's no pay rise as such (although there is medical insurance, and I'd get some money in lieu of parking - the parking itself being no use as it would take effect from the day after I give my car away), but most lawyers love showing off their status so it's seen as a big thing.
If it were just a case of weighing up the benefits, I wouldn't be that bothered, to be honest. I don't care what my job title is, and the relative lack of extra benefits doesn't give me the incentive to fill in the form and go through the waiting procedure to find out whether I've got it (unlike cycling on a sunny day, waiting to hear the decision of the partners on whether they like you doesn't have any inherent pleasure). I would almost rather live in ignorance than apply and be told I'm not good enough. OK, so it's only not good enough "yet", people seem to either get it at 4 or 5 years PQE, and at 4 years and 5 days I'm only just about sneaking past the minimum PQE requirement, but still I was wondering whether or not it would be leave it for this year, and avoid the pain of rejection.
It got to lunchtime on the day before the deadline, and I still hadn't really done anything about applying, kind of assuming that I wouldn't put myself through it. Then suddenly I gave myself a kick up the backside and read the role description. It describes what I do. I have all the experience it wants you to have, so why shouldn't I go for it? After all, I've pretty much been running the IT side of things here for nearly a year, so it's not as though I don't tick the "autonomous" and "responsible" boxes. How many people at my level get to do that? I've done internal work for internal IT procurement contracts which has got me glowing reviews at management board, and almost without exception the partners who have worked with me have been impressed with the work I've done. I have had meetings with the head of everything non-legal (not his official job title) about IT contracts, and have prepared reports on them for the managing partner who has to sign them off. I've done work on deals which are so confidential that they were meant to be partner input only, but where the partners didn't have the specialist expertise they needed.
Even worse, if I didn't apply for it, would that be seen as a lack of ambition to progress within the firm? (I have to admit here, that maybe if it was seen as that they'd be right, but that doesn't mean I want to show that card just yet). And if I didn't apply but other people who I don't think are as good as me did, and got it, how would that make me feel when the appointments were announced? And what if people thought I'd applied and been rejected, without knowing that I hadn't actually applied? Don't you just love office politics?
Sometimes I still have problems convincing myself that I'm good enough. I've never had anything other than good feedback from people I've done work for, I've survived a year of maternity leave without feeling overwhelmed. When I read the criteria, I know that I can tick almost every one of them off, but still I struggle to convince myself that ticking each of the criteria adds up to being good enough as a whole. I had to sit myself down and go through it to persuade myself that there were no glaring omissions.
So at about 1:45 I realised that my application had to be in the internal post that afternoon. It is possibly the least considered application they've ever received, handwritten onto the form (it was a PDF and I didn't have time to work out how to get typed answers in the right places), and without the input from my boss that it suggests you get - with her being on maternity leave and with the deadline looming, I just bashed something out that said what I wanted to say, rather than what she thinks they want to hear. I didn't do a first draft, amend it, write it out neatly, I just said what I wanted to say and put it straight onto paper. I then put it on my desk and looked at it for a while. I put it in the post tray. I took it out of the post tray. I put it in again, and 10 minutes later I was horrified when I realised that the post tray had been emptied and I couldn't retrieve it for yet more indecision.
I do suspect that to some extent your application form is irrelevant as long as the right people already know your name, and because of the amount of internal work I do, I know a lot of senior people in non-legal departments who lots of people never come across, which will help. The form is fairly short and they don't interview, so it must be very much a case of the impression you've already made on them, rather than anything you do during the application process.
I think it's best that I assume that I'm not going to get it, and to carry on convincing myself that I don't want it, but it's the first time in a while I've put myself forward for something where it's out of my hands whether I succeed or fail, and where I get feedback on how other people see me. I'm quite proud of myself for doing it (I will admit to a moment of panic when I got to work this morning after a day out of the office and saw a voicemail from the partner I had to submit the application to - but he was just just saying it had arrived rather than "how could you be so stupid as to think that application is good enough"). If only there was something positive that could come out of the process even if I don't get it, rather than just a straight yes/no answer, it would help me enjoy the wait while they scrutinise the applications. Even though I'd hate to go through an interview, even that would help me feel like I have some opportunity to influence the process rather than just sitting here helpless.
I don't know, but there's no way of recalling the application now, so I guess I just have to wait and see, while trying not to wonder what on earth I did that for...

Hang on. That all finished a bit negative. Why should I assume I won't get it? Why DON'T I think I'm good enough? Why am I never prepared to trumpet my own achievements? I'm not one for massaging my own ego, or telling people how good I am. I let my achievements speak for themselves most of the time. I don't boast, I just do.
The problem is that, being the eternal singleton, distanced from my family, and without a real team at work, I don't have anyone else who tells me how good I am. So because I don't tell myself, and no-one else does it for me, I start to lose sight of it. On my noticeboard at work I have pinned a page from one of those Spanish phrase a day tear off calendar things - "Es muy buena abogada" - she is a very good lawyer. It's as close as I tend to get to reminding myself that I AM good at this, even if whoever wrote it certainly didn't have me in mind when they put it down for 15 June 2006.
But, when I put my mind to it I can come up with a pretty impressive list of things I've done, any of which would be an achievement on their own. I've done lots of things that most people will never achieve. How many people will ever run a marathon, let alone break 4 hours or help achieve a world first? How many people will ever run a half marathon with Ellery Hanley and Kris Radlinski? How many people will ever maintain an eight stone weight loss? How many people will ever get a first class degree in law, or a distinction in a masters degree? Take temporary control in a specialist area for a year? But I haven't just done one of those things, I've done them all (or at the very least they're on my to do list for the near future).
I think my job for the weekend is to remind myself of that.


Blogger Shauna said...

Oh YP what a brilliant post. I hope you give yourself lots of pats on the back this weekend, it doesn't make you an egomaniac to reflect a little and give yourself a wee bit of credit :)

10:42 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

Well done you! I'm really glad you submitted the application.

You're right - you've achieved a lot. You might not have thought of this, but you've also achieved the realisation that you have done really well.

Whether you're successful this time or you have to wait for the five years, you're making progress. I'm looking forward to hearing how your application went.

12:39 PM  
Blogger t__m__i said...

Blimey, you had me going there - I was reading down going, "is she nuts? Medical insurance? Apply for it, apply for it!" Then ... "oh thank god!"
I, er, do quite understand how you feel. But you can now just say, "well, medical insurance, I couldn't NOT give it a go... :D "
I had an MRA last week and if I hadn't gone private for that and the referral for it, I doubt I'd have had it before this December. This was in desperation having not got a diagnosis yet even though my first appointment was Dec '06! Basically, most people get strung out with weeks or months between appointments (as long as they get seen more than once every 18 weeks they are within target, even if the appointment itself does nowt). No risk of unnecessary treatment there! :D

Remember, the number of people who actually are ambitious is vanishingly small. The rest of us just gear up to pretend that we are, at strategic points like job interviews (gah) or periodic performance reviews (oh the joy).

10:14 PM  

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