By Nikki MacCallum
In a perpetually evolving industry like ediscovery it is crucial to stay relevant. While more technologies are developing and automation is occurring, the role of the individual shifts regardless of what aspect of the business that person lives in. Skills that could be leveraged ten years ago are often times no longer impactful in the present. If you can evolve with the trends and times, you will, without a doubt, continue to add value and thrive at any organization. This could result in a greater role or responsibilities within your current company, or in an opportunity with greater upward mobility at another company.
If you become stagnant, especially in a field like ediscovery, you run the risk of your skills no longer being applicable. From my experience in recruiting, I know countless examples of individuals who were household names in the field ten years ago, but because they were in the same role for so long, when they re-entered the job market they often lacked skills pertinent to 2019. The million-dollar question is, how does one achieve relevancy?
Be curious and educate yourself. One of the fantastic things about an industry as niche as ediscovery is that there are so many different silos within one space. The industry encompasses technology, software, strategy, legal components, forensics, cyber security, client services, career development, marketing, sales, relationship management, and the list goes on. Most individuals strive to become subject-matter experts in one area, but imagine your level of marketability both internally and externally if you mastered two or even three.
There are multiple ways to educate yourself on different components within the ediscovery space. Once you identify what skills you might like to acquire, engage in online training, whether that be through a webinar or a program like LinkedIn Learning, etc. You can also look to attend trainings in person. If a certain type of training isn’t being offered within your department, see if that training is being offered within another department. Consider asking your manager to send you to some type of external training like Relativity Fest or approving a certification like ACEDS or a PMP. Set a goal for yourself to complete a certification in an area in where you may be lacking. Lastly, find someone in your organization who is an expert at the skill you want to develop. Ask to pick their brain or see if they are willing to mentor or train you. The more skills you possess that complement your area of expertise, the more diverse your expertise becomes. The more skills you have in general, the more mobility you have within an organization and the more doors will open for you going forward.
Cross-pollinate with other departments. One of the benefits of working in a multifaceted field like ediscovery is that regardless of your employer, it is highly likely that you are in an environment where you’re constantly exposed to individuals who have expertise that differs from yours. The more connections you make and skills you learn from those around you, the more opportunities you’ll create for yourself. Reach out and get to know individuals in other departments. Learn what they do in their day-to-day. This knowledge will only give you a stronger understanding of the business as a whole and help you develop a better sense of where your role fits in. Often times, especially in larger companies, people have a tendency to keep their heads down and blinders on, but think of all of the knowledge you can gain by using others as resources.
If your specialty is project management, sit with someone on the production team so you can understand the nuances of running a production from a technical standpoint. If you’re working with data all day, meet with someone in a client-facing role to get a better understanding of their responsibilities and pain points. Not only do you have the opportunity to learn new skills, but you also gain a stronger understanding of the different roles that are available in your field, which is important as the industry evolves.
Network with your peers at other organizations. It is crucial to be in touch with peers at other organizations so that you have a stronger understanding of the landscape of the industry as a whole. The role of eDiscovery Project Manager, for example, entails different things at different companies. Talk to your peers. Find out what their organization is doing differently or similarly to yours. Decipher where your role with the same title differs across different environments. Ask your colleagues who are in similar or more advanced roles what technologies their companies are using. The stronger your understanding is of what different positions at different companies entail, the more effective you’ll be at identifying skills that you may like to learn.
Attend industry events. Industry events are important because not only do they often provide you with knowledge and a clearer picture of the ediscovery landscape, but they also provide information on industry trends and projections. In addition, conferences also expose you to a host of individuals with whom you can network and leverage. Not only are these people you may be able to learn from, but it is also important to be on their radar because you will be top of mind when opportunities arise. The impact here is opening doors for yourself that might not otherwise have been open.
There are many types of ediscovery industry events. If you aren’t able to attend a conference like ILTA or Legaltech do some research and see what events are happening in your own city. Join free local networking groups like Women in E-Discovery, ACEDS, or ECALSM.
Be visible within your organization. Being visible is critical so that you remain top of mind. There are multiple times I’ve witnessed a scenario where one department makes an internal hire from another department because a hiring manager knew of that individual’s work and was aware of an untapped skillset. The way you become visible is by forging relationships with folks who span across the company. These relationships do not need to be with upper management, though that is a great place to start. Ask to get coffee with higher ups at your organization, even if the coffee is just a meet and greet. Make sure people know your name. Along these lines, I have experienced scenarios throughout my career where I have formed relationships with the junior folks on a team, who then became my advocates within their department and had the ears of upper management. The impact here is creating more opportunities for yourself by having champions to go to bat for you in the event that there are lay-offs or a company needs to eliminate your position.
Do yourself a favor and stay relevant. The five strategies listed in this article are action items that you can put into practice right now. Becoming a more diverse player, opening more doors for yourself, and strengthening your current skillset is how you thrive in an ever-changing industry.
If you would like to discuss this topic further, feel free to reach out to me at NMacCallum@lighthouseglobal.com.
Nikki MacCallum brings over thirteen years of experience in the executive search space with a focus on litigation technology and eDiscovery. She’s spoken on panels and at conferences nation-wide (ABC News, Women in eDiscovery, LegalTech, CALSM, ARIAS) and was recently the key note speaker for a global Career Panel Workshop at American Express. Nikki is also a resident speaker at New York City’s Coalition for the Homeless where she privately mentors underprivileged women looking to re-enter the workforce.
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