Professor Emerita Patricia O’Hara of Notre Dame spoke to the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Coney Barrett. As you would expect, she was eloquent in her praise of the judge and shared stories of meeting her when she was being recruited for the faculty, her professional successes with students, and law publications alike.
Then, she said something that got my attention. She said this was the second time she had the opportunity to communicate with the Committee about a nominee to the SCOTUS. The first time when she advocated for a nominee and now-Supreme Court Justice, Elena Kagan, who she again described powerfully and with enormous amounts of praise for many of the same qualities as Judge Coney Barrett.
I was reminded by her testimony of how powerful an impression an advocate can make, particularly one who presents a non-partisan case for advocacy. I was also reminded that advocates are only a part of the tools a person should have in their professional toolbelt.
There comes a point fairly early on in most people’s careers where you stop hearing the truth. Rise to a level of manager and your staff is trying to persuade you to notice them and advance them to the next level. Your boss may give you advice but is often too removed from your case to provide you with impactful suggestions.
If you’re honest with yourself, you don’t write or present as well as you could if you believed that it was critically important to write and present. You have no one to talk to professionally who has your interests at heart. You need to build a reputation for yourself or remain invisible to the universe at large and always needing to apply for jobs instead of having them seek you out. I don’t mean cold calls to you. I mean worthwhile professional recommendations that allow you to cut the line and get to the front.
I tend to be skeptical of many mentors because too many are focused on your success with your current firm and not your success. Sometimes that overlaps. Usually, it doesn’t because the mentor chooses not to advocate.
My wife and I adopted our son in Almaty, Kazakhstan a few months after 9/11. When we flew back to the US, we needed to make a stop in Moscow to have our son receive papers to allow us to bring him…