My new favorite word: practice.

Many years ago, my first (and last) boss referred to our recruiting business as a practice. I thought it sounded so cool and professional. It made it seem like our contingency recruiting firm was playing on the same field as the large, global executive search firms who we revered and aspired to become.

I haven’t thought about the word practice much until recently. It has been coming up in more than a few strategy sessions and definitely worth revisiting.

Just last week, I was with a very successful young attorney who said she wanted to embark on a field that is allied with the Intellectual Property practice that she serves. Her fear is that she has “never worked on a Corporate Litigation case before”. I asked her what she did when she landed her first case out of law school in Intellectual Property. Did she know exactly what to do at that time? Had she ever done it before? Of course not. We talked about the fact that every day that we take on a new client, play our first round of golf, or learn a new skill of some sort, we are practicing to get better for the next time.

A week later, a friend of mine who is a genealogy expert, told me that she had a request for a major project which requires her to use a particular software so that she can deliver a professionally developed book to her client.”I’ve only use it a few times,” she lamented. “I have to get better at it.” Of course you do, and you will,” I said. Every time you are asked to do a search for a new client, it will get easier, because what you practice today prepares you for your next client tomorrow.

In the medical field it’s call residency. All those young interns are practicing, albeit at the supervision of an M.D. At some point, when it’s their turn to take on their first patient in the real world, all of the habits and processes that they learned as residents become a part of their practice.

Whether you are an HR Manager in charge of Employee Relations at a Fortune 500 company, an Audit Manager at a Big 4 accounting firm, or my friend the genealogist, keep on practicing. It’s the only way to not only get better at what you do, it also brings in more clients!