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Any law/ accountancy/ prof services partners or directors willing to advise?

(12 Posts)
Chocoholicbaby Sat 22-Feb-14 19:14:29

I'd be hugely grateful for advice from anyone who is a partner or director in a professional services firm. I am a manager and started at my new firm just before getting pregnant with DC3. Am now on mat leave and my DD is 6 months old so I am starting to think about going back. The problem is that before I went off I was finding the new job really hard. I think I am good at interviews and feel that I basically managed to get a job which I struggle to actually do on a day to day basis. I find this really depressing and I feel like I add little value to the projects I work on. Because I don't seem to have the knowledge I need I take ages to do anything as I have to do tonnes of research so my costs are high on all my jobs. Or sometimes I don't charge the time then my chargeability is poor. It's embarrassing when a partner asks a question about my specialist area and I never seem to know so have to say I will look it up. I work directly for the partner who heads up my specialised area for the whole firm, so although he is good to work for he's obviously busy and doesn't have time to answer silly questions. There's no director above me or even anyone else on the same level in my office- it's a pretty senior role and I am the go to person for a lot of colleagues.

I am amazed that nothing was said in the few months I was there before I went on mat leave. Perhaps they were worried about criticising me when I was pregnant in case I sued them! I am seriously thinking of not going back because of this but then I feel guilty as they were so good to me about getting pregnant quickly after joining. Anyway my question is: if you were my boss how would you like this to be raised? Or should I not raise it and just hope that experience helps me improve? Or should I leave? I don't know how I can discuss this without basically making them think I am useless (if they don't already) and seriously damaging my career.

Thank you so much for any help.

caroldecker Sat 22-Feb-14 20:02:30

Most specialists i know would be able to give a general opinion, but would need to look up to confirm/check the rules. If you are specialist, then the 'easy' questions are generaly known, and you have the hard ones. I would ;et it go and see how your appraisals are.

Hogwash Sat 22-Feb-14 20:18:03

Not a partner or director in those firms, but have some insight.

I think the obvious question is, why are you finding this so hard? I assume you have been in a similar role before joining your new firm. What was your chargeability like in your old firm? Why did you leave your old firm? Why do you think you do not know the answers to the questions you are being asked - is it because you have joined a firm higher up the pecking order with higher expectations?

I think you have to be very careful if you raise it, and position it in a very positive light if you want to stay in that firm.

Chocoholicbaby Sun 23-Feb-14 07:48:47

Thanks so much for your replies. Yes CarolDecker I think you are right that people know the easy stuff and only come to me for the harder questions. I need to remember that. I can see the logic in your approach of just seeing how the appraisals go: kind of a 'no news is good news' approach.

hogwash thanks for your points. I did a similar job at my old firm but it was far smaller and didn't do the same type of complex work so the role was more straightforward. Prior to that I worked in the City in a high profile firm but at a lower level, and it's on the strength of that job that I secured my current role. So I feel like I've made some clever job moves which have enabled me to move up the hierarchy more quickly than usual, but the flip side is that I don't have the experience I need. I feel like I need to take a position at a lower level to consolidate my experience before moving up again but I don't think that will be possible as it will look really odd to employers.

MrsNoodleHead Sun 23-Feb-14 08:20:36

Hi Chocoholic,

I'm a partner in a law firm who is relatively recently back from maternity leave.

The first thing I wonder - especially given that no-one's raised it with you - is the extent to which this is a confidence issue? You should read 'Lean In' if you haven't already. It highlights how self-critical women are and how, by comparison, men approach their failings. It really opened my eyes to how much of a disservice I was doing myself, particularly when I was on maternity leave and had just returned to the office , and felt very nervous about my performance. The book has transformed my thinking.

Secondly, I'd identify courses and other learning opportunities which could help you to get up to speed. Pitch them to your managers as opportunities for them - be positive.

Secondly, try and develop a good network of people doing the same job, particularly through female-orientated network events where you might find others in a similar position and exchange best practice ideas.

Finally, in the words of Tony Blair wink - tough up. You will learn, get better and speed up as you spend more time on the job. Try not to waste time on anxiety; brazen it out - fake it 'til you make it - and you'll find yourself much more comfortable soon enough.

MrsNoodleHead Sun 23-Feb-14 08:22:52

Oh I haven't answered your question. I wouldn't raise it in a negative way - you may end up putting c

MrsNoodleHead Sun 23-Feb-14 08:25:58

...putting concerns in their heads that didn't exist there before - and they may not know how to fix the issue anyway. Try to think of positive solutions and if they need approval, pitch them in a way which reflects well on you.

MuttonCadet Sun 23-Feb-14 08:32:22

"Lean in" and "secret thoughts of successful women". Both good books about self confidence.

I think this problem is in your head. You wouldn't believe the number of successful competent women who are convinced they've fluked their way into a job.

MrsWobble Sun 23-Feb-14 12:18:59

Ok. I'm a partner in an accountancy firm. If I was your boss I would not have said anything to you whilst pregnant. It would be likely to be an awkward conversation and if you decided not to return it would have been unnecessary.

I would raise it with you as part of your maternity returner meeting - not directly as a performance issue but in discussing what you want to come back to with the aim of getting you to decide to focus in what you're good at and do less of what you're not so good at. But, and it's an important but, this presupposes that there is a performance issue and it's not just in your head. So you need to think about it carefully and decide what you want to do. Is the job what you want to do or are you subconsciously looking for a way out - if you want to be a SAHM then you don't need to 'fail' at work to give you that choice - make it as a positive and valid one.

If you do want to go back to the job then think about the detail of the role you want, again make it about positive choices. Remember the firm interviewed and chose you - it is extremely unlikely they don't want you working for them.

Then talk to your boss about what you think your role should be when you return. It needs to be workable for you and them, it needs to be realistic and achievable - so don't talk about utilisation targets that you know you can't meet for example and, most importantly, it needs to be a role you want to do and look forward to each morning. It's not going to be sustainable otherwise.

If you are in London and want to 'rehearse' your conversation then PM me - I'd be happy to help if it would help. Whatever you decide to do - good luck - and please remember you haven't fluked your successful career to date - you've earned it.

Chocoholicbaby Mon 24-Feb-14 09:18:05

Thank you for your replies. I have downloaded 'Lean In' to my kindle already so will get on with that, and will also read the other one that MuttonCadet mentioned which I had not heard of.

I think MrsNoodlehead you are right about putting concerns in their heads which were not there before. I have identified some CPD courses I would like to do so will propose that as a way of updating my knowledge.

MrsWobble I think you have hit the nail on the head about it having to be a role I actively want to go out and do in the mornings. I hadn't been enjoying the new firm for a variety of reasons which is also an issue. However it's definitely not about being a SAHM as I've never wanted to give up work. I still have partnership ambitions but obviously need to resolve the current situation first. This is part of the reason I am so frustrated as I want to excel rather than just hang in here for the salary! It's so kind of you to offer to rehearse my conversation with me. I would love to take you up on that and will send you a PM.

BusinessUnusual Tue 25-Feb-14 19:37:01


Have you read about Imposter Syndrome? I think you have it (as do a lot of people, with more than 50% of this being women)?

SandyDee81 Sat 01-Mar-14 11:15:17

OP I could have written this part of your post myself:

I feel like I add little value to the projects I work on. Because I don't seem to have the knowledge I need I take ages to do anything as I have to do tonnes of research so my costs are high on all my jobs. Or sometimes I don't charge the time then my chargeability is poor. It's embarrassing when a partner asks a question about my specialist area and I never seem to know so have to say I will look it up

I am a City lawyer and like you I struggle with confidence especially after changing jobs recently and starting to do a (slightly) different work type. I am now mid-level so no longer junior enough to get away with not knowing my stuff or asking my boss to check everything.

I have read about Imposter Syndrome and sure I have it. I am convinced that I only did well at school/uni as I worked harder than others and not because I am clever. I am convinced I must have been the only person who applied for my current job (I have no evidence to suggest this is the case, and in the current economy I realise it is unlikely no one else applied). I am convinced that it is only a matter of time before everyone at work sees through me and I get sacked. It holds me back from doing stuff with my life (like expensive holidays) as I am saving money for when they all realise I am incompetent and I get sacked. How sad is that sad

I am not sure what the answer is so would welcome suggestions. One thing I am trying to do is at the end of each day make a note of one thing I did well and one way in which I added value during the course of the day. By doing this I have realised that I am actually more capable than I think.

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