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‘Play bigger’ to get ahead, lawyers told

‘Play bigger’ to get ahead, lawyers told

Shona Rowan

To get noticed at work, lawyers – particularly women – need to learn to self-promote and boost their visibility, a performance consultant has urged.

Speaking at an event for DLA Piper’s Leadership Alliance for Women, Shona Rowan (pictured) suggested self-promotion was a key ingredient to career success.

“People are busy, so you need to make sure they’re aware of the great work we’re doing,” she said.

She urged lawyers – particularly women – to avoid downplaying or under-selling their hard work.


“Find a way to promote yourself that feels authentic to you. Find a way to do it that feels comfortable with your personality.”

Self-promotion never came naturally to Ms Rowan, which she attributes partially to the Australian culture of 'tall poppy syndrome'.

As an example, she related responding to queries like 'how’s business?' with 'things are good' or other trite, short answers.

“I realised I needed to stop playing so small,” she explained.

As an alternative, she began to offer a titbit or update from her working life; “something I had done, was looking forward to or was feeling happy about”.

“It’s such a small thing but it’s such a powerful distinction,” she continued.

“Every time you meet someone … most people will ask you ‘how are you?’ or ‘how is business?’ Every one of those is an opportunity for you to play bigger and share something, or play smaller and not give anything.”

Ms Rowan finds that many people are reluctant to talk up their own achievements, but women were particularly hesitant.

“They don’t know how to do it, and they don’t know how to do it authentically,” she said.

Fear of being judged as arrogant or self-centred also holds people back, she suggested, while others believed their hard work would eventually be recognised if they just kept their heads down.

“We work in global environments where people are based all over the place,” Ms Rowan warned. “People might not know what you’re achieving.”


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